There must be some truth to what bakers say that some things beg to be baked. I’m in the middle of a coffeecake craze – both eating and baking, and I haven’t yet been able to satiate it. Preferably accompanied with a hot drink, coffee cakes are rich, buttery affairs usually consumed slightly warm at breakfast or in the afternoon. There are the yeasted versions, like the famous German bee sting cake (Bienenstich), and the non-yeasted sour cream coffee cakes often made with a cinnamon-sugar ripple.
Because of a late night cup of coffee, I stayed up with my husband while he worked, my nose in several cookbooks simultaneously looking for that elusive perfect coffee cake. I saw one recipe that practically leapt out from the page demanding to be made then and there, but it was almost 1 a.m., and my eyelids were getting heavy. I tucked it away in my head.
I tumbled into bed a few minutes later, but my sleep was far from restful, wrought with fragmented dreams of coffee cakes. (!) Finally, I woke up. It was only 6 a.m. but already I was restless: I couldn’t get that damned coffee cake out of my head.
So I made it. At that hour: where the only things I could hear were the rain and somehow the ingredients themselves: eager and ready to be part of something so deliciously great. My butter and eggs were still too cold, far from being at room temperature, which is ideal for optimal texture and height in the finished product. But I knew that it didn’t matter this time. Somehow, nothing would dim the greatness of this cake. I was making a crumb coffee cake – a simple yellow cake with a generous top layer of cinnamon-sugar crumbs.
While I was preparing the dry ingredients for entry into the mixer, Boo woke up (oh no, it’s too early for her to be awake already!), so I dashed upstairs and scooped her into my arms. Bin was still too sleepy to function, so I took Boo downstairs with me to the kitchen. Her sleepy eyes looked at me quizzically when I placed her on top of the counter next to the mixer. I had no time to waste since cakes wait for no one, especially when the baking powder has been added.
I turned on the mixer just on low speed so as not to create a tough cake and Boo watched as the paddle turned round and round. I asked her to hold the small Pyrex measuring cup that held the sour cream, and then I held her small hand as she poured the white velvety liquid into the batter.
When I had scraped the batter into the prepared pan, Boo reached out and spread her tiny hand over the batter, making a large hole in one corner. I let out a small shriek, so easily jolted was I: Eeek, Boo bear, not like that. Let’s try something else.
I plopped the bowl of cinnamon-sugar crumbs in front of her. They were now deeply fragrant and heavy with the melted butter which bound them together. I grabbed a small handful and began sprinkling the crumbs over the golden raw batter. Boo followed suit and immediately let out a giggle, full of wonder and awe at the mushy, soft texture she grasped in her hands. I had to stop for a moment there and gaze at my daughter, so mesmerized was I at her innocent, joyful laugh.
Together we lay the crumbs over the batter: I, careful and deliberate, while Boo placed mostly large crumb lumps in the corner nearest her. I left most of them where they were, re-distributing only when necessary. I smiled, already feeling little crinkles form at the corners of my eyes, although I am only 30. All the while we were doing this, I was talking to Boo, telling her what we were baking (Whoops, that’s too big a piece there, honey), and how I hoped it would turn out (Feels nice to touch, huh sweetie?).
While I was talking, my mind’s eye marveled at the cuteness of my little girl’s feet (like little pork chops with toes), and the intensity she placed in what she was doing. Pretty soon I realized, my Boo girl wouldn’t be sitting on the counter, but standing beside me (on a stool, most probably), helping me make whatever it is that cries out to be baked next.
Coffeecake Top Of the Morning To Ya!