Strawberry-Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, Breakfast or Dessert?

For a recent private party held at the new restaurant where I'm pastry chef, I was asked to make some sort of special little package of goodness for each guest to take home after the party.

Because it was to run fairly late, and the event menu already included dessert, it was likely that guests wouldn't consume this treat before the next morning. Therefore, it had to be sturdy enough to withstand sitting in its cellophane wrapper for a while, and be satisfying as a dessert or snack with morning coffee. That's why I decided on some sort of coffee cake.

Truth be told, I'm generally not a coffee cake fan. They're either too dry, too heavy, or too characterless to be worth my while. There is, however, one exception: the cream cheese coffee cake at a local café. I'm fanatical about their banana walnut pancakes, so it's not often that I can bring myself to forsake said pancakes for said cake, but when I do, I'm never disappointed by the moist, cakey bottom surmounted by a thick layer of cheesecake-like joy, crowned by a tasty, cinnamon-flecked crumb topping.

20080924strawberry_coffee2.jpgWith that wonderful specimen in mind, I had a starting point. I also had three pints of impeccable local strawberries sitting in my refrigerator, and if cream cheese and strawberries aren't meant to be together, I don't know what is. So it was decided: strawberry cream-cheese coffee cakes.

Having no recipe for such concoction, I had to feel my way through. I began with Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri (the same author of this week's Cook the Book) an excellent source for good, reliable, straight-forward recipes. Malgieri has a recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake, essentially a simple crumb-topped coffee cake enriched with a good helping of fresh blueberries. That gave me a base and a crumb topping that would work with the moisture-rich strawberries and cream cheese.

For the cream cheese layer, I made a pretty basic cheesecake batter, which I layered over the berries and the cake batter before topping with crumbs. With a few test runs to get the proportions and timing right, I soon had a countertop of extremely moist, excessively rich, but nonetheless sturdy strawberry cream cheese coffee cakes.

Because I failed to take pictures at the party, I made another batch last night for the sole purpose of providing you with an image. Instead of strawberries, I used a mixture of fresh peaches and a handful of frozen raspberries. This combo worked well too, and I'm sure you could substitute just about any type of soft-fleshed fruit or berry in this recipe. So far, strawberries win.

About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

Strawberry-Cream Cheese Coffee Cake, Breakfast or Dessert?

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About This Recipe

This recipe appears in: This Week in Recipes

Ingredients

  • For Cake Layer:
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (112g)
  • 2/3 cup sugar (140g)
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (180g)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large yolks
  •  
  • For Cream Cheese Layer
  • 10 ounces cream cheese (280g)
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 6 tablespoons sugar (84g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, well beaten, but not aerated
  •  
  • For Crumb Layer:
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (112g)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (120g)
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour (60g)
  • ½ cup brown sugar (105g)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  •  
  • For Assembly:
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries, diced

Procedures

  1. 1

    Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 10 mini (2”X4”) loaf pans or one 13”X9” baking pan and line the bottoms with parchment (you may also use cupcake pans, lining 24 standard size molds with standard paper cupcake liners).

  2. 2

    With an electric mixer, cream together butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy.

  3. 3

    Add vanilla, followed by eggs - one at a time - beating well to incorporate between each addition.

  4. 4

    Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder to evenly distribute. Add one third of this dry mixture to the butter-egg mixture and mix to incorporate.

  5. 5

    Add one yolk, and mix to incorporate. Add half of remaining dry mixture, followed by remaining yolk, finishing with remaining dry mixture, mixing well after each addition.

  6. 6

    Place cream cheese and lemon zest in a heat-proof mixing bowl set over simmering water. Stir every so often, until cheese becomes warm, smooth and liquid.

  7. 7

    Remove mixing bowl from heat. Add sugar and vanilla extract well. (Do not whip or whisk, as incorporating air will make the cream cheese layer pasty and dry). Add beaten egg and mix to incorporate.

  8. 8

    Make Crumb Layer:

  9. 9

    Combine all ingredients and mix with your hands or a mixer until ingredients are evenly distributed and mixture falls in chunky crumbs.

  10. 10

    Assembly: Divide cake layer batter evenly among prepared pans.

  11. 11

    Divide strawberries evenly among pans, spreading the berry pieces evenly over the surface of the cake batter and patting down gently.

  12. 12

    Diving cream cheese layer batter evenly among pans (there should be enough to just cover the berries in each pan).

  13. 13

    Sprinkle a healthy handful of crumbs over the cream cheese layer in each pan. Do not push down.

  14. 14

    Bake coffee cakes for 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center cakes comes out clean (it may appear a bit damp, but should not have any batter clinging to it). Allow cakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes in the pans. Carefully loosen each cake with a paring knife and gently turn cakes out. Cool completely, crumb-side up on wire racks. Cakes keep about 3 days (though crumb topping will become less crunchy/crumbly after storage).

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