coffee cake

MCT PHOTO    Courtesy Photo 

Just to be clear: There is no coffee in coffee cake.

Rather, it's a cake generally so rich and gooey with butter, cinnamon and sugar --- and, if a truly proper coffee cake, crowned with a crumbly streusel --- that it's best nibbled with a mug of strong, steaming coffee within reach.

The origins of coffee cake are both familial and universal. Many cultures have a tradition of a sweet cake for breakfast or for morning or mid-afternoon coffee breaks --- evidence of the comfort found in the presence of butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Spicy, streuselly coffee cake seems especially American, though. It's fair to speculate that many people's idea about coffee cake came from the recipe that for years was on boxes of Bisquick.

Convenience is lovely, but baking from scratch is fulfilling, especially when the results are as scrumptious as this coffee cake.

Just to be clear: You need four bowls, for the streusel, the filling, the batter and the flours. But each component comes together quickly, and the cake even can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.

This coffee cake can accommodate some personalization, as well: Add a layer of thinly-sliced, peeled apples to the filling, or a smattering of blueberries. If streusel for you means nuts, toast a handful of walnuts or pecans in the oven or a skillet, then chop and add to the topping.

Frankly, though, it's hard to beat the simple combo of cinnamon and sugar in its ability to elicit quiet sighs of satisfaction.

But don't forget the coffee, at least to keep you from nodding off.

Cinnamon streusel coffee cake

Serves 16 to 20.

You can assemble this batter the night before, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Then bake as directed in the morning, adding 5 to 10 minutes to the time to account for the batter being chilled.

For streusel:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

For filling:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

For cake:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs

3/4 cup plain yogurt

3 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a tube pan with a removable bottom or a 9- by 13-inch cake pan.

To make the streusel: Combine granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat pastry flour, cinnamon and melted butter. Mix well and set aside.

To make the filling: In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix well and set aside.

To make the cake: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, granulated and brown sugars, salt and vanilla until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the yogurt and mix.

In a small bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat pastry flours and baking powder.

Add the flour mixture to the batter mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour.

Spoon half the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared baking pan, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle the filling evenly over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter over the filling, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle with streusel topping.

Bake the cake until it's a dark golden brown around the edges and springs back when pressed gently, about 50 to 60 minutes for the 9- by 13-inch pan, or 60 to 70 minutes for the tube pan. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Nutrition information per each of 20 servings:

Calories: 306; fat: 10 g; sodium: 206 mg; carbohydrates: 50 g; saturated fat: 6 g; calcium: 96 mg; protein: 5 g; cholesterol: 53 mg; dietary fiber: 2 g.

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