Baking · Dessert

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I have been baking this cake all December for other people to enjoy. I think with Christmas being on a much smaller scale, I am trying to find ways to show appreciation and love to people I hold dear, but can’t necessarily see. Under normal circumstances, I would be sharing this with others, laughing, celebrating the holidays, and feeling rushed. This year is quiet and offers time to be more introspective and appreciative of the relationships that we do have.

This is not my recipe, but one of my absolute favorites I have adapted from Barefoot Contessa. I do several things differently; first, I like to use a bundt pan instead of a loaf pan for presentation. Another is that I don’t add the nuts to the streusel (I left it here in case you prefer it that way). I often use the maple glaze when making this for other people. However, when I want to make this less sweet for home, I skip the glaze and simply dust with powdered sugar.

The result is a very creamy edible coffee cake (or anytime cake) that pleases everyone. We fall back on it for presents to other people, mother’s day, and any occasion that calls for cake. It is a personal family favorite – it is rich, comforting and lovely.

Total Time: one and 1/2 hours

Ease of Recipe: medium

You will need:

For the cake:

  • 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups cake flour OR 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • For the streusel:
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

  • For the glaze:
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

Step one:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Step two:

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is well mixed.

Step three:

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the nuts.

Step four:

Sprinkle half of the streusel in the bottom of the bundt pan. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with the rest of the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Allow to cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water, if necessary, to make the glaze thick but runny. Drizzle the glaze over the cake with a small spoon. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup cornstarch.

If the eggs are cold, place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before cracking them.

Baking · Dessert · Recipes

Fresh Ginger Cake

My family and I adore all things ginger and gingerbread. Gingerbread and ginger cakes were a specialty of my mother’s family, so baking them creates a nostalgia and peace for me, especially during the holidays. This year, everything seem so displaced and disjointed; we cannot gather the same we used to, and we cannot have all of the faces we wish to see around the table.

So, this morning, I found myself thinking of my grandmother and wanting to make ginger cake. I can tell you that, rolling up my sleeves and sifting the flour on my wooden kitchen table, made me feel more connected – even though she passed away 26 years ago, and even though my Thanksgiving and Christmas are far smaller than what I am used to.

Here is the recipe. It is a little more nuanced than most ginger cakes, in my opinion. Most ginger cakes and bread have a cloying sweetness that I don’t care for. The addition of clove and cinnamon give it a depth. Of course, if you prefer things sweeter, feel free to add an extra half cup of sugar. You can top this with confectioner’s sugar, or a home-made whipped cream. Either are lovely. I hope you like it and that it gives you some comfort during a rough year.

Total Time: 2 hours; one hour to prepare and bake and one hour to cool

You will need:

  • 6-8 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and minced.
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (8 oz) unsulfured molasses
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Step one:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, pulse ginger until finely chopped. This should generate about one cup. Grease a bundt cake pan and set aside.

Step two:

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs.

Step three:

On a stove top, heat the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in molasses, water and fresh ginger until fully blended. Add the molasses mixture to the bowl with sugar and eggs. Combine. Gently fold in flour mixture until just combined.

Step four:

Pour cake batter into pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely for an hour. Then, run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert. Dust with confectioner’s sugar or homemade whipped cream.

Baking · Italian

Rosemary Ciabatta Bread

I have been stress baking lately, and looking to truly get more knowledgeable with my baking. I have always considered myself a much stronger cook than baker, although I have some solid basic skills, thanks to my mother). My mother’s family used to own a bakery, and had the ability to hand make (and slice) dobos tortes and other delicacies. I have, like so many of us, warm memories playing in dough and creating joy for others. So, getting more skilled at baking, in many ways, is a return to my roots.

This recipe is adapted from Paul Hollywood (The Great British Bake Off). It uses a free-standing mixture. Ciabatta is normally very wet, so using the freestanding mixer simplifies the process. This recipe calls for a long, steady rise. Resist the temptation to add more flour or rush things along.

I added in rosemary, because it is my favorite herb to add to bread. It has so many healing properties (anti-inflammatory, soothing your stomach, relief from cramps) that I can’t help but use it for my foccaccia, ciabatta and rustic breads. I have two large bushes that grow in my yard, so the rosemary I use is organic and fresh.

You will need:

  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • A freestanding mixer
  • A square plastic tupperware (with lid) lightly oiled with olive oil. The square helps shape the loaf.
  • Semolina (for dusting)