I had two pressing matters last week. First, I needed to make some space in my freezer, which was packed to the gills. Second, I needed a coffeecake. The situation I was facing was not an unusual one in my world; I was helping two friends, one a butcher and one a photographer, with a photoshoot. They had procured a big, beautiful pig and over the course of two busy days were going to break down (i.e. butcher into various cuts) and photograph the beast. Hence my needs: I knew I’d be coming home with a lot of beautiful pork and nowhere to put it and I knew with no budget, there would be no lush breakfast funded by a paying client. As happens with weekend shoots, we’d be tired and hungry, necessitating a continuous flow of coffee and sugar. I perused the contents of my freezer and pulled out a bag of fat blueberries I’d frozen last summer. A coffeecake was in the works. Something nice to start two very busy, intense days.
I didn’t have the time or the energy to make a yeasted coffeecake and had no sour cream so those types of recipes were out. I needed a delicious, easy cake that didn’t require a grocery store run. That’s when I started thinking about a simple butter cake with a crumb topping. Butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla? Check. I dug through my files for a crumb cake I liked (this one), added lemon zest and blueberries to the batter and it was done in no time.
The cake was good, very good, but the best part was the amazing aroma that filled my kitchen, no – filled my entire apartment. It was incredible. I baked just before going to sleep and the house still smelled great in the morning. I woke up salivating and hopped out of bed with an uncommon spring in my step to cut off a piece. It made my damn day – buttery with a fine crumb but dotted with fat, juicy blueberries and a crumbly, incredibly messy topping. This is a plate kind of coffeecake. Don’t eat this in the car unless you travel with a vacumn. I brought it to the shoot where, over the course of those two days, it was devoured. Two days, one pig, seventy photos, six pots of coffee and one coffeecake. I did good.
The only problem is the one cup of blueberries I used in no way made enough freezer space for the pounds and pounds of heritage pork, leaf lard and pork skin that came back home with me. Oh well. Such problems.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: HUGE AROMATHERAPY ANGLE. The smell of vanilla and butter and cinnamon is like magic. It instantly relaxes your face into this curious upturn. I believe it’s called a smile. Really; look it up. There is also something wonderful about a tender, vanilla and berry infused cake topped with crunchy, crumbley topping that is sure to make a mess all over everything. It’s immensely satisfying to spread these kinds of crumbs far and wide.
Other coffeecake and breakfast roll recipes: Classic Yeast Coffeecake with Streusel Topping, Sour Cream Coffeecake, Apple Cider Rolls, Chocolate Cherry Buns, Orange Rolls, Sticky Bun Bread
Seven years ago: Brown Butter Banana Bread
Six years ago: Peanut Butter Bars
Five years ago: Sticky Bun Bread
Four years ago: Found Time in NYC
Three years ago: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
Two years ago: Guinness Crème Anglaise
Last year: Flourless Chocolate Cookies
BLUEBERRY CRUMB CAKE – adapted from this recipe
for the crumb topping:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 ¾ cups cake flour
for the cake:
1 ¼ cups cake flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon zest
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (frozen ok, don’t defrost)
powdered sugar for dusting, if desired
- For the topping: combine the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and melted butter in medium bowl to combine.
- Add the flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough, almost paste-like.
- Refrigerate until needed.
- For the cake: place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°F.
- Line an 8” square baking pan with a criss-cross of parchment paper or aluminum foil with an overhang on all sides and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, egg, yolk, lemon zest and vanilla. Set aside until needed.
- In bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed.
- Increase the speed to medium-low and add the butter one piece at a time; continue until the mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1-2 minutes.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and add the buttermilk mixture, scraping once or twice until the mixture is smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Do not overmix.
- With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the blueberries by hand and transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading gently into an even layer.
- Remove the crumb mixture from the refrigerator and break apart into large pea-sized chunks, sprinkling into an even layer over the batter, beginning with the edges and working toward center.
- Bake until crumbs are golden and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean, 40-45 minutes.
- Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove the cake from pan by lifting the parchment overhang. Cut into pieces and serve, dusted with powdered sugar if desired.