April 23, 2012

Yogurt Coffee Cake with a Cinnamon Sugar Crumb

I'm feeling a wee bit confined to my stubborn and somewhat abrasive palate. After looking back at my blog, taking a glance at my highlighted recipe books and magazines, I've noticed a similar pattern, - a tendency towards safe and familiar foods, risottos, pasta, pizza, banana bread etc. Rarely do I opt for a recipe that is unfamiliar, using unfamiliar ingredients, or ingredients I've already made preconceived notions about; dandelion root, thistle, nettles, etc. I often make preconceived judgements about a particular dish or recipe, and immediately decide whether or not it goes into the must try pile.

If there are any picky eaters out there, you will likely sympathize. As a child, my candid reply to a meal was either yes or no. Never, I'll try this mom, or this looks great. I said ew and yuck more often than I'd like to admit. I was quick to make culinary judgements, and unfortunately this terrible habit has followed my into adulthood, although not quite as bad. For example, many years of my life I was displeased with the taste and texture of onions. Not fully understanding why, I made a conscious effort to change my ways, being that onions are so common in many delicious recipes. Mr. H really adores them, and it was starting to create a barrier to our culinary enjoyment together. After some hard work, and a lot of butter, I have now grown to love them. 

Just a few days ago, Mr. H and I went out to our favorite restaurant in Seattle - Carmelites. As I browsed through the menu, I felt myself drawn to the asparagus and mushroom risotto, taking a step back and realizing that this is yet again another safe food. I fought the urge and ordered the long pepper gnocchi with fava bean puree, roasted wild mushrooms, crispy romanesco, and goat cheese-ramp sauce. The meal was enjoyable, extremely delicious, and I left the restaurant feeling satisfied that I had tried something new, although gnocchi is not as crazy as some might imagine, fava bean puree and ramps - wild leeks, are in my category of things less likely to choose.

I've also noticed that I have a list of recipes that I have yet to make, which is completely unacceptable. For instance, I've never made eggs Benedict, quiche, lemon meringue pie, mousse, cream puffs, and coffee cake, though now noticing an egg theme to my list, I find this intriguing. With a new intention to start making dishes that are out of my safe category and on my unacceptable (you need to make now) list, I begin with coffee cake. Little did I know that most coffee cakes inherited their name for the perfect pairing ability with coffee, not because they contain coffee, although there are some exceptions.

After a bit of research and a few pages of scribbled notes, drifting asleep at night with visions of coffee cake dancing in my head, I've come up with a recipe worthy of sharing. Although, never making a coffee cake in my life, I do know that I enjoy a soft tender crumb, cinnamon sugar swirl, and a sweet sugar crumble. I take my coffee with a bit of cream and sugar, so making a cake that's not too sweet was ideal. I love the texture and moistness sour cream gives a cake, so I opted for using a thick and creamy Greek style yogurt with vanilla. 

I used a mixture of flours, all purpose and cake, wanting the lightness and soft crumb that cake flour provides. I used a mixture of brown sugars, light and dark, giving the cake moistness, and changing the sweetness from the more traditional white sugar to a darker more molasses flavor, which paired nicely with the cinnamon and cloves. I opted out from the sweet glaze which is commonly used, finding it too sweet for my palate. After 60 minutes of baking and 2 hours of cooling, I ground my coffee beans to a medium-fine grind. I gently immersed the grounds in hot water, letting them steep for 10 minutes. I poured myself a cup of coffee, seasoned it to my desire, sat back and enjoyed a perfect pairing of coffee and cake. This recipe turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. Ever so moist, and tender. Perfectly sweetened, and spiced with cinnamon and cloves!

makes one 9 inch loaf pan
notes: 1 - 2 hours prior to making this cake, make sure you place the butter and eggs on the counter and bring them to room temperature. I used a loaf pan for this recipe, but of you want more crumble topping, use a square or bundt pan, and double the amount of crumb.

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups full fat Greek vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 stick (4 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold and cut into tiny pieces

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Grease the pan and set to the side.

In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set to the side.

In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugars with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy on low-medium speed. This should take roughly 5 minutes. Once the butter is creamed, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

With the stand mixer set to low, add the eggs one at a time.

Add the yogurt, and mix until combined.

Slowly add the flour and mix until the ingredients have become moistened. Turn off the stand mixer, and continue to mix the batter with a spatula, folding a couple of times, making sure not to over combine. The ingredients should be well moistened, with no visible signs of flour.

Spread half of the cake batter into the loaf pan.

In a small bowl, add the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Combine with a wire whisk. Cut the cold butter into small cubes. Add the butter to the flour mixture and work in using your fingers. You should have tiny pea size pieces of butter remaining throughout the sugar.

Crumble half of the mixture into the pan. Pour the remaining batter on top, and then top with the rest of the crumb.

Place the pan into the oven on the middle rack and bake for 60 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and let cool on a wire wrack for one hour.

If you choose to eat the cake right away, it will be extremely moist and likely fall apart when cutting. This is how I choose to eat the first piece, and although it fell apart all over my plate, it was extremely delicious. This cake is best enjoyed with a cup of coffee, and surprisingly develops its flavors overnight. It was even more delicious the next day.


  1. This looks like my kind of breakfast! What lovely photos. And the crumb topping sounds really delicious.

    I always feel I need to cook out of my comfort zone but rarely do. Thankfully, I've been going through a phase lately where I've been cooking dishes that I wouldn't normally, or just trying different versions of the same dish. Hopefully this phase will last a wee while longer so I can enjoy more new recipes. So far, so good!

  2. Looks delicious! I actually prefer to have coffee cake in the afternoon/evening with some fresh cream so maybe this would make a great dessert!