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coffee cake, with a twist

October 21st, 2010 | 1 Comment »

I love finding new purposes for old, familiar products. Like Rice Krispies.

I loved this cereal as a kid, and of course, who doesn’t love the gooey marshmallow treats made with it? Loved those too, and my sisters and I would easily make pans of them to devour, as well as my friends and I as we got older. I recently was gifted with a large sack of Rice Krispies and have been searching for ways to use them up. Even if it’s free, waste is not something I’m comfortable with.

Griffin and I made a pan of Rice Krispie treats, and as an added flavor, I stirred about a half cup of butterscotch sauce into the butter/marshmallow mix. What a nice flavor! It added a lot of warmth and depth to them. We’re going to try hot fudge next and are expecting those to be equally as decadent.

I also love finding new recipes for old favorites. Coffee cake and I go wayyyyyy back; back to the little girl who quizzically looked at her Mom when offered a piece of coffee cake and said something to the extent of  “But Mommy, I don’t drink coffee.” We had a tried and true Blueberry Coffee Cake recipe growing up. It was a stalwart, a non-negotiable breakfast/dessert that we trusted and utilized without question. Once my Mom found something in recipe format that she could trust, that her five darlings would eat without some form of revolt or complaint, she rarely deviated from it. But it’s been a while since I made that particular recipe of Mom’s because the last time I stirred it together and baked it, I found that I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I remember. It was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted in a coffee cake. I wanted moist and crunchy to work together; I wanted cake but I wanted muffin too, and I wanted fruit but I wanted more than just fruit. In short, I didn’t know what the heck I wanted. Or even how to make it happen.

Then the past, the present and the coincidence of having 2 pounds of Rice Krispies on hand to use up all came crashing together in one perfect serendipitous event.

I’m not sure where I came across this recipe for a Coffee Cake made with Rice Krispies as part of the base, but I printed it off and finally got mixing on it one morning. It’s certainly a simple concept; make a batter, top it with prepared jam, a bit more batter and then a crumb topping. Simple!

And delicious too! Here it was, the perfect, angels singing, clouds parting for the blazing sunshine coffee cake that my mind had conjured up before my hands had known how to create it. The Universe made it happen. Amen and amen. With this recipe, and the moist yet crunchy, cakey but sort of more muffin like, fruit but a whole lot more coffee cake that came from it will now be a regular occurrence in our kitchen. And the bonus part is, I know that Mom would agree. It was alchemy, magic and flavor all rolled into one.

Although the recipe called for blueberry jam, you could use any fruit spread you wish, and I imagine that pie filling would also be an acceptable substitute. It’s a perfect brunch option, or weekend treat and makes for an excellent dessert as well. We all agreed that it was a terrific way to use up some of the excess Rice Krispies we had on hand.

Blueberry Lemon Coffee Cake

3 c. Rice Krispies (or similar type) cereal
1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. rolled oats
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg
2 T. ground flaxseed (optional)
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 t. each baking soda and baking powder
1/4 t. sea salt
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
1 T. grated lemon peel
2 t. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 c. prepared blueberry jam
1 c. frozen blueberries (optional)

Spray a 9” springform cake pan with cooking spray. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine cereal, flour and sugar. With a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in butter until crumbly. Remove 3/4 c. and set aside.

To remaining cereal/flour mixture, add the baking soda, powder and salt and blend thoroughly.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, egg, lemon peel and juice. Pour into the larger amount of cereal/flour mix and stir only until just combined. Spread about 2/3 of the batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Evenly spread jam over batter to 1/2” of pan edge. Sprinkle blueberries over jam (if using). Dot remaining batter over fruit and gently spread to edge of pan. Sprinkle with reserved cereal/flour mix.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 20-30 minutes, then release spring and gently slide cake onto platter.

Wine poached prune plums

September 26th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

Stone fruits are fickle little things. They can be at once a juicy sweet perfection, and yet also a rock hard, gritty and sour disappointment. They taunt us endlessly with their possibilities, rarely consistent and yet so tempting.

The tiny purple Italian prune plum has the means to bridge this gap between hope and despair in the mere fact that it simply begs to be cooked in order to reach full enjoyment. The flesh when raw is acceptable; it’s fairly sweet with a decent amount of juice, but given just a brief turn in a warm skillet and it becomes something sublime and intoxicating. Poach it with some deep red wine and the experience soars.

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These days I’m needing all I can get to fill the yawning gap inside me, brought about by Harmon’s cancer diagnosis. The turn to Fall is often one choked with melancholy for me; the loss of summer’s warmth and the mountains of fresh produce, the chill in the air and shutting down the flower beds. Our September has been more glorious than imaginable. We’ve been graced with warm and languid days followed by cool crisp nights that begged for open windows and a light blanket. In our semi-rural neighborhood of open fields and ponds, the geese have gathered in massive droves and flown their missions overhead by the hundreds with noisy and eye-catching appeal. The field mice are much more active, giving our intrepid hunter an endless supply of ‘gifts’ to try and bring to us. Baskets of winter squash are appearing in the Farmers Markets. There are shocks of color through the trees as the thick greens of summer give way to Autumn’s richly burnished palate. But I feel like I am in a state of flux. We just have no idea how the last course of Harmon’s life will go, and for me, I just want to be here with him soaking up what remains of our time together. I feel like Autumn will pass by my windows while I snuggle my old friend and begin to consider life without him. It’s slightly ironic, and painfully so that in this transition of seasons outside, within the walls of our life we are transitioning as well from life to death, a golden leaf withering in front of our eyes into the silence of eternal winter.

So the need for something to soothe is evident. I don’t want much these days, wishing for little effort in exchange for nutritional gain. There were delicious and knobby Oatmeal Sweet Potato Muffins that spoke of Fall, tinged with cinnamon and warmth. I found an extremely deep sense of comfort in a simple hard-boiled egg and warmed cooked potato sprinkled with a dusting of sea salt. A package of tiny gnocchi dumplings became  crispy and soothing after a sear in brown butter and topped with tender sage leaves, and in the midst of the past few days, where my tears have been so close to the surface that most anything can bring them springing to life, a few of these poached plums have been a perfect foil to fill the pit in my stomach that threatens to engulf me. I sneak them from the bowl in the fridge, where they sat silently as their original use for a delicious cake fell to the wayside while sorrow took over. After a few days, and some stealth tactics of enjoyment, I did manage to cook up a quaint and tiny little coffee cake, richly hued in these dark purple slabs, crunchy with almonds.

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This is a coffee cake unlike any coffee cake that I’ve known before. Thin, somewhat crisp, not too sweet and thoughtfully simple, is a lesson in cake’s alter ego, that which doesn’t comprise itself of towering airy layers sporting thick rolls of buttercream. It can shed that cloying nature, throw off the layer-icing-layer makeup and just be fabulous without fuss. You don’t even need rich and succulent wine soaked prune plums to make it; any ol’ plum will do, or perhaps a good firm pear or a gently caramelized apple.

Wine Poached Prune Plums
by Kate

Wash, split and pit any quantity of prune plums- I used a full container from the grocer; it probably had about 1-1/2# in it. In a deep skillet, combine 2 T. chunky fruit jam of choice (I used Thomson’s Sweet Cherry Preserves), 2 T. red wine (I used a syrah) and 2 T. of water. Heat gently to melt jam, stirring to combine everything. When warm and a few bubbles have been seen around the edges, add as many of the halved plums as you can, cut side down. Cook gently, without stirring, for about 5 minutes. Turn plums over. Cook about 2-3 more minutes and remove to a bowl. Add remaining plums and cook, adding to bowl when done. Pour any juices over the plums and gently turn to coat the fruit. Allow to sit as long as you can. The more time, the deeper the flavor. Chill in fridge.

Prune Plum Coffee Cake

3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. sliced almonds (I had whole; I broke them up first)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
6 T. butter
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 t. pure vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sugar and almonds and process until almonds are ground. Add flour, baking soda and salt and pulse twice to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. Add in egg and yolk and extract and pulse until combined. Spread batter in pan and top with poached plums, pressing them into the batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cake is firm. Allow to cool for 15 minutes or more, then release the spring.


This cake could be better, I’m sure of it. While always wary of using a food processor to make a batter, thinking that the spinning blades tend towards overkill more than gently combining, I would be interested in doing this in a different method. The cake, while good, was a bit dense. The batter quantity is small, and 40 minutes in the oven resulted in browned and crisp edges. I love that on a cake, but many don’t. It was, with it’s almond base and simple design, an amazing flavor. It might come out slightly better if baked in a loaf pan too. At any rate, there is much to experiment with this recipe.