I use to love to bake coffee cake when I was a teenager. I’d make it ad nauseam (probably to the dismay of my family who would be forced to help me eat it, constantly. This was also around the time I went through a phase of listening to Bollywood soundtracks so I was particularly annoying to live with at the time). Naturally I burnt out on it. If I remember correctly, I also kept having issues with the center of my coffee cakes not coming out as evenly cooked as the the sides. After numerous attempts to fix the issue, I finally just gave up and went into a 10 year coffee-cake hiatus. Not just avoiding baking it, I avoided touching the stuff. I wouldn’t even order a slice at a bakery. I mean, what’s so great about a quick break that holds the perfect balance between fluffy and moist and comes with crumbly, buttery streusel toping anyway? (Spoiler alert: Everything!)
All things considered, I was a little surprised when I woke up early on a Saturday morning in September with a single though stuck in my head: “You should bake a coffee cake.” Maybe it was because I’d recently attended a panel discussion on the concept of “Hygge” and a slice of coffee cake with a mug of coffee has a bit of a cozy, homey feel on a grey fall morning or maybe my sub-conscience just knew it was time to give it another chance. Either way, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. My mind obsessed over coffee cake until I eventually admitted defeat in my attempts to fall back asleep and got up to brew coffee and start baking.
Pure muscle memory, despite being away from the stuff for a decade, I was already on autopilot when I walked into the kitchen to start baking. I even automatically reached for the same square ceramic baking dish I used as a teenager (I still own it), before having a though, “what if you tried making it in one of your really nice round cake pans?” This might have been the singular most brilliant decision I’ve made when baking a coffee cake (besides adding raspberries) and may be the difference that might solved all the issues I’d had with uneven baking all those years ago. Also, just a personal preference, I really enjoyed having the option to carve up little triangular slices like a pie, instead of cutting it up into squares like I had my entire youth.
I quite often tossed in frozen blueberries into my coffee cake, but this time that felt just a bit too ordinary. Spontaneously, I went with a triple berry mix of fresh Oregon berries and wow, it’a probably my favorite combo I’ve tried in a coffee cake yet. I added a handful of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries picked locally on Sauvie Island outside Portland (my brother picked these over the summer and froze them fresh. I may or may not have stolen some from him for my cake but it wouldn’t have been the same without them—no regrets). The tarter flavors of the berries help tone down the sweetness of the streusel topping and is absolutely delicious.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil (or butter)
1/2 teaspoon all spice
Handful of berries (I like a mix of blueberry, raspberry, and blackberry)
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons Butter (chilled)
Preheat oven to 375° and prepare a 9 inch round cake pan with butter and flour.
Mix dry cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl (flour, sugar, baking powder salt and all spice). Mix in egg and olive oil until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour into prepared baking dish. Spread frozen (or fresh) berries evenly over the batter. Set aside while preparing the streusel.
For the streusel, mix brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium-small mixing bowl. Add butter and mix ’till fully incorporated (you can use a fork but I like to mix it in by hand). Make sure there are no lumps of butter! Crumble the topping over the top of the batter and berries (it will cover most of the surface area). Bake for 25-30 minutes or until browning on the sides and cooked in the middle (I start checking with a toothpick at the 25 minute mark). Let cool for 20 minutes and remove from pan—I run a butter knife around the edges of the cake and flip pan upside over onto a cooling rack; remove the pan and place a second cooling rack on the bottom of the cake and flip it right up. Cool completely before placing on a plate.
Can be served still slightly warmed or completely cooled. Perfect with a cup of coffee for breakfast or with a scoop of ice cream for a dessert or afternoon treat. Keeps fresh when stored covered in plastic wrap or in an air tight container for up to five days.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.