All Good Things


This past week was one in which I found out that one of my good friends is pregnant with her first child, and another friend and her partner just bought a new home and moved to Oakland. A friend across town had thrown out her back and another was just returning from a long trip, exhausted and jet-lagged. It was time to bake a little something. Something that was equal parts celebration (a baby!) and ‘take it easy.’ Something with ingredients I had on hand and that I wouldn’t have to rush around to shop and prep for. Something like Harvest Apple Coffee Cake.


I like this recipe a great deal because I generally have apples laying around in the fall. Either friends have gone apple-picking, my mom picks some up for me at the farmers market, or I stumble across a too-good-to-pass-up deal at Berkeley Bowl, there’s generally a small village of them on my kitchen table. And buttermilk. Can we just say a word about buttermilk? I often buy a quart of it for something I’m baking and then have the rest just hanging out in the fridge–so this recipe takes care of that issue, too.


I’ve been doing some research on American cookery at the turn of the century for a small project I’m working on, and stumbled across this wonderful manual at the library called The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Child. It was first published in Boston in 1829 and reprinted through 32 editions until 1850, and is essentially a book of economical housekeeping hints ranging from reusing scraps of old bread to make coffee (what?!) to washing your hair with New England rum. A quote that I particularly like is when Child says, “The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments of time as well.” That’s what this coffee cake is all about. It’s about using up the fruit and butter and sugar that you have at home, folding it all together, baking it, and delivering it to friends to say Welcome Home or I Hope You Feel Better. That’s all: gathering fragments into something greater than its pieces. And passing it on.

This recipe is very loosely inspired by a recipe in the new The Beekman Boys 1802 Heirloom Cookbook called “Company’s Coming Apple Cake.” Its named as such because it’s simple to throw together with ingredients you likely have on hand for nights when you find out last minute that neighbors are stopping by after dinner.  I was inspired by the recipe but wanted to make a lightly spiced morning coffee cake instead of an actual cake, and wanted to use whole-grain flour and a different streusel topping (the same streusel I use on top of Marge pies at the farmers markets). This coffee cake will hold up beautifully for 2-3 days if wrapped well and left out on the counter. This makes it nice for slicing off bits for afternoon tea, too (wouldn’t want to waste any, after all). I think Lydia Maria Child would approve.

Harvest Apple Coffee Cake

Harvest Apple Coffee Cake

  • Yield: 12-16 servings
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 50 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr 10 mins

While I usually bake with Granny Smith apples, they tend to dry out a little in this coffee cake. Honeycrisps or even Golden Delicious are perfect here. You could also use pears instead of apple or walnuts or hazelnuts instead of pecans. I love baking with whole grain flours whenever possible; you want coffee cake to be pretty fluffy, so I opted to use King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour along with a traditional white all-purpose flour. This combination works well and gives the cake a little more heft without verging on dry or overly dense.

Ingredients

Coffee Cake:

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups diced (1/2-inch) peeled apple (2-3 apples)

Streusel Topping:

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. With a stand-mixer or hand-beaters, beat the butter until creamy, roughly 1 minute. Gradually beat in the two sugars until fluffy, 2-3 minutes. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together with a fork or small whisk. Set aside.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, beating after each addition just to incorporate. Add the four mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in the apples just until combined and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. This is the point in which you really don’t want to overmix the batter: just fold and be done with it.

For the topping: Mix all of the dry ingredients together,  pour in the butter and work the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until crumbly. It should be clumpy, like large pebbles. If it’s too wet, add another sprinkling of flour.

Scatter the topping over the coffee cake batter in an even layer. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted into the middle and comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool completely before serving.

Comments

  1. Adriana

    Simple, fall-y, delicious. Perfect! I love apple anything and buttermilk always gives that extra touch.

  2. Amy

    Hi Megan, I'm new to your blog and I have to say it is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I love your writing and eye for recipes. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed this little post and I'm looking forward to reading more. :)

    1. megang

      Aww, thanks so much Amy and welcome! So nice of you to stop by and leave a comment. Hope you're having a nice week, m.

  3. Amanda (onceuponarecipe)

    I absolutely love baking for friends and packaging it up all pretty to brighten their day. What a beautiful post!

  4. Anna

    This looks so good. I will add it to the many fall recipes I want to bake (soon). I like what Lydia Maria Child has to say, thanks for sharing.

  5. Kasey

    Yay for good things! Also, baked goods are always a nice reminder to take things easy. Hope you are having a great time in Seattle!

  6. tea_austen

    The light in your photos is so gorgeous. And I too love the village of apples. This time of year I would like to move into that village.

  7. Irishbaker

    I also always have buttermilk lying around and nothing to do with it!Looks delicious btw.

  8. Mary

    I think Lydia Marie Child would approve too.

  9. Sonya

    This looks amazing! Is there a good substitute for a 9x13 pan? I cant seem to find one over here in the netherlands :( I do have two 9 inch cake pans,a 13 x9 pan and various other sizes.

    1. megang

      Hi Sonya- Hmm, you have a 13x9? That'd work just fine. You could do it in a deeper bundt pan if you wanted to, or do it in (2) 9 x 9'x and you'd just have a shallower (thinner) cake which could be just fine, too. Let me know what you try!

  10. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    This looks absolutely perfect for both a celebration and a 'take it easy" treat! A must try. Printed out!

  11. lori

    I love looking at old books like that. Isn't it funny how everything has changed while everything is still the same?

  12. Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane

    I love the idea of "gathering fragments" and am a big fan of making something out of (what seemed like) nothing. It just evokes a feeling of power, independence and, of course, survival.

    This cake looks perfect for all the special occasions you made it for, too. What lucky friends you have!

    1. megang

      Elizabeth: yes, sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century in the sense of being drawn to recipes that rely on pantry ingredients, rustic baking, using up leftovers etc. I think you'll like this one. Happy weekend to you.

  13. cory

    this looks like the most perfect fall breakfast for the suddenly chilly days here in CO! i too have the buttermilk problem - its so annoying. now that bathing suit season is gone i've been using it for pancakes or waffles on the weekend, but in the summertime I would try to use it as a marinade for chicken or pork. i feel your pain though.

    thanks for the post! looks lovely and i also have a ton of apples on hand from a recent pick - though this might be nice with the pears i was overzealous with too! XO

    1. megang

      Hi Cory. Thanks for stopping by and commenting...I used to live in Colorado myself and have fond memories of those chilly mornings this time of year. Enjoy the coffee cake--and yes, it'd be awesome with pears. Have a great weekend!

  14. Janet

    Gorgeous! I want to sink my face into that piece o cake. Yay for good things!

  15. El

    This recipe looks really perfect for a New England fall afternoon. I'd love a piece with a cup of tea.

  16. Allison

    Hi there! I am catching up on my blog reading and have thoroughly enjoyed going through your posts over the last few months! Love your writing and the photos are gorgeous. This cake looks delicious too. I'm also wondering where you got the perfect looking boxes in this post. Those look great for transporting food gifts. Thanks!

    1. megang

      Hi Allison. I order the boxes from BRP Boxshop....I have a small baking business so it makes sense for me b/c I order in bulk. May be too large of a minimum for you. But check with your local bakery supply store and ask for "kraft-colored pie boxes." Thank you for stopping in and for your lovely comment! Good luck.

  17. stacey

    OMG i made this yesterday for a potluck and it was FANTASTIC!!!!! but honestly, i think next time i will double the crumb topping cuz i like LOTS :)

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