I don’t know about you, but our December was a bit insane. I remember looking at our calendar in November and thinking that the holidays were going to be relatively quiet around here. We didn’t have much going on. And then, the onslaught. We had so many events and parties to go to which was wonderful - I enjoyed all of it so much. Our evenings were so busy that we ended up making a lot of brunch plans with friends. And brunch plans mean coffee cake.
As of this moment, I have four coffee cakes I have not yet told you about. The rule follower in me would probably post about them in chronological order, but I had mildly frenzied requests for the recipe for this cake. I made it a couple of days ago for a brunch with high school friends and seeing as half the people asked me to write about it, this cake jumps to the top of the heap.
This is probably the third or fourth time I have made this coffee cake and everyone always goes crazy for it. It is an old-fashioned yeasted coffee cake with an almond filling and one of the many wonderful things about this recipe is that it makes two of them. You can either serve them both, or you can wrap one up (before baking) and freeze it for another time. When just out of the oven, they are horseshoe or ring shaped. I baked mine at our friends’ house because I misjudged the timing and I did not bring my camera – this photo shows the aftermath of the second cake. The first was devoured.
These are not hard to make. Take your time, follow the directions carefully and you will be thrilled with the result. This recipe comes from Cook’s Country who are the same folks as Cook’s Illustrated so you know the recipe was tested to perfection.
1 tube almond paste (7 ounces)
6 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups warm milk (110ºF)
1/3 cup honey
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, melted
3 egg yolks (reserve whites for topping)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4½ cups flour, plus extra for work surface
1 package rapid-rise or instant yeast
2 tsp. salt
3 large egg whites
½ cup sliced almonds
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
For the filling
Fit stand mixer with paddle attachment and mix almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and cream cheese until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the dough
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 200ºF. When oven reaches 200, shut it off. Lightly grease large bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Mix milk, honey, melted butter, yolks, and vanilla in large measuring cup. Mix flour, yeast, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Turn mixer to low and slowly add milk mixture. After dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until shiny and smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. (Dough will be sticky.) Turn dough onto heavily floured work surface, shape into ball, and transfer to greased bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in turned-off oven until dough is nearly doubled, about 20 minutes. (DT: In my experience, the dough does not rise much at all at this point. I just continue with the recipe and always get a nice risen final product.)
On lightly floured work surface, divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll dough into 18-by-9-inch rectangle with long side facing you. Spread with half of filling and roll up dough. Brush top edge with water, then press to seal and transfer, seam side down, to parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Shape each cylinder into a ring or horseshoe. Using paring knife, make cuts around outside of dough, about 1½ inches apart, leaving about an inch of intact dough at the top of your cut. In other words you are making slices but keeping the cake together as one unit. With your fingers, turn each “slice” of dough so that the filling is showing.
Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray and return to oven until rings have puffed slightly, 30 to 40 minutes. remove from oven and heat oven to 375ºF.
For the topping, whisk reserved egg whites in a small bowl, then brush rings with egg whites. Sprinkle with almonds and bake until deep brown, about 25 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking. While rings are baking or cooling, whisk confectioners’ sugar, cream cheese, milk, and vanilla in small bowl until smooth. Drizzle icing over baked coffee cakes and serve warm. (DT: Warm is ideal, room temperature is nearly as delicious.)