July 28, 2017

Blackberry Almond Coffee Cake

Every week when I go to farmers' markets I make a point of buying something new in an attempt to broaden my palette. Though I'm not always successful, I do find that the best way to try a new food is to put it in something I already like. A gateway recipe, if you will. A perfect example of that is this blackberry almond coffee cake. Yes, of course I love coffee cake with the tender, fluffy cake-for-breakfast base and piles of buttery, crunchy streusel on top. It makes sense for me to try and sneak in some fruit between the two, though the gorgeous purple jammy layer in this particular cake isn't exactly subtle. You can use whatever fruit you have on hand or find at the farmers' market, and since you're cooking it down it's ok to use ugly or overripe fruit, too. I do like the combination of blackberries and almonds (especially with some sliced almonds on top for aesthetics), but any berry would work just as well.

The first step is to cook your fruit down so it can cool while you make the rest of the cake. I combine most of my blackberries, some sugar depending on how sweet they are, some cornstarch to thicken it, some lemon juice to enhance the tartness, and some water to make it spreadable. That mixture simmers for a few minutes while I mash the berries to make a sort of quick jam. I also leave some berries whole for some extra texture, but you could easily throw everything into the jam pot and crush the berries more or less until it reaches the texture you want.

I know many people think the streusel is the best part, and this is a pretty simple recipe for it. Just combine some sugar, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt, then add in melted butter, flour, and almonds. You can omit the almonds or swap them for a different nut, but I appreciate the extra crunch. You can also double the recipe if you're a big streusel person since I agree that there can never be too much of it.

The cake itself is also pretty straightforward. Again, I like it because it's basically a vanilla cake that passes as an acceptable breakfast food. It's much easier than a typical cake as well; since you use melted butter, there's no beating the batter for a few minutes until it's fluffy, and you don't have to alternate the dry and liquid ingredients. Honestly, you don't even need a mixer. Just whisk the sugars together, add the melted butter, add the remaining liquid ingredients, then add the dry ingredients.

Once all the components are prepared, it's time to assemble and bake the cake. This is a pretty big cake, so I go with my 10" springform pan. If you want to use a regular 8-9" cake pan, you'll probably want to make two cakes to avoid a spillover. At that point, you should look into making more of the jam and certainly doubling the streusel so you have enough for both cakes. That or you could just cut the cake batter part in half. The cake batter goes on the bottom, then the jam and whole berries are spread and sprinkled on, and the streusel is piled on top. It bakes for a while since it's so big, but it's certainly worth it. As much as I love the contrast of the purple, any other seasonal fruit would work instead. Mixing fruits could be interesting as well; a blueberry peach variety is on my shopping list for the farmers' market this week.

3 Cups Blackberries
1 1/4 Cups + 3 T Sugar
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
3/4 tsp Salt
1 Stick + 6 T Butter, Melted
1/3 Cup Sliced Almonds
4 1/2 Cups Flour
4 tsp Baking Powder
4 Eggs
1/2 Cup Milk
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tsp Almond Extract

Heat oven to 325F. Line a 9-10" springform pan with parchment and grease.

Combine 2 cups blackberries, 1/4 cup water, 1/3 cup sugar, 2 T cornstarch, 1/2 tsp lemon juice, and 1/8 tsp salt in a small pot. Simmer for 6 minutes, mashing until somewhat smooth, and set aside to cool.

Toss the remaining blackberries with 3 T sugar and the remaining cornstarch.

Whisk 1/4 cup sugar, the dark brown sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt together. Stir in 6 T butter and 1 1/2 cups flour. Fold in the almonds and refrigerate until cold.

Whisk the remaining 3 cups flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt together. Whisk the remaining 2/3 cup sugar and light brown sugar together, then stir in the remaining 1 stick melted butter. Add the eggs, milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Fold in the flour mixture.

Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan. Spread the jam evenly on top, leaving a ½" border around the edges. Sprinkle the whole blackberries on top and sprinkle the streusel over the berries. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Serves 8-10
Recipe Inspired by The Frosted Kitchen

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