Loads of butter lends authentic coffeecake taste to dessert

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As someone who remembers what it was like to shop at Sutter's, a long-since closed bakery in New York's Greenwich Village that must have gone through tons of butter in its heyday, we know that butter is what baking is all about. As much as we respect the current thinking about the health benefits of soft spread, trans-free cooking fats, we know that for baking, nothing beats the taste of butter.

Photo: Mark Boughton  Styling: Teresa BlackburnEditorial use only. Must be used in conjunction with "relish the American Table" copy only.  Mark Boughton/Relish
Mark Boughton/Relish
Photo: Mark Boughton Styling: Teresa BlackburnEditorial use only. Must be used in conjunction with "relish the American Table" copy only.

So, when the recipe for banana breakfast coffee cake, with almost a cup of butter, came into our kitchen, it never occurred to us to skimp on the amount or substitute another ingredient. Soon after the cake went into the oven, we got the same buttery smell that hit us in the face when we opened the door to Sutter's all those years ago.

Although the recipe for banana breakfast coffee cake does not fit the historical definition of a coffee cake -- namely, a variation of fruitcake, heavily spiced with cinnamon and cloves and made with coffee instead of milk (hence the name) -- it's close enough. The recipe straddles the line between an old-fashioned banana tea bread and a banana sheet cake.

Before the batter goes into the oven, it's covered with a generous amount of brown sugar streusel, and while it bakes, the crumbs form a sweet and crunchy topping that's a delicious match for the tender cake.

It's the kind of cake that people would gladly wait in line for at Sutter's.

BANANA BREAKFAST COFFEE CAKE

Topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup mashed very ripe bananas

1/3 cup 2 percent milk

Set oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray. For the topping, combine flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in walnuts.

For the cake, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter with a mixer at medium speed about 30 seconds or until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat 3 to 4 minutes or until fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and bananas and beat until well blended. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, mixing after each addition only until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with topping. Bake about 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 10.

-- Recipe by Greg Patent

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 370 calories, 20 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 48 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber and 300 milligrams sodium.

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