My mom wasn’t a big baker growing up, unless we’re talking about the month of December. Then the stand mixer came out, gingerbread was rolled almost paper thin, and patience was found to coax butter cookie dough through the spritz press. The rest of the the year, baked goods were either bought from the Italian pastry shop, College Bakery, or courtesy of Entenmann’s. So, when I’m developing new recipes, often I’m trying to recreate something out of nothing more than a taste memory. Such was the case with this Sweet Cherry Coffee Cake.
It started as a muffin making session a few days earlier. I’d over bought blueberries at the farmstand. Looking at the containers piled around the kitchen, making blueberry muffins seemed a good way to use up some of them. I pulled out the spring issue of City Girl, Country Kitchen, and decided to make a batch of my Old Fashioned Blueberry Muffins after dinner.
The girls were so excited when they woke up the next morning. Seriously, those muffins are the best ever. I realize that’s a big thing to say, but try the recipe for yourself, and you’ll see it’s true. Even the gals at the farmstand said it was the best blueberry muffin they’d ever eaten.
A couple of days later, not only did my blueberries runneth over. I now found myself drowning in too many cherries. Now, let’s set the record straight. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Cherry season was coming to an end, and I’d lost my mind, buying more than I could possibly consume. I pitted and froze some, and ate my weight in some more. Still, I needed to do something with these cherries, and didn’t feel like making pie. I know, that seems inconceivable to me, too. I suspect one of my besties will be shaking her head when she reads that last sentence.
This Sweet Cherry Coffee Cake solved two problems. It helped use up some of those cherries lingering in the fridge, and served as breakfast the next morning.
Coffee cake came to mind thanks to Virginia. I’m not sure when, or how, her cravings for this started, but she’s in constant search of coffee cake when we go out these days. Perhaps genetics run deeper than hair and eye color. Coffee cake has long been a family favorite, and not at any coffee cake will do. The cake crumb needs to be tender, buttery, a bit crumbly, but still retain structure. And it can’t be dry. Good heavens there are way too many dry coffee cakes in the world.
And then there’s there’s the crumb topping. Don’t skimp here, please. Listen, if you’re going to commit to the calories involved with coffee cake, go big, or go home is my feeling. It’s not like you’re making it every day (and if you are, please tell me where and what time to show up). I know what’s going to happen when you set out to make this cake. You’re going to start sprinkling on the crumb topping, and think “Jennie has lost her mind; there’s way too much topping for the cake”.
Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I promise you this is the perfect amount of crumb topping. Before baking, it’s going to look like the crumb topping is crashing the coffee cake party. What you have to remember, though, is that as the cake rises, the filling disperses, slightly sinking into the batter (this is a good thing). What results is a cake that is completely covered, but not overwhelmed, with crumb topping after baking. I predict my auntie is going to lick her computer screen when she reads sees these photos.
If you don’t have cherries, you should know blueberries would be a fine substitute. I’m even willing to wager that peaches would be amazing. And once cherry season is over, you can still satisfy this craving with frozen cherries. Just let that them thaw ever so slightly so you can cut them in half (whole pieces would weigh the cake down to much). And if you want to ditch the fruit all together, then that’s okay, too.
Last note. Coffee cake is often drenched with confectioners’ sugar. This is how my mama and aunties tend to like it. I am not of that camp. I prefer to the let the buttery crumb take center stage. Do what you like, and if that means adding a sprinkling, or shower, of powdered sugar, then so be it.
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