Thursday, March 22, 2012

Raspberry Euphoria Coffee-Cake . . . A Tale of Magnetron Redemption

It was 11:00 on Wednesday morning and I stood in my kitchen, face to face with a kindly appliance repairman. "Whatcha need here is a new magnetron . . . that's whatcha need." His tone was laced with sympathy. He knew the very word sounded expensive: Magnetron. Like something Superman might keep stashed under his cape for emergencies.

I gaped at him silently. "Why not just tell me I need a new cyclotron?" That's what I wanted to say, but I  merely nodded and let him continue. "Now, you might still be under warranty, but I dunno. Gotta go to my truck and check it out." While he was gone I pondered the implications. The odds were slim and none that I wouldn't have to pay to replace this futuristic-sounding part. All I wanted was for my once-high-end built-in microwave oven to heat stuff again, and to do so without making aggrieved grinding noises. It had suddenly conked out a couple of days before. My 15-year-old son, a devoted user of the thing, stuck a little note on it that read, "May God help us all."

Imagine my surprise when the friendly repairman popped back in the door and glanced at me reassuringly. Yep, I was still covered and he actually had the part with him! He finished the job within half an hour and my bill was minimal, relatively speaking. I was so happy I just had to bake something. Not in the microwave, of course, but you know what I mean. Sometimes when little daily events like that actually go well, a girl gets the urge to celebrate by baking. It's a perfectly natural response, don't you think?

About this recipe . . .

This one is all mine. Yep, a completely original recipe right from the get-go (whoo hoo!) and I thought the cake turned out really well--not overly sweet, not too rich, just right. It's a simple formula that makes use of ricotta cheese in the batter, and a small amount of cream cheese in the streusel. Fresh raspberries and a smidgen of seedless raspberry jam factor in as well. So, all in all, it was a very good day. I made the cake shortly after the repairman, whose name I never did catch (Clark Kent, maybe?), drove away. If he'd still been here, I'd have given him a nice big wedge of it to take home.

Raspberry Euphoria Coffee-Cake
(or, if you prefer, Raspberry Ricotta Coffee-Cake with Cream Cheese Streusel)

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This can be made in a 9" round regular cake pan, or a 9" found springform pan.

Butter your pan. Line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper, then butter the parchment. Flour the inside of the whole pan, tapping out the excess.

Ingredients for the streusel topping, and glaze:
3 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into 1/2" chunks
2 oz. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 small pinch salt (I used regular salt)

3 Tbsp. seedless raspberry jam (to drizzle atop the streusel when you assemble the cake)

For the glaze:
1 cup (or more) confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp. milk (add more if you'd like a thinner glaze)
1/8 tsp. almond extract (optional)

Ingredients for the cake:
1 cup traditional ricotta cheese, not too cold
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted but not hot
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt
6 oz. fresh raspberries

Make the streusel first:
In a medium size bowl, mix the sugar, flour, and salt with a fork. Cut-in the cream cheese and butter chunks using a hand-held pastry blender or a couple of knives (you can even do this with your fingers if you're quick about it), until small visible chunks of miscellaneous size remain. Cover the bowl and chill the streusel while you prepare the batter.

Make the batter:
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-low speed, mix together the ricotta, eggs, melted butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth; about two or three minutes.

Now on low speed, add the flour in gradually, mixing just until well combined for a minute or so. 

Spread half the batter into your prepared pan.

Dot the batter with half the fresh raspberries and gently press them partway down into the batter.

Spoon the rest of the batter on top and smooth it out with a small offset spatula; scatter the remaining berries and gently press them into the batter.

Stir the chilled streusel with a fork, and evenly scatter all of it onto the top of the cake batter. Drizzle the seedless raspberry jam here and there in little streaks over the top of the streusel.

Bake the cake on the middle rack for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly dry. The cake should be just lightly golden on top, and more golden on the sides. The sides of the cake should look like they've begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.

While the cake is starting to cool, mix up the glaze. In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar, milk, and almond extract. Just keep stirring until the glaze is completely smooth. Add more sugar if you'd like a thicker glaze; add slightly more milk if you prefer a thinner glaze. 

Let the cake cool for 15 minutes, no more and no less, on a rack before attempting to remove it from the pan.

Run a thin knife or metal spatula around the sides of the pan. Place a plate over the top of the cake and quickly invert it, tapping firmly on the bottom of the pan to help knock it out. Lift off the pan, then place the cooling rack on the cake bottom; still holding firmly onto the plate, re-invert the cake back onto the rack to let it finish cooling.


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