There are many recipes I have that bring me back to a certain time, or place, in my life. As I’m sure you can all relate, the smell of blended ingredients, the textures and sounds of the kitchen, the memories made, are all a part of what connects us to food. This particular recipe is the epitome of my childhood. When rhubarb filled our garden, eating it fresh and dipping it in sugar was my favourite thing to eat, but this coffee cake was a close second. It was the treat I was most excited to see sitting in my mom’s tinted pyrex dish and I would always eat the most out of anyone. There was something about the flavour combination that has always been perfection to me. I have thought about blogging this recipe before, but lately I have had trouble thinking about my mom, and this recipe makes me do just that.
I have been blessed to have her my whole life, to support, love and encourage me. She is the only person I’ve ever been comfortable with, or believed when hearing compliments. However, the last year and a half have been hard to deal with, as I come to the realization that she won’t be around forever. It started with some noticeable cognitive changes and after many appointments, we found out that at the age of 68 she has dementia. As a problem solver this has struck me as the impossible to fix situation, and that is hard to deal with. When my Dad had cancer, and we were waiting to find out which of the possible three types it could be, we hoped for a certain type. Not because any were good, but because it was picking the least of the evils my Dad would face. However with dementia, which is an umbrella term for multiple conditions (alzheimer’s being one variant), there is no least evil or fix. They are all bad, and the thought of my mom one day not recognizing me, or being there for my girls, steals the air from my lungs.
For now, I will be thankful for the good days, patient on the bad ones, and I will leave the rest of the emotions in a box until I am forced to deal with them. But today I have had trouble keeping the box closed. I thought the perfect, and comforting thing to do would be to bake. When I thought about what to bake, this was the only thing that I felt inspired to make. As the smells of my childhood filled my kitchen, it brought me comfort and made me realize no matter what my mom will always be with me. So, enough melancholy. Let’s get on to the recipe, and tears aren’t an ingredient.
Start by placing butter, sugar, and eggs into a large bowl. Using an electric hand mixer beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes.
Now combine all the dry ingredients and set to the side. Then mix the vanilla in with the buttermilk in a separate container. That is it, all you have left to do are to incorporate them into the butter mixutre. This is done by alternating the wet and dry ingredients, both starting and finishing with the wet ingredients.
Start by adding about 1/3 of the milk and beating on medium speed until fully incorporated. Then add half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, again beating on medium speed until fully incorporated.
Add another 1/3 of the milk, beating to combine. Then add the remainder of the dry ingredients, beating to fully combine. That should leave the last 1/3 of milk to add, followed by mixing again on medium speed until fully incorporated.
Once that is done all that is left is to add the fruit, and then make the streusel topping. For this recipe it is 1 cup of blueberries, and 1 cup of chopped rhubarb. Mine is just starting to come in for the season, and I had just enough to get my 1 cup of rhubarb. Place the washed/chopped rhubarb, and blueberries, into a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of flour to coat the fruit. This prevents the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the cake and allows them to be evenly placed through out the coffee cake.
Pour the fruit into the cake mixture, and using a silicone spatula, gently fold the fruit so it is evenly distributed throughout the cake. Make sure to do this gently so you don’t crush the fruit, or turn your cake pink.
Once the fruit is fully incorporated all that is left is to make the topping and then bake. But lets take a moment to just look at this thick, luscious batter as you can tell its going to be delicious.
Lightly grease, with butter, a 9 x 13 glass baking dish. If you are like me, I like to write a little message before it gets filled. I started doing this awhile ago, kind of like when you paint a wall and hide a message under it, I like to do the same with my baked goods. But then I also talk to them, so maybe its just me.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, you will probably need a spatula to scrape it all out as the batter is quite thick. Make sure to spread it out into an even layer in the baking dish.
Now set that to the side and quickly make the streusel topping, this is usually where I preheat my oven to 350 degrees so it will be ready when I am. Add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and shredded coconut to a small bowl. Add in the cold cubed butter, and using your hands gently work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have large crumbs. As you can see in the last picture I had to switch to a bigger bowl because I couldn’t fit both of my giant hands into the bowl to work the butter in properly.
Once the crumble topping is made generously cover the top of the prepared coffee cake. You don’t have to use all the topping, but really I don’t know why you wouldn’t. Place the cake into the preheated oven and bake 45-50 minutes or until dark golden brown.
When the cake is fully baked it should have a nice crunchy, golden crust and a beautiful moist cake underneath. Using a toothpick here is probably the easiest way to make sure the cake is fully cooked. Remove it from the oven and let cool for about 20-30 minutes before slicing it up (if you can wait with the smells filling your kitchen).
That is it pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, and cut a generous slab of cake and enjoy. Maybe even while talking to a loved one on the phone, because it is almost as good as having them sitting with you in the kitchen.
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Streusel Topping Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all purpose flour
- Start making the coffee cake by adding the butter, eggs, and sugar to a large bowl. With an electric hand mixer beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. About 2 minutes. Set to the side
- In a small bowl add the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk to combine all the dry ingredients, set to the side.
- In a small bowl add the buttermilk and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
- Now add the wet and dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture. This should be done in three additions for the milk, and two additions for the dry. Basically start with, and end with, the buttermilk.
- With the electric mixer on medium add 1/3 of the buttermilk, and beat to combine.
- Now add in half the dry ingredients, again beating on medium to combine.
- Repeat this step again, add 1/3 of the milk and beat, then the rest of the dry ingredients and beat on medium to fully mix.
- That should leave the final 1/3 of the buttermilk, add that in and one last time mix with the electric mixer on medium speed until fully incorporated.
- In a small bowl add the cleaned blueberries, and rhubarb. Toss the fruit with 1 tablespoon of flour to coat.
- Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared cake batter, and using a silicone spatula gently fold the fruit in to evenly distribute throughout the cake. Just be gently so you don’t make the fruit bleed into the cake batter.
- Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking dish by lightly greasing it with butter, and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Evenly spread the cake batter into the prepared baking dish, then set to the side while you prepare the crumble topping.
- To make the topping place the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and flaked coconut into a bowl and stir to combine.
- Add in the cubed cold butter and using your hands gently work the butter into the dry ingredients until no large butter pieces remain, smaller pieces are ok. The topping is ready when it holds together when squeezed but can still easily break apart into pieces.
- Place the crumble topping all over the top of the prepared cake, use as much or as little as you like. If you are me you are going to want every drop of the crumble topping placed on top of the cake.
- Now the cake is ready to go in the preheated oven, and it will bake for about 45 – 50 minutes.
- Turn the pan halfway through the baking time, and test with a toothpick if you aren’t sure if its is fully baked.
- Once it is golden brown, and fully baked, remove the coffee cake from the oven and allow to cool on a wired rack for about 20 – 30 minutes.
Note: This cake stays good at room temperature for a few days, or refrigerate it and warm it up as you want and it will stay good for about a week. It also freezes extremely well.