Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hello there, September . . . Would You Like a Piece of Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake?

It's been unseasonably cool here lately, and people keep saying things like, "Well, I guess summer's over." Personally, I think the days of chillier than average temperatures are simply a late summer fluke, but I must admit I'm enjoying them. It's so much nicer to bake when you don't have to hermetically seal yourself into an air conditioned house, just so your oven won't seem like a blast furnace.

So, taking advantage of the good weather, I was in my kitchen yesterday morning contentedly measuring and mixing and slicing. My intention was to make a plum-ginger upside-down cake. I made it alright, but it was an unmitigated disaster. A real mess. It was with resigned disgust that I threw it in the trash shortly after taking it out of the oven. It looked so awful I couldn't seriously have contemplated keeping it, let alone serving it to another living mammal. Here's a picture of the whole revolting mess, just as I'm tossing it out . . . pretty gross, isn't it?

I can't really fault the recipe, though. I screwed it up to start with by accidentally leaving out an important ingredient (milk), the absence of which I didn't discover--of course--until after the cake was in the oven. It had occurred to me, as I was spreading the batter over the plums, that the batter seemed unusually thick. I was pondering this when I glanced over at the window above the sink, and there on the sill I noticed my glass measuring cup containing the designated milk. Ahh, that explains why the batter's the texture of spackling paste, I thought to myself. I heaved a heavy sigh. But, since the plum cake was just something I was making for fun, I didn't sink into complete despair and I figured, perhaps, it could be salvaged. Then, to add insult to injury, I foolishly took the cake out of the oven way too early. The visible part of it looked completely baked to me, but I had nagging doubts. Now, I've been around the block enough times to know that until a cake like this is flipped over and the pan is lifted off, one never really knows exactly what an upside-downer is going to look like. I knew the danger, and yet I ignored my instincts. The unveiling isn't supposed to be a shocking event, in any case. It's not supposed to be like unmasking the phantom of the opera. And yet that's exactly what it was like. (Ooooo . . . I shudder at the memory of its abject hideousness.)

Good riddance to bad plum cake. Moving on . . .

To exorcise the specter of the nasty plum-ginger upside-down cake, I then decided to make an uncomplicated coffee cake and vowed to follow the instructions with military precision. This I did, and as a result we have today's recipe. It's a Martha Stewart recipe, from her Baking Handbook. I squelched my perennial desire to tweak it. Well . . . okay. . . almost squelched it . . . I admit I tweaked the streusel, and maybe I tweaked the amount of sour cream in the cake's batter, but all to good effect I swear! And, of course, I rewrote the directions (naturally).

Anyway, it's a fine coffee cake. I'd recommend it. Nice texture, not heavy. Nice flavor, not too sweet. You can eat it with a fork or hold it in your hand. The streusel topping has a lovely buttery flavor, and it's a pretty cake too. Neither hideous nor revolting. It doesn't even remind one of unsightly phantoms.

Cherry Streusel Coffee Cake

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" tube pan, or a springform pan with the tube insert (butter it well).

For the streusel:

1 cup and 2 Tbsp. All Purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a fork. Add in the butter, and blend it in with a pastry blender. The streusel should have some little chunks here and there; no need to blend it too much. Put the bowl aside, in the fridge, until you're ready to use it.

For the cake:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups All Purpose flour (I used bleached)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup and 2 Tbsp. sour cream
1 cup frozen sour cherries that have been thawed and well drained (important that they're well drained and not too wet)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until light and fluffy--about three minutes. Add in the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream in two parts; begin and end with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined, and stop to scrape the bowl and the paddle as needed.

Spread about half the batter in the buttered pan. Place the cherries evenly on top of the batter, being careful not to let any of them get close to the sides or center of the pan. (They all need to be completely covered by batter.)

Carefully spread the remaining batter over that and smooth the top. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over that.

Bake for approximately 35 to 40 minutes. When the top is golden, and it springs back slightly when gently pressed, the cake is done. (I also did the toothpick test. I was gun shy after that plum cake incident!) Let the cake cool on a rack for about 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a dish or flat baking sheet, then immediately reinvert it back onto a rack to finish cooling. Glaze the cake when it's fully cooled, if you prefer. Or leave it plain. Delicious either way!

For glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 Tbsp. milk or half & half

After the cake is completely cooled, mix sugar and milk together until completely smooth. Drizzle on the cake. (If you prefer, you can flavor the glaze with just a couple drops of vanilla or almond extract. Remember, though, brown vanilla will make the glaze look beige instead of bright white.)

(If you'd like to leave a comment about this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple
COMMENTS below!)


Arlene said...

Jane, you're killing me!!! Why can't computers allow you to reach into the screen to touch and taste...I can't understand that!!! Now I have to go to the grocery store and get some cherries for this recipe. YUMMY!!

Jane said...

You're so hilarious, Arlene! I always love to read your comments.

:) Jane

Donalyn said...

Oh my golly - that looks so good! I feel bad for the plum cake though - I love plum cakes :) Thanks for stopping by my blog - really appreciate your kind comments.

Tish Boyle said...

That's beautiful, Jane!! I csn tell you live in Michigan--those cherries look amazing!!

Jane said...

Hi Tish-- Thanks so much for the compliment! It means a lot to me coming from a pastry chef of your standing and experience. I am a very big fan of your work and of your exceptional cookbooks. I love your blog as well, and I love the "Dessert Professional" website too!


cindy said...

Hey Janey!! Another trick to drier cherries is to toss them in 1-2 TBSP flour after they've been drained. This helps them keep their shape during baking and not get too mushy (it soaks up the excess juice but doesn't dry them out.) I'm looking forward to trying this recipe out!! Cheers! Cindy (your favorite cake teacher!!) :D

Jane said...

Hi Cindy -- Good advice! I've done that in the past with blueberries, but didn't think to try it with these cherries. Thanks for the tip!

:) Jane

Kate at Serendipity said...

Well, dang! I thought I had commented on this. It's a gorgeous cake, Jane, and I love the way you've done the glaze, radiating out from the center.

HanaĆ¢ said...

Your cake looks great! I love the crumb. It looks so moist and tender. Great job! What did you do with a big cake like that (after tasting it yourself obviously)?

This post was so funny, it made chuckle several times. Mostly because I recognize so much of it (trying to force yourself NOT to tweak a recipe... yeah right!). Too bad the upside cake didn't turn out. Couldn't you have popped it back in the oven after you found out it wasn't done? I hate it when my gut feeling tells me something and I ignore it, ha ha.

I think it's so cool that Tish Boyle commented on your blog. I recently "discovered" Tish through Rose (Levy Beranbaum). After Rose's recommendation of "The Cake Book", I borrowed it from the library, loved the recipes (even though I didn't have a chance to try any) and purchased my own copy last Sunday. My friend's bday is coming up and we're thinking of baking the Tiramisu Cake from it. Can't wait.

Talk to you later,

Jane said...

Hi Kate--Thanks very much! This type of cake can be so effortlessly pretty--I love that about them (bundts, tube pan cakes, etc.).

:) Jane

Hi Hanaa-- You know, I considered putting it back in the oven, but it was SO underdone that I didn't think I could even get it very neatly back into the pan, and it just looked so awful I think I thought it was going to be terrible in any event. If it ever happened again, though, I think I'd probably try harder to salvage it. About Tish Boyle, I was tickled pink that she commented! And, I don't know if you're familiar with cookbook author Nancy Baggett, but today she made a comment on my latest post (fruit cobbler)! I guess it's the power of blogging . . . it makes the world smaller in the best sense of the word, don't you think?

-- Jane

Pat said...

Hi, Jane,
Would you please provide the quantity of butter used in the streusel? By the way, have you tried using fresh cherries, instead of the sour frozen ones? Thanks.

Jane said...

Hi Pat,
That should say 3/4 cup of butter in the streusel. Thanks for asking! My apologies for leaving that detail out.
No, I haven't tried fresh cherries in this particular recipe, but I'm sure fresh sweet cherries would be divine in place of frozen.
Thanks very much,

Anonymous said...

I just made this cake yesterday!

I used a jar or sour cherries, which I drained and blotted on paper towel while I was measuring and mixing the cake.

I baked mine in an angel food pan with a removable bottom. I was hesitant to flip it over onto the streusel topping... but it worked.

The drizzle helped to set the loose streusel that I re-applied after the flip back.

My husband of 30 years said it looked professional!