Friday, August 26, 2011
Mendocino Coffee Cake
If you love a piping hot cup of good coffee, somewhere along the way you’ve undoubtedly had the pleasure of enjoying a nibble or two of coffee cake, the centerpiece of cafes, coffee shops and home brunch tables in little towns and great cities throughout the world.
Part of the fun of coffee cake is due in part to its evolution, which has brought us many different versions from many different regions, ranging from the great yeasted cakes of Eastern Europe to the various joys of streusels and crumbs and bundts baked in America. Some are quite plain and others are bundled with fruit or nuts and spices. This version is based on a recipe from Margaret Fox, whose work was legend at Café Beaujolais in the stunning California coastal village of Mendocino. I’ve pared down the ingredients just a bit for simplicity. It’s an easy preparation and is especially fit for a special brunch or an afternoon coffee gathering.
For me, this is the quintessential coffee cake. Tender and moist with a flavorful and purely delicious streusel, it’s very satisfying without being overly rich. I think you’ll have a hard time resisting a second cup, if you know what I mean.
- Instant espresso powder is essential to the deliciousness of the streusel, which has a haunting blend of just the right amounts of cinnamon, cocoa and espresso powder. You can find it at Italian delicatessens, gourmet food shops and some grocery stores. Medaglia D’Oro is the best. I’ve also used Ferrara. It stores indefinitely and is used in many other pastry recipes.
- When mixing cake batter, I thoroughly cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, but I don’t thoroughly mix the dry ingredients before adding the wet ingredients, instead stopping just short of completely mixed because as I continue to add the alternating ingredients, the batter comes together sufficiently. I also take it off the mixer just before it’s done to do the final blending of ingredients by hand with a rubber spatula. This helps to avoid overmixing and preserves the tenderness of the cake.
- If you like walnuts, add a few more to finish the top layer.
- Café Beaujolais has another very famous Buttermilk Cinnamon Coffee Cake with a crumb topping that I’ll be testing soon.
Mendocino Coffee Cake
Based on the “Chocolate Coffee Cake” recipe from Morning Food: Breakfasts, Brunches and More for Savoring the Best Part of the Day by Margaret S. Fox and John B. Bear
Serves 8 to 10
1/4 C + 2 T dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 T fine instant espresso powder
1 1/2 T cocoa powder
1/2 C chopped walnuts
1 1/4 C + 2 T flour
3/4 t baking powder
3/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3 oz butter @ room temperature
1 1/4 t vanilla extract
3/4 C granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
8 oz plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9” springform pan.
For the streusel, combine all the ingredients and set aside.
For the cake, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 – 4 minutes. Add vanilla and mix. Scrape down the bowl. Add egg and yolk one at a time and continue to beat until mixture is light and creamy. Lower the speed and add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with yogurt in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
Spread half the cake batter evenly in the prepared springform pan. Sprinkle with about 2/3 of streusel mixture, leaving a clean 1/2” border of cake batter around the edges. Top with remaining batter, smoothing it out to the edges. Finish with the remaining streusel, pressing gently into the surface.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 34 – 38 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Remove from pan and serve with a piping hot cup of strong coffee.