As soon as the leaves start to turn and the glorious fall season gets underway here in New England, our friends, family, and, yes, even just acquaintances, start calling or emailing to ask if they can come for an overnight to savor the gorgeous foliage. These visits usually include breakfast so I am always searching for new creations for the first meal of the day. This year, I’m in luck since I’ve just completed Sunday Brunch, which is due out in Spring 2012. Although there is a cornucopia of recipes in this collection, an espresso-scented coffee cake is one of my favorites.
Lusciously moist and lightly scented with espresso, this dense coffee cake serves 8 to 10 easily and will please everyone. A mixture of brown sugar, toasted pecans, and butter is used as a filling but also as a topping to add extra flavor and texture. An espresso cream cheese glaze reinforces the coffee theme. The cake is baked in a 9-in springform pan with a small ramekin set in the center–-an easy alternative if you do not own a baking pan with a removable tube insert. You can make this tempting confection a day ahead, but you’ll need plenty of will power to resist sneaking a bite!
Although this coffee cake makes an impressive centerpiece for brunch, it’s equally tempting offered with cups of tea or coffee for an afternoon treat. You can also pack it in a basket for a tailgate or a fall picnic, or serve slices with scoops of vanilla ice cream for dessert.
8 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled and diced, plus extra for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped (see cooking tip)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp instant espresso dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
Creamy Espresso Glaze (recipe follows)
Equipment needed: a 9-in springform pan and a small ramekin 3-inches in diameter and about 1 3/4 in tall (see cooking tip).
1. Arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of the springform pan and then cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Place the paper in the pan and then butter the paper. Butter the sides and bottom of the ramekin and place it, right side up, in the center of the pan.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add the diced butter and rub the mixture between your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs. Remove 3/4 cup to a small bowl and to this stir in the chopped pecans; set aside.
3. Add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the large bowl with the flour mixture and stir to combine. Whisk together the buttermilk, egg, dissolved espresso, and vanilla extract and then stir them into the dry ingredients just until well blended. The batter should be quite thick.
4. Ladle half of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture over the batter. Repeat with the remaining batter and nut mixture. Place the pan on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until a tester inserted into the area around the ramekin comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
5. While the cake is baking, make the Creamy Espresso Glaze.
6. Remove and cool to room temperature, for 45 minutes or longer. Then run a sharp knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Run the knife around the outside of the ramekin to loosen it from the cake. Gently remove the ramekin and the sides of the pan. Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar, and then drizzle the Creamy Espresso Glaze over the top. Serves 8 to 10
Cooking tip: To toast pecans, spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place in a preheated 350 degree F oven until fragrant and lightly browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove and cool.
Cooking tip: A 3-in ramekin works best in this recipe. If you use one wider in diameter the space for the batter will be smaller and as the cake cooks some of it is likely to fall into the ramekin. If you have an angel food pan with a removable bottom or a flat-bottomed tube insert for a 9-in springform pan, you can use either of those instead.
Creamy Espresso Glaze
3 tbsp milk, plus extra if needed
1 1/4 tsp instant espresso powder
3 oz cream cheese at room temperature, broken into small pieces
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and espresso powder until espresso has dissolved. Add the cream cheese. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the mixture until blended, and then gradually beat in the sugar. The glaze should be smooth and thin enough to drizzle over the coffee cake. If too thick, thin with a tsp or more of extra milk.
Cooking tip: A squeeze bottle with a small opening makes drizzling the glaze over the coffee cake very easy.
© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011
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