Saturday, 5 July 2014

Blueberry Coffee Cake

A coffee cake is not, as many British people around me seem to think, a coffee-flavoured cake (well, it can be, but that's not usually the point). It is instead a class of cakes intended to be eaten alongside coffee (for example, as part of a breakfast meal) or that may be eaten during a coffee break or offered to guests on or around a coffee table. I gather it's an American thing, this type of coffee cake (especially because here in the UK it's usually a tea break rather than coffee).

I chose this recipe based on the above picture on Pinterest, which is probably dangerous, but it just looked so good! In following the link, the ingredients looked pretty standard, and it called for a large amount of fruit, which I always feel is a good start.

So, the ingredients:
Crumble topping:

  • 1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (65g) flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 cup (57g) butter, softened


  • 2 cups (255g) flour (I used cake flour for this part, but all purpose will probably do!)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (57g) butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk*
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries**
*Now before we start with the steps, I haven't really been successful at finding buttermilk very often, and I rarely have it on hand. You can use regular milk, but the acidity of the buttermilk reacts a bit better with the chemicals in the baking process, and because it's really easy to make buttermilk, there is really no excuse.

There are various methods for DIY buttermilk, but usually the standard is to add 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar to a measuring glass, then fill up to the 1 cup mark with whole milk (you can use 2%, but it really depends on the recipe). Since this only called for 1/2 cup of milk, I instead added 1 1/2 tsp (equivalent to 1/2 Tbsp) of lemon juice and filled up to the 1/2 cup measure. This way you don't end up with leftover buttermilk if you don't need it. Set aside for at least 5 minutes. It WILL get clumpy. This is normal, that's the point!

Homemade buttermilk - the clumps are normal!

** I actually misread this, and only put 2 cups of blueberries in, but I think it turned out pretty well, but I think even more could be even better, so I'd probably say, depending on the size of your blueberries, 2-3 cups would suffice.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Grease a 9" square pan (or a circular springform pan, which is what I used because it's what I had on hand!).

Crumb topping ingredients

In a medium bowl, combine the crumb topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly. I'm not sure if it was the fact that my butter was mostly melted or the fact that my flour was cake flour, which is finer than normal flour, but mine was a bit more squishy than crumbly. It seems to have turned out fine, so I went with it. Should taste the same! I also should note that I didn't have cardamom or nutmeg. For some reason I always assume that I have these on hand, but rarely ever do. Instead I used Pumpkin Pie spice, which you probably can't find in the UK, but it's a delicious combination of spices used in pumpkin pies, and I'm sure will taste just as amazing.

Cake ingredients

In another medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla and blend until smooth. Then alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. I'm not exactly sure why this is important, but it does make it easier, as the batter is very very thick. Make sure to keep pushing your ingredients down with a spatula or else you'll get streaks of unmixed flour mixture in your cake, which no one wants.

Next is the best part, the blueberries! Add your blueberries and fold gently, trying not to burst them, because otherwise they'll not cook in the fabulously juicy delicious way you want. You can use either fresh or frozen, but in my freezer things tend to get freezer burned, and I again didn't want my cake watered down by the melting ice! If you do use frozen blueberries, don't thaw them beforehand, just dump them in as is.

It looks like a lot of blueberries, but actually this is only the 2 cups. As I mentioned earlier I misread the instructions (I was using my phone, the screen was tiny!) but it still looked turned into a decent amount anyway. You can really use any fruit with this, I particularly like blueberries, raspberries or apples, but strawberries might be nice too. If you plan on washing your fruit first (probably recommended), make sure you wash them ahead of time if you can so that they're dry by the time you're adding them. You don't want to add any unnecessary water to your batter.

Spoon the batter into your pan - it's really thick, don't be put off! And spread out as best as you can, but don't be too perfectionistic about it. The hallmark of a good coffee cake (in my opinion) is that it's not smooth and regular, but full of little holes and crevices.

Sprinkle the crumb topping on top. Again, I had difficulty with this part, because mine was very squishy. I probably could have added more sugar or flour or something, but I didn't want to mess with the taste, and I figured the butter would melt anyway and you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference. So I just went with it!

All ready for baking!

Pop in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the centre comes out clean. Depending on your oven I'd keep an eye on the top so it doesn't burn, as it will rise up a bit, and pop some foil over it if necessary to prevent burnage. I had to do this at around 40 minutes into baking, and I also popped the shelf down a level to try to control the heat at the top, as my oven is definitely top heavy on the heat.

Another good reason for a springform pan - it will cool a lot more quickly, 
and therefore you can enjoy the deliciousness sooner!

I think the crumb topping doesn't really look like it's meant to. It kind of just became part of the cake in the end. It certainly doesn't look like the picture at least! Whether this was because of the type of flour I used or because I did something else wrong, who knows. Maybe adding the crumb topping 15 minutes before the end would have given a better result? Something to work on for the future anyway. :)

My lunch today, really healthy, I know. I have somehow managed to only gain 5kg in my entire pregnancy (the average is 12kg), but if maternity leave keeps up like this that might change in the next few weeks!

I had to give in to the caffeine today as well and make myself a French press coffee, it's been so long since I've had anything but instant decaf, and I'm a bit nostalgic for a proper cup of coffee! So, despite obviously not looking as perfect as the online picture, it was still amazingly yummy!

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