DAMN FINE CUP OF CAKE

December 19, 2008

Through a series of misunderstandings and a case of mistaken identity (though, if the cream cheese had sat in the cupboard much longer it probably would have at least smelled like sardines) I ended up with a surplus of sour cream in the fridge. "Surplus" meaning "some," because typically there is none. I don't know what people do with sour cream but baked potatoes aren't usually on the menu and I can't think of any other dish that would require me to purchase the stuff. True to form, I decided to figure out something to make with the sour cream rather than let it go to waste. This of course required employing kitchen staples that otherwise would have gone towards a planned and necessary dish in the service of using up the sour cream, amounting to a net loss of food funds. At least it would have amounted to a net loss had the resultant coffee cake not been so damn delicious and had it not prompted me to finally use the currants I've been carting around for about seven months now.

This coffee cake is the kind of coffee cake that motivates you to make a pot of coffee just to have an excuse to eat it. It is moist and soft but quite firm and slices well without crumbling into bits. You can adjust the streusel to meet your taste; when I make it again I'm going to layer just a bit more in the middle. This took me back to the days when I was near obsessed with eating coffee cake every Sunday, with the plus of not making me feel like I was going to need someone to cart me around in a wheelbarrow for the rest of the day. It keeps very well in the fridge so you don't need to eat three warm mugfuls topped with raspberry jam in one sitting. Unless you want to.

Currant-Walnut Coffee Cake
I spent way too long trying to find cake recipes that included sour cream and discoverd that for a 9" x 13" cake most recipes required essentially the same proportion of ingredients. Eventually ended up amalgamating this one and this one. I'm not a big fan of putting chocolate in bread so I liked the idea of the currants and jettisoned the addition of cocoa powder. I was considering veganizing the cake by subbing yogurt for eggs but didn't have yogurt, and also considering using agave syrup as a healthier sweetening agent but worried about the batter becoming too soupy. The substitution of agave for sugar necessitates the reduction of other liquids by 1/3 and I didn't know if the sour cream counted as a liquid, if the eggs technically counted as a liquid...I decided it wasn't worth the stress. That said, next time I might try going 1/2 cup sugar and 2/3 cup agave and leaving the other ingredients as is. Next time I will also use whole wheat pastry flour, which I was holding in reserve for these.

For cake:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
16 oz light sour cream
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
For topping (you can't really mess this up, just use as much of each ingredient as you prefer):
2 cups dried currants
1 1/2 - 2 cups chopped walnuts
3/4 - 1 cup sugar (I used raw florida crystals but next time I will use light brown)
2 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9" x 13" pan.
Mix topping ingredients in bowl and set aside.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs and vanilla and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
Sift flour (I think this is important) and whisk together with baking soda and baking powder.
Incorporate, alternating between adding the sour cream and the flour mixture to the wet ingredients.
Pour a little more than half of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it until it is more or less even. I say a little more than half because I like my filling as close to in the middle as possible and have had too many loaves and cakes ruined by filling sinking to the bottom and sticking to the pan. Avoid the devastation.
Sprinkle batter with a little more than half (depending on how you like your filling to topping ratio) of the the currants and nuts and cover with the rest of the batter. Smooth the top as best you can and don't worry if the smoothing process churns up a bit of the filling. Sprinkle the rest of the topping evenly over the cake.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Not only did I dig into it immediately without it dissolving into a steamy mess, but I left it in the pan to cool without it suffering any ill-effects. The edges did not toughen and the bottom did not burn. Once I did want to transfer it, it slipped right out of pan without leaving a speck of itself behind.

reason for making the coffee cake
coffee cake

2 comments:

Deb Schiff said...

Hey Tory,
That cake looks marvelous!
Baking tip about agave nectar -- use 2/3 as much agave as sugar and only cut one liquid by 1/3. Also, cut the baking temp by 25 degrees F (which makes your baking time a little longer, but it's worth it). Much simpler than folks make it.
I use agave exclusively instead of sugar. Sometimes I forgo all the math and just add a tablespoon or two of coconut flour. It does some magic in sucking up the liquid while adding lovely flavor and fiber to the recipe. Happy days!

Tory said...

Thanks Deb, I tried a slightly veganized version last night and will post soon. I'm happy not to be as daunted by agave anymore!