Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who Wants Coffee Cake?

I am not a sweets for breakfast girl. I have never really liked cold cereal, although occasionally I'll have some granola with yogurt. The smell of sodden Cheerios has always turned my stomach, and I never relished digging down through a bowl of bobbing sugar-nuggets to get to the unnaturally-colored, cloyingly sweet dregs of milk and dissolved cereal.

When faced with a choice of pancakes, french toast, waffles or an omelette with side of hash browns and some greasy breakfast pork-item, I'll always opt for the eggs, potatoes and meat. I make pancakes and crepes for the kids because they like them. I'd rather have savory crepes with a creamy mushroom and herb filling than Natalie's preferred jam-and-yogurt.

My cinnamon buns are a once-a-year treat on Christmas morning, a well-loved tradition not to be ignored, even by me; a summertime stint working in two donut shops 20 years ago has left me with little craving for weekly donuts; but every now and then I am overcome with a craving for coffee cake.

When I mentioned to the girls (early) this morning that I was considering making a coffee cake for breakfast, Lucy had a meltdown. "Nooooooooooooo!" she wailed. "No. Coffee. Cake!!" After a bit of prodding, I realized she thought that it was a cake made from coffee. When I told her that it was just called that because it was a sweet breakfast cake that people could eat with their morning coffee, and that she wasn't obligated to drink any coffee at all in order to have some cake, she relented.

Now, I'm at the end of my usual grocery cycle, and since I'll be traveling for the holiday this week, I did a huge shopping trip recently where I restocked the pantry of several staples; I still have some items stocked away in the freezer. I am tempted to stretch it out and see what meals I can scrape together from my pantry. I love the end of a long grocery cycle - I have to be very creative about what to toss together to make a nice meal. Some of my favorite recipes have come about under those conditions!

Some friends and I were chatting about sharing our "Sandra Lee recipes" you know, those not-quite-from-scratch, shortcut recipes you may rely on but be too embarrassed to cop to using?

One of my favorites is biscuit mix sour cream coffee cake, but I happened to be right out of Bisquick. I did have a bag of New Hope Mills pancake mix, because I don't always feel like making my own batter from scratch. Sue me.

The recipe also calls for sour cream, which I rarely have on hand unless nachos are on the menu. I did have vanilla yogurt and I thought, "Why not substitute it? The yogurt is sour, like the sour cream, and the acid would probably work with the baking powder in the mix as a leavening agent. Besides which, the pancake mix was a buttermilk mix, so there ought to be some acidity already in the bag.

I opted to use brown sugar instead of white (I was out of the regular granulated sugar), substituted chopped nuts instead of flour in the streusel topping, and presto! 25 minutes later, I had a lovely, cinnamony coffee cake which both girls devoured, warm. It was the perfect accompaniment to my coffee this morning.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups pancake mix
  • 1/2 cup sugar -I used brown sugar because I was out of the white
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup vanilla yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the streusel:
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon


  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray, or grease it with shortening or butter.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour and sugar.
  3. Add the yogurt, egg and vanilla extract and mix well. Spread batter into a greased 8-inch square pan.
  4. Mix together the chopped nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. add the melted butter and mix well until crumbly.
  5. Sprinkle topping evenly over the top of the cake batter.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
  • This was tasty and fragrant, but it did not have the fine, moist, delicate crumb of some other coffee cake recipes I've tried.
  • I don't know if the brown sugar in the cake was at fault or if I should have used more yogurt or added some butter.
  • Instead of 3/4 cup, I might try 1 cup of yogurt next time.
  • Perhaps reducing the cooking time to 20 minutes would be advised.
  • All in all, still a satisfying treat. Not bad for baking on the fly.

Mmmmm.... Don't you just want to dig in?

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