You already know by now that I am a proponent of cake for breakfast. This recipe is another excuse for just that. The versatility of this recipe is wonderful — it’s incredibly easy to change up the fruit, nut, zest, and spice combinations to suit your tastebuds.
I decided on pears because pears + cinnamon feel very warm and comforting on cold wintry days. Also, maybe because pears were the only ripe fruit in my kitchen. Since pears are much firmer than the berries the original recipe called for, I diced them, threw them in a bowl with a bit of water, covered with a damp paper towel, and stuck them in the microwave for a few seconds, just to soften them up a bit. I’m glad I did, as the pears ended up just the right texture once the cake was cooked.
Other possible combinations for future breakfast-y cakes: plum+cinnamon+almond, blueberry+lemon, apricot+almond, peach+vanilla+walnut, citrus+ginger, apple+spice, cranberry+orange+pecan…the possibilities are endless.
Pear Cinnamon Coffee Cake
recipe adapted slightly from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
3 TB unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, but highly recommended)
2 cups fruit (berries are fine whole, other things should be diced. if using frozen fruit, do not thaw)
2 cups plus 2 tsp all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground mace or freshly grated nutmeg
2/3 cup sugar (or slightly less)
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange (other citrus would be fine, but lemon and orange go best with baking)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Butter an 8×8-inch pan and put it on a lined baking sheet.
- To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and curds and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl, stir in the nuts and press a piece of plastic against the surface. Refrigerate until needed.
- To make the cake batter: Using your fingertips, toss the fruit and 2 teaspoons of the flour together just to coat the fruit; set aside.(This makes it so your fruit doesn’t all end up at the bottom of your cake).
- Whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, the baking powder, soda, salt, and spices.
- Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and citrus zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic.
- Add the butter and beat the sugar with the butter at medium speed until light, about 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs one by one, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled — it will soon smooth out.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, the flour in 3 parts, the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients). You will have a thick, creamy batter. With a rubber spatula, gently stir in the fruit.
- Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. Pull the crumb mix from the refrigerator and, working with your fingertips, break it into pieces. There’s no need to try to get even pieces — these are crumbs and they’re supposed to be lumpy and bumpy and every shape and size. Scatter the crumbs over the batter, pressing them down ever so slightly.
- Note: I didn’t use all of the crumb, because I wasn’t looking for a super sweet or crumb-heavy cake. Your call.
- Slide the sheet into the oven and bake 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.