Sunday, 23 October 2011

The End of an Era, Marked by Crumb Coffee Cake

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So, my MA course is officially over.  We've all handed in our dissertations, and even though some people are still working on their books (poor researchers...), most of us are starting to look for agents and publishers to take us on.  It's a whole new ballgame, and this time we're on our own.  No weekly workshops where we can glean advice from those farther along than the rest; no meetings with grown-up writers (ie tutors) who can guide us in the right direction; no grades/marks to let us know whether what we're doing is working.  Nope, each of us is on her own now, and that's both freeing and terrifying.

But it doesn't mean we can't still meet up and gossip over cake every now and again, and that's exactly what we did a couple weeks ago!  After much back and forth on scheduling and location, we settled on a date and time and met up at our classmate C's house in West London for brunch.  And yes, the tube lines were down, and yes, the journey was long, but it was so worth it for the lovely outdoor space and even lovelier hospitality.

And the cake, of course!  We cooked together, C and I, so this cake was even easier to make than it would have been normally.  It came together in about 10 minutes, and boy was it tasty – almondy, buttery, and rich, without being too sweet.  Definitely a brunch success!

The cake was huge, so I took a few large hunks home to my bf (a hunk for a hunk), and I ate my piece in bed, with a milky cup of coffee.  Oh, man, after a weekend of running around London with the tube lines down, this little retreat to the covers was exactly what I needed, and this coffee cake tasted all the better eaten with my fingers, in my nightgown, propped up against a pillow with the morning sun coming through the windows behind me.

However you eat this cake, I suggest you at least start by serving it to a group.  It's the kind of goodness that begs to be shared, to be oohed and aahed over at a table heavy with indulgent foods and good friends.  Just remember to save yourself a piece to eat the next day, preferably in bed.

Crumb Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350F/175C and grease a 9x13 baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream until light and fluffy:
     8 tbsp (113g) butter
     1 cup sugar

Add, one at a time:
     2 large eggs

Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in:
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     1 cup sour cream

In a separate bowl, whisk together:
     2 cups flour
     1/2 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 tsp baking powder

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined.  Pour into greased pan and set aside while you make the crumble.

In a medium bowl, whisk:
     2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
     1 1/4 cups sugar
     1/2 tsp salt
     1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine and add to dry ingredients:
     1 cup (225g) butter, melted
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     3/4 tsp almond extract (we reversed these 2 extract amounts for more almondiness)

Stir until all the butter is incorporated into the dry ingredients, then, using fingers, crumble the mixture over the cake batter in the prepared pan.  

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a tester comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it.  Let cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar and serving.

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