Musical pairing – This I Know by Sam & Ruby
It’s been a rough winter for my in-laws. After months of pain meds and limping around with a bum leg, my mother-in-law had hip replacement surgery in February. The surgery required a couple of days in the hospital, home to recover, a wheel chair, compression stockings, physical therapy, a walker then finally graduating to a cane – WOO! But that left my father-in-law, ‘Big D’ in charge of the cooking . . .
We were all chuckling when The Professor snapped the above photo – Dad included – and I love it when he gets tickled at something! Mom chimed in with, ‘Be sure and get the Toaster Treats and the Weight Watcher muffins in the shot too!’ That pretty much sums up breakfast at their house – after almost 53 years of marriage Mom still likes her sweet and Dad remains a ‘no muss, no fuss’ kinda guy. The Professor reports that, as a boy, he’d get pop-tarts for breakfast – and not just a plain ol’ pop-tart from the box, no siree. Big D did his own version: a toasted pop-tart, make little slits across the topside and spread the whole shebang with butter, which melts into the jam filling – a kid’s dream come true!
Which brings me to this crumb cake recipe – one of my favorite crumb cake recipes ever. Why? Well, because it bakes up in an 8″ square pan which means we can whip one up with no need to invite an army over to help eat it; the cake has a buttery, sugary, nutty crumb topping and both topping and batter are infused with exotic cardamom spice and, to quote Dorie, ‘There’s something grown up and exotic about this plain-looking crumb-topped brunch treat. It’s not very sweet, and the bit of espresso powder and generous amount of cardamom in both the crumbs and the cake give it an edge. This cake is great with a mug of good strong coffee.’ I couldn’t agree more. We’ve made it twice now and since my mother-in-law likes sweets for breakfast, I think we’ll be making this for her on Mother’s Day – Weight Watchers Muffins be damned!
One more thing, don’t try and tweak the recipe in any way – it’s DORIE GREENSPAN for crying out loud – you just don’t do it. Period!
What’s your favorite breakfast food?
CARDAMOM CRUMB CAKE
DORIE GREENSPAN, Baking – From my home to yours
MAKES 8 SERVINGS
FOR THE CRUMBS
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature
FOR THE CAKE
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan, dust the inside with flour and tap out the excess. Put the pan on a baking sheet.
MAKING THE CRUMBS: Put all the ingredients except the butter in a bowl and toss them together with a spatula just to blend. Add the butter and, using your fingers or the spatula, mix everything together until you’ve got crumbs of different sizes. It’s nice to have a few big pieces, so don’t overdo it. Set the crumbs aside. (The crumbs can be made up to 3 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.)
MAKING THE CAKE: Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and espresso powder in a large bowl. Turn the dry ingredients out onto a sheet of wax paper, and put the sugar and zest in the bowl. Rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and the fragrance of orange strong (don’t miss this step – it really makes a difference!), then return the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk to blend.
Put the remaining ingredients in another bowl and whisk them to blend. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir – don’t beat- to mix. Stir only until you have an evenly moistened batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and top with a thick, even layer of the crumbs. Pat the crumbs eyer so gently into the batter.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake has risen (it will crown) , the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
SERVING: Cut the cake into squares and serve warm or room temperature.
STORING: This cake is best served the day it is made; however, it can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. Once defrosted, it benefits from a quick warm-up in a 350-degree oven.