stout coffee cake with pecan-caraway streusel

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Stout! Oats! Currants! Caraway seeds! Pecans! Two kinds of sugar! After first taste, I described it as ‘weird, but tasty.’ Some possible neutral descriptors: ‘unusual,’ ‘unique,’ and ‘special.‘ My brother calls it a “cake with taste,” or “the kind of cake Russians would like.” In fact, three Russians to whom I served this cake heartily agreed – this cake has taste.

DSC00926DSC00936This recipe comes from a book entitled “The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee,” which was sent halfway across the world to me by some sweet sweet honeys back in Chicago. When I asked a friend I’d worked with to send me some reading material on coffee, I expected to receive a few links to some websites. Instead, I received this treatise on coffee and things-to-eat-with-coffee. Sweet sweet friends. (:

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This cake essentially has two layers – the cake and the thick layer of streusel almost as high as the cake itself.The cake comes out dark, moist, and slightly fragrant of yeast and molasses (in a good, fermented kind of way) and the caraway is an herbal surprise against the dark earthiness of the stout. The oats lend the cake a wholesomeness that manages not to bleed into health-food territory, and the currants punch up the cake with their loud bright sour notes. All of these things are good, and together they make the most delightfully interesting and taste-filled cake I’ve ever made.

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stout coffee cake with pecan-caraway streusel
adapted from The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

This is a loud cake with complex flavors, but all in all the recipe is forgiving. For example, I forgot to soak the currants with the oats and beer, and I couldn’t whip up the butter as much as I’d liked sans electric mixer, but the cake still turned out deliciously. I substituted dark brown sugar for light brown sugar because that was all I could find (I’m pretty sure light brown packable sugar doesn’t exist in Israel), and used frozen red currants instead of fresh. I also forgot to mix the pecans into the streusel and so laid them on top, and I baked the cake in a 10 inch pan instead of a 9 inch. All I’m trying to say is none of these deviations were a big deal, though perhaps your cake will turn out prettier than mine if you follow the directions more closely!

Streusel
7 tablespoons (3.5 oz / 100 g) cold unsalted butter
1 cup (4.9 oz / 140 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1.8 oz / 50 g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1.9 oz / 54 g) packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups (5 oz / 142 g) pecans, chopped

Cake
1 cup (240 ml / 240 g) stout beer
1 cup (3.5 oz / 100 g) rolled oats
1/4 cup (2 oz / 57 g) currants
1 1/2 cups (7.4 oz / 210 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (4 oz / 113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (7.1 oz / 200 g) granulated sugar
1 cup (7.7 oz / 217 g) packed light brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 eggs (3.5 oz / 100 g), at room temperature

To make streusel:
Cut the butter into small chunks and let sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes.

In a bowl of a stand mixer or just in a bowl, combine flour, sugars, caraway seeds, and salt. Add the butter and mix on low speed until mixture resembles coarse beach sand, about 2 minutes. Sans mixer, cut the butter in the flour mixture as you would cut butter into pie crust. Add the pecans and mix until the streusel begins to climb together to form a dough. If not using the streusel right away, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days and up to 1 month in the freezer.

To make cake:
2 hours before you begin making the cake, combine stout, oats, and currants in a bowl and mix well. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. Drain mixture and reserve the extra liquid. You can do this step 1 day ahead, storing the stout and soaked ingredients in airtight containers in the fridge for a day.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ªC). Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan. Or, if you don’t have a springform pan, butter and flour the bottom and sides of a disposable foil pan.

Sift the flour and baking soda into a small bowl and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on low speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Without an electric mixer, mix using a whisk or (more easily, in my opinion) with a fork until smooth. Make sure your butter is at room temperature to make this as easy as possible! Add the sugars and salt and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. I couldn’t *quite* get this batter as light and fluffy as I wanted by hand, but it was still reasonably fluffy. It will take longer than 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until very well-combined and moth.

With the mixer on medium speed (or with fork in hand), add the egg mixture very slowly, in a steady stream, mixing until well-incorporated and very smooth. Scrape down sides of the bowl and mix on medium for another 30 seconds.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With mixer on low speed, alternate adding the flour in three parts and reserved stout in two, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined. Gently fold in the oats and currants with a spatula until evenly combined.

To assemble and bake cake:
Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with a spatula. Sprinkle streusel over the top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until streusel is dry and golden and the cake is form and springs back when gently pressed in the center. Rotate the cake midway through baking time.

Let the cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from pan (tear off foil sides if you’re not using a springform pan). Serve warm or at room temperature. The coffee cake will keep for up to 3 days covered at room temperature.

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