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Walnut Crumble Coffee Cake

Mary Anne here. As you may have noticed, Mariel has been on a breakfast binge as of late, creating a smorgasbord of delectable dishes like Whole Wheat Maple Pomegranate Pancakes, Ginger & Cinnamon-Spiced French Toast and her very own Cinnamon Pear Cake with Maple Brown Butter.

Despite her incredible new repertoire, Mariel asked that I whip up my “famous” Walnut Crumble Coffee Cake for our Christmas breakfast. I must confess, my girl is beginning to intimidate this seasoned baker and I was kind of – no, really – hoping she would bake the breakfast goods. But Mariel knows what she wants and she wanted this, so as her doting mother, I obliged and served our annual holiday cake alongside fluffy scrambled eggs and crisp bacon. “Phew,” I breathed quietly, as she announced that this Walnut Crumble remains her all-time favorite breakfast treat, and in that moment I received my favorite Christmas gift of all: the reassuring nod from my first-born that I’ve still got the Midas touch.

Oh, and by the way, Mariel baked my Nana’s Chocolate Gateau for dessert and also endured a healthy dose of unfounded anxiety. In the end, her rendition was better than mine: it was richer and moister – perfection on a plate! Maybe sometimes food tastes like heaven simply because it’s steeped in nostalgia and prepared with the love that’s passed from one generation of home chefs to the next. Or maybe, we’re just darn good in the kitchen.

And speaking of traditions, check out our post on New Year’s Eve Traditions and Superstitions along with a corresponding menu that promises to bring wealth, health and all manner of good luck in the New Year. Happy 2011 from our family to yours!

Walnut Crumble Coffee Cake
Serves 8

Note: If you have a well-stocked pantry and fridge, this coffee cake barely costs a thing. And besides making an excellent breakfast cake, this is also a welcome addition on the sweet tray at an afternoon tea.

This can be prepared the day before and then reheated just before serving. Once cooled on a wire rack, cover with foil and leave out on the counter top. This cake also freezes well for up to 1 month. Wrap well with a coat of plastic wrap followed by a jacket of tin foil.

For the topping:
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened – stock
1 Tablespoon flour – stock
1 teaspoon cinnamon – stock
½ cup light brown sugar, packed – stock
½ to ¾ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped – $4.00

For the batter:
1 cup light brown sugar, packed – stock
½ cup unsalted butter, softened – stock
2 large eggs, beaten lightly – stock
1 teaspoon vanilla – stock
1½ cups all-purpose flour – stock
½ teaspoon salt – stock
2 teaspoons baking powder – stock
½ cup milk – stock
Grand Total Assuming a Well-Stocked Kitchen: $4.00

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9-inch round or square cake pan.

2. Using a small bowl, combine the 5 topping ingredients using a fork (or your fingers). The mixture will become crumbly. Set aside.

3. Prepare the batter. Using a mixer, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, mixing well to incorporate.

4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

5. On the lowest speed of your mixer, add the sifted ingredients, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined. Finish by mixing by hand. As in all things-flour-and- baked, over-enthusiastic mixing will create a dry cake.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Sprinkle the crumbly topping evenly over the top.

7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm.