Sunday Brunch: Yeasted Sugar Cake

I've been feasting on peaches, plums, and nectarines lately, enjoying them on their own but also keeping an eye out for a simple cake that will complement the stone fruit without overwhelming richness. Sweet and buttery in a restrained sort of way, Deborah Madison's yeasted sugar cake fits the bill perfectly. As a bonus, it reminds me of the Sara Lee coffeecake I loved as a child (which, in adult samplings, has never lived up to my childhood taste memory).

I think this cake is plain enough to be cut into cubes and included in a basket of bread and muffins, but with plenty fresh fruit it could be the centerpiece of a meal. If you make it a day in advance, warm it in the oven before serving.

Sunday Brunch: Yeasted Sugar Cake

About This Recipe

Yield:one 9-inch cake


  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar


  1. 1

    Stir the yeast and 1 teaspon of the sugar into 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

  2. 2

    In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, and salt. Add the yeast mixture, milk, and eggs and beat until smooth; I just used a wooden spoon. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter and beat vigorously until the batter is silky. Scrape down the sides, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

  3. 3

    Lightly butter a 9-inch cake pan. Stir down the dough, scrape it into the pan, and pat it into a disk of uniform thickness. If possible, soften the remaining two tablespoons butter even more in a microwave or by letting them sit atop a hot stove for a minute. Rub this softened butter all over the dough and then sprinkle with the brown sugar. (My butter was not soft enough to rub, so I pinched it into small lumps and dotted the dough with butter before sprinkling with sugar.) Leave the dough to rise 30 minutes more and preheat the oven to 400.

  4. 4

    Bake the cake until well risen and the sugar has begun to melt and brown, about 25 minutes. The surface should be covered with cracks. (I was using an 8-inch cake pan and it was still a little underbaked at 30 minutes, despite a very brown and crackly top.) Let cool briefly. Unmold and serve warm. (Cake can also be split and reheated in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes or so.)


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