I am not a morning person. Never have been. Even as a child, I needed a delicious breakfast to coax my first smile of the day. Luckily, I come from a land of the buttery croissant. I grew up dipping crusty baguettes with a thick layer of salty butter in big bowls of hot chocolate. The butter would melt in pretty patterns of gold on top of the cocoa, giving me an early addiction to breakfast treats.
Here in the US, a good croissant is hard to come by and due to my grumpy morning disposition, I tend to get crazy annoyed by inferior breakfast pastries. Morning is hard enough without throwing in chewy danishes, dense donuts, or rock hard scones.
My expectations of most breakfast pastries are pretty low, but dry and tasteless coffee cake can make me downright angry, like those served at Starbucks and other chains. Coffee cake, as the name implies, should be the perfect dipping tool for a latte. It should be moist without falling apart, and should be flavored with rich yet mellow flavors like vanilla and brown sugar. Each bite should leave you with a pleasant buttery aftertaste, pure comfort food to ease you into another day, like the kiss your mother used to plant on your forehead before sending you off to school.
Tired of grumbling into my cup cafe au lait, I decided to bake my ideal coffee cake. After a little experimentation, I came up with this recipe which I prepare the night before and throw in the oven while still rubbing the sleep from my eyes. Try it, you’ll agree with me that it’s the best thing to dip in your coffee, short of hopping on a transatlantic flight to grab one of those buttery croissants at a little Parisian cafe.
- For the Cake:
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1¼ cups of sour cream (11 oz)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- For the Topping:
- 4 tbsps (1/2 stick) butter, softened
- ¼ cups of flour
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ¾ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ cup vanilla sugar (Keep some regular sugar in a jar with a slit vanilla bean for a few weeks to infuse with flavor)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- Cream together butter and sugar with a mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- On the lowest mixing speed, add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter, alternating with the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until just combined. Do not overmix as this will make your cake denser.
- Grease a 9x13 Pyrex pan. Pour in the batter.
- Cream together the topping ingredients into a fairly thick paste
- Take small chunks of the topping paste and squeeze them into thin disks to apply to the surface of the batter to the best of your ability. You will not be able to cover the entire surface of the batter, but don't worry too much. As the cake bakes, the topping will sink and rise, and the cake will look as coffee cake should, with a topping that just begs to be eaten, and with veins of brown sugar yumminess throughout the cake.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.