I bake for lots of reasons, but one of them is to give thank-you gifts. My Grandma is generally the most frequent recipient of such things, as she is often the one I find myself needing to thank. I've gotten in the habit of baking for her whenever she dog-sits, if she patiently and selflessly hangs on the phone allowing to me to vent about the day, or at times because she's coming over for lunch. It also helps that baking is my cure-all. I bake when I'm sad, when I'm happy and when I'm procrastinating - three states I fluctuate between. This week, just back from a trip to Israel, I found myself feeling like I was on a merry-go-round of all three emotions. I was sad to leave my little cousin, happy to be back in my own home, and definitely procrastinating from facing a few big decisions ahead of me. Maybe I just wanted a reason to bake, so I found one - a coffee cake for a belated Mother's Day. I quickly planned an impromptu lunch date.
My Grams is a serious connoisseur of all types of coffee cakes, though she does not discriminate between them. She loves them in any form, so I decided this would be the perfect thing to surprise her with. I pulled down the first cookbook that really changed the way I thought about cooking, The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook. I devoured this book, and even if I haven't actually cooked all the recipes in it, I still know what's in there when I'm looking for an idea. After finding an open container of buttermilk in my fridge, I recalled there was a simple recipe in my old reliable that I had never tried. It wasn't one with a crumb topping, like I had in mind, but it was the perfect fix for it's recipient. It's a little different than ones I've had (maybe West Coast coffee cake is different than East Coast?), but really moist and all the cinnamon and nuts make it undeniably a coffee cake, but it stops short from turning into a spice cake. As I waited for Ma to drive from Queens to Brooklyn without getting on the highway (double the time, but twice as safe for Sunday drivers), I popped the cake in the oven. As it baked it infused the kitchen with a smell that reminded me that the farther I roam, the sweeter it is to come home.
Cafe Beaujolais Coffee Cake
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup oil (your choice, just not olive oil)
- 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease your baking pan (8x8 or 9x9).
Combine the flour, salt, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, ginger, sugars and oil in a bowl. Mix well. Set aside 3/4 cup of the mixture for a topping. Add the nuts and remaining cinnamon to this bowl.
To the bowl with the cake base, add the baking soda, baking powder, egg, and buttermilk. Stir to combine. Pour the batter into your pan. Sprinkle the flour-but topping evenly across the top.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester in the center comes out clean. This cake is great served warm.