Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spiced Brown Sugar-Pecan Coffee Cake

Mace is not a spice that tends to show up much in baked goods and even when it does it is usually a very small amount added to recipes that also call for lots of other spices. When I picked this recipe to make I wasn't really paying much attention to the spice combination though -- I was far more intent on the fact that it used a cup of buttermilk (since I am running out of time to use up the 2+ gallons I had) and that the recipe said it kept well.

Therefore I was a little surprised by the spice combination for the crumb mixture of this cake: 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger, and mace. I was so surprised in fact, that I stopped for a minute and thought about leaving the mace out or only adding half the amount because I was worried about the flavor profile of the cake. Silly me. I went ahead and made the recipe as it was written and was pleased with the results. The mace added an interesting dimension to the flavors of the cake which I ended up liking quite a lot in a old-school crumb cake sort of way.

I pulled the recipe from my Beth Hensperger Bread Bible which is a great book to have on hand, but I constantly forget that she has recipes other than yeast breads in there. And forgetting about the chapters and chapters of scones, crumb cakes, quick breads and other bread-type goodies is a shame because her recipes tend to be reliable and quite tasty.

For this particular cake the other thing to note, other than the mace, is the amount of crumb in this cake. There is a nice, thick layer of crumbs in the middle of the cake (which sank a bit towards the bottom in mine) and another thick layer of yummy crumb on the top of the cake. My only quibble at all is that the cake is so thick that the bottom was a little over-dry for my tastes, but Chris said it was supposed to be that way since it was meant to be eaten with coffee.

Spiced Crumb Topping:

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground mace
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk, well shaken

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9 inch square or springform pan with baking spray.

To make the crumb topping, combine the sugars, flour and spices in a small bowl then add the butter and rub in to form crumbs. Add the pecans and set aside.

To make the cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. In another bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk until everything is mixed in thoroughly.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle evenly with half of the crumb topping. Spoon in the remaining batter and sprinkle with remaining crumb topping. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-45 minutes -- check after 35, but it will likely take at least 42-45 because of how thick it is.


jwright said...

I work at bass pecan company enter in your recipe to win $1000 at our website basspecan.com

burkie said...

that looks terrific. i love crumby, vice crummy, coffeecake. meanwhile, i hope you blog about those fig walnut scones--i think i liked them even more than the maple pecan ones (which are second only to the bacon cheddar scones).

stefan said...

I love this recipe, I've made it a couple times. I'm a huge fan of Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible, it's my go-to baked goods cookbook.

In this recipe, I typically substitute cloves for the mace, and I've made the cake with both pecans as called for or walnuts instead. I also used my standard substitution for buttermilk (1/2 milk, 1/2 whole milk yogurt), and it turns out great, nice and moist.