It’s great when an idea turns out to be a really good one. That’s what happened with this delicious coffee cake. And while I can definitely say that I got this idea, I can’t exactly say that I came up with it on my own. It’s more like I acquired it.
Actually, this coffee-flavored coffee cake is a combination of two ideas that came from other people. The authors of many cookbooks that have recipes for quick breads will tell you that muffin recipes can be converted in to coffee cake recipes simply by baking them in a cake pan. This makes perfect sense, of course. (After all, the cupcake is just a different way of baking a cake.) I decided to make a coffee cake out of the batter for these Cappuccino Muffins.
The second idea I totally stole is Dorie Greenspan’s “Cocoa Crumbs” from Baking Chez Moi. In that book, she suggests that, while she likes to bake these crumbs into crunchy bits to sprinkle on desserts like mousse or pudding, they would be also be great sprinkled on cake batter like a streusel topping.
These two great ideas turned out to make beautiful music together, or at least a wonderfully delicious coffee cake, perfect for a lazy weekend morning. I added some instant expresso to a half batch of the crumbs to give them a mocha twist, and their bittersweet crunchy goodness is a fabulous accompaniment to the soft, coffee-rich muffin-turned-cake. The cake is at its absolute best when still a little warm from the oven, but it’s great later on, too, or even the day after (just be sure to wrap it up well.)
It’s hard to know which is the more triumphant victory: the success of the cake or the success of the crumbs. You know, I think I’ll just revel in this as a win-win. I’ll try not to let it go to my head.
Cappuccino Coffee Cake with Mocha Crumb Topping
Adapted from The Ultimate Muffin Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough and Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan
For the Mocha Crumb Topping:
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon fine salt
2 ½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the Cake:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
1. To make the topping: in a medium bowl, combine the ½ cup flour, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, cocoa, and ¼ teaspoon fine salt. Mix together well. Add the 2 ½ tablespoons butter cubes and rub them into the dry ingredients, squeezing to create coarse lumps. Set aside, or refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray or grease it with butter. Melt the remaining stick of butter and set aside to cool slightly.
3. In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat just until there are just a few bubbles around the edges of the pan. The milk will be scalded but not yet boiling. Stir occasionally to keep the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the espresso powder. Set aside to cool slightly.
4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, ½ teaspoon fine salt, and cinnamon. Whisk together to combine well. Set aside.
5. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the egg and the cooled melted butter until smooth. Slowly whisk in the milk mixture. Whisk in the vanilla and almond extracts.
6. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Squeeze the topping into clumps and sprinkle them over the batter.
7. Bake at 400 F for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely or enjoy slightly warm.
Makes about 12 servings.