In a hurry for a people-pleasing cake? This is it.
Top a simple coffee cake (or cupcakes) with the mix of butter, sugar, flour and spice, and you’ve raised your baking to a more delicious level, with almost no effort. You’re probably familiar with the crumbly topping on apple crisps – that’s streusel. In this recipe, it adds crunch, making a welcome difference to the tender crumb beneath. And some of the streusel drops into the batter while the cake is baking, so you get a little surprise in the middle of a slice.
This is a typical coffee cake: not too sweet, mildly spicy, light. Its lightness makes it a winner for festive meals, when meals are more ample than usual. You know how it is when everyone’s already pretty full, but still craving something sweet? This is the cake to “fill up the corners,” as Hobbits say. Although it easily accompanies the morning cup of coffee too, if that’s how you like breakfast. Or a mid-afternoon snack.
When we have overnight guests, I like to double the recipe and bake a sheet pan of it to have around for whenever the cake mood strikes. Which it so often does, of a long Shabbat afternoon.
I’ve baked this cake with butter and milk – very good indeed. But to serve after a meat meal, I substitute coconut milk and margarine for the dairy. That’s the cake you see in the photograph. Easy enough, too. No separating eggs or whipping anything.
Admittedly, it’s a craggy-looking cake. Homely. If you want to be charitable, you can say that it has character. On the other hand, you don’t need to excuse its, well, rustic looks at all. It’s sweet, tender, made interesting with a little spice and some texture contrast… just what you want from a cake. Or from life, for that matter.