A Tale of Two Coffee Cakes: Part 1

21 Apr

Part I:  Chocolate & Nut Coffee Cake with Streusel Topping

cake 2fi

What exactly makes a “Coffee Cake”?  There’s no coffee in it, after all!  When I think coffee cake, I typically think of some sort of quick bread/cake hybrid.  Standard fare for a brunch buffet or as a welcome treat for house guests in your home.  Rich and buttery, sweet enough to eat for dessert, and the perfect apparatus for fruit fillings (think sliced apples or plump blueberries) and nuts and other sweet bites, with endless variation.  And given the name, it’s perfectly situated alongside your morning cup o’ joe.

The following recipes (stay tuned for the second recipe!) showcase two of the many variations of the all-encompassing “Coffee Cake” name, but produce two very different cakes.

One uses the cake “creaming” method of mixing while the other comes together via the “muffin method” (Not sure what these terms mean?  Read on!).  One is chocolaty and the other is filled with fruit.  One uses butter, the other uses oil. One has a streusel topping, the other does not.  I baked both in loaf pans this time around, though either could be baked in a cake pan.

This first coffee cake is a big deal in my house.  Search “coffee cake” and this is the sort of recipe that pops up…starts with butter, then gets hit with plenty of cinnamon, yogurt for tang and moistness, and speckled with chocolate chips and maple-y pecans…add a sprinkling of cinnamon streusel on top and set your heart aflutter!


Okay. So about this creaming method.  Most butter (or shortening)-based cakes use this method of mixing.  The idea behind it is that you want to incorporate lots of air into the batter in order to produce a light, tender, and even-crumb cake.  Don’t worry–it’s super easy to do!

Start with room temperature butter and begin to beat on medium speed. Slowly add in your sugar(s) while continuing to beat on medium-high speed, until the butter mixture is pale in color and increased in volume (a stand mixer works best here….a hand mixer is next best, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to do this without a mixer of some sort).  Pause occasionally to scrape down the bowl.  After this, you’ll add in your eggs (let them sit at room temperature for a bit before you add them into the creamed butter so they incorporate easier), and then alternate your dry and wet ingredients.  Ta da!  You’re finished 🙂


  • ½ c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 oz. plain Greek yogurt (look for a single serving cup….usually 6 oz.!)
  • 2 oz. milk
  • 1 2/3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Generous dashes of cinnamon (probably ¾ tsp. if you really want to measure!)
  • ½ c. chocolate chips
  • ½ c. chopped pecans or walnuts

My Favorite Streusel:

  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) COLD butter
  • ½ c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. oats
  • ½ c. flour
  • 3 tbsp ground flax
  • ¼ c. pecans or walnuts
  • A few dashes of cinnamon and a pinch of salt


  • Stand mixer with standard beater attachment
  • Spatula
  • 2 additional bowls (a cereal bowl is fine)
  • Measuring cups and spoons; liquid measuring cup
  • Mini food processor (optional, for streusel)
  • Loaf pan


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Cream together your butter and sugars on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add in vanilla and eggs, one at a time on medium speed, pausing to scrape down the edges of the bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt and milk.  In the other small bowl, combine your dry ingredients (flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon).
  5. On medium-low speed, add in 1/3 of the dry mix.  Then add in ½ of the yogurt-milk mix.  Add half of the remaining dry mix, and then the remaining wet mix.  Finish with the remaining dry mix and stir until just combined.
  6. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts until just combined.
  7. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and spread batter evenly in the pan (it will be thick!).  Set aside to prepare the streusel.
  8. The streusel: in your food processor, combine sugar, oats, flour, ground flax, pecans, cinnamon, and salt.  Pulse briefly to combine.
  9. Cut cold butter into 4 pieces, then add to food processor and pulse 20-30 times until mix looks like wet sand.
  10. Sprinkle streusel on top of batter, and use your hands to lightly press the streusel into the batter (just a bit!)
  11. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean, or with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan for 25-30 minutes, then remove from pan.
  12. **I made a little glaze to drizzle on top after it cooled.  Start with a cup or so of confectioner’s sugar, then add in 1 tbsp of water or milk and stir to combine.  Add a bit more liquid if necessary.  Finish with a dash of cinnamon and splash of vanilla.




Blondie Bombshell

3 Apr

Well well well…it’s been awhile!  Things have been busy here on the home front, between work, a weekend wedding, finally finishing our taxes, and fun planning for our European trip this summer.  My husband hates when people say things like, “Time is moving so fast”—but I seriously am in disbelief that we are into April already! What happened to March?  In like a lion and out…in the blink of an eye?

Despite the busyness, I’ve managed to find some time in the kitchen—homemade seedy bread one afternoon, chocolate stout cupcakes for work, and baseball-themed cake pops to kick off the Phillies’ season.  And on a more savory note…vegetarian enchiladas this past weekend, stuffed with beans, rice, and plenty of cheddar cheese. Ohmygoshsogood.

Anyhoo, let’s catch up over these blondies, shall we? This is one of those recipes that I just love.  Infinite variations, super easy to prepare, and sure to please my wonderful hubby for his after-dinner sweet treat.  Surely a winner, right?

final shot2

I first found the recipe over on Smitten Kitchen, and have since made my own tweaks and twists to perfect (I think so, at least!) the recipe.  Today, I had a “bit of this, a bit of that” in my fridge—a partial bag of chocolate chips, some leftover chocolate shavings, shredded coconut, and some chopped pecans ended up in the batter.  But start with some butter, eggs, flour, and sugar and this recipe has no limits!

outside final22

P.S.  I had a lick (okay, two…) of the batter before it went into the oven….it tasted just like cookie dough ice cream!  That seems obvious, I suppose. But man oh man, it was SO GOOD!


  • 2 sticks butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 c. sugar (I used white cane sugar here, but brown sugar would work great, too)
  • 2 eggs
  • Heavy splash vanilla (~1 tsp.)
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • + Add ins:
    ½ c. chocolate chips (plus probably ¼ cup leftover chocolate shavings)
    ½ c. shredded coconut, lightly toasted**
    ½ c. chopped pecans, lightly toasted**

(No, I’m not missing the leavening in the ingredient list…the eggs provide enough lift here, plus you want these guys to come out super ooey-gooey and dense.)


  • Small sauce pan
  • Mixer, standard beater attachment
  • Spatula
  • 9×9 Square baking pan


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Once melted, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.
  3. In mixer, beat eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until pale fluffy.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. SLOWLY drizzle butter into egg/sugar mix, on low speed and allow to fully incorporate.
  6. Add flour and salt and mix until just combined.
  7. Briefly mix in your add ins.
  8. Spoon into a greased 9×9 baking dish (batter will be very thick!)
  9.  Bake at 350F for 35 minutes (pull when the top is just starting to brown)

**Toast your coconut and nuts in a pan over medium heat.  Watch carefully! I took my eyes off it for just a few seconds and…into the trash it went.

Other Flavor Combos:

  • Lemon zest + toasted coconut for a spring-y treat! (Use with white, not brown sugar)
  • Chopped almonds with chocolate chips (maybe coconut too?  Like an Almond Joy?)
  • Add a dash of cinnamon with the nuts and chocolate chips
  • Brown sugar would go really well with the pecans!  A sort of deep, maple-y essence.
  • Peanut butter chips.  Chocolate chips.  ‘Nuff said.

Your turn…I need some new ideas! What’s your favorite flavor combination for baking?

Candied Sunflower Seeds

21 Mar

Be warned: The following recipe is extremely addictive and extremely delicious..  I can take no responsibility for the consumption of large handfuls of this snack, nor would I tell you that would be a bad idea.  ‘Cuz these are just too damn good.


My inspiration for these candied sunflower seeds comes from a local restaurant here in the Philly ‘burbs.  Their salad had crisp apple slices, gorgonzola cheese, and the candied sunflower seeds sprinkled on top, tossed together in a light citrus vinaigrette.  Boy howdy, it was good!  I was hooked after my first bite.  I ordered this salad every time we went out…and then they took it off the menu.  Bummer.  So now, I make them on my own, and get giddy with excitement when I smell these baking away in the oven.

before the oven

This recipe is super easy to prepare–Dump ingredients in bowl. Stir. Bake. Consume. Can’t get any easier than that!

If you want to take these in a more savory-sweet direction, add a few cracks of black pepper to the mix.  I prefer these as a sweet accent–sprinkled on yogurt, ice cream, fresh fruit, green salad, or just eaten straight out of the bowl.


  • 1 egg white
  • ¾ cup white cane sugar
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups raw, unsalted sunflower seeds


  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon or spatula
  • Large rimmed baking sheet


  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine egg white and sugar.
  3. Mix in salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  4. Add in sunflower seeds and stir well to coat the seeds in the sugar mixture.
  5. Spread thinly on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and stir the nuts (you’ll notice they are beginning to get crisp)
  7. Bake for an additional 5-8 minutes, until just beginning to brown.
  8. Let cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container.  **I always store in the fridge, especially in warmer weather when the sugar coating tends to get very sticky.


  • Look for sunflower seeds in your bulk section



Early Signs of Spring

11 Mar

I think it is finally here.

I’ve been hesitant to talk about the start of Spring out of fear I will jynx her back into hiding, leaving us frozen in the doldrums of winter for who knows how much longer.  But this past weekend was just too good to be true! Sunday greeted us with clear blue skies, temperatures in the 60s, and one extra hour of sunlight.  Why Hello, Spring!  So nice to see you again!

My in-laws came in for the weekend, and as a treat for them (I just LOVE having a fresh baked good ready to serve), I baked up this Lemon Pound Cake.  There is something so Spring-y and refreshing about lemons, isn’t there?


My coworker passed along this pound cake recipe, which I then pumped up with the zest and juice of one lemon.  It’s a pretty standard recipe, and comes together in a breeze—and it’d be perfect on your Easter table, or for a spring baby or wedding shower.


Makes 2 loaves

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Splash of vanilla (probably 1 tsp worth)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon

Optional glaze

  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar


  • Mixer and standard beater attachment
  • Rubber spatula
  • 2 loaf pans (I used an 8” x 4” size) or Bundt pan
  • Microplane/zester
  • Measuring cups and spoons


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Melt your butter and cool slightly before adding to mixer with sugar.  Beat on medium-high until light in color and fluffy.
  3. Add in vanilla and, on low speed, add each egg one at a time, pausing to scrape down the bowl after each addition.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  5. On low speed, gradually add flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture.  Continue on low speed until flour is just combined.
  6. Add in lemon juice and zest and mix on low until just incorporated.
  7. Distribute evenly into greased loaf pans and bake for approximately 50 minutes (test just off the center with a knife or toothpick.  It should come out clean or with just a few crumbs.  No streaks of batter.  The top of the cake should also be beginning to brown).
  8. Let cool in pan for 15-20 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on cooling rack.
  9. Optional: whisk together lemon juice, zest, and confectioners sugar until smooth (if too runny, add a touch more sugar.  If too thick, can add one teaspoon of water or milk).  Pour atop cakes and allow the glaze to drip over the edges.


  • Experiment with different flavorings in the base cake recipe (omit the lemon juice and zest). Some ideas:
    • Add a splash of almond extract, with toasted slivered almonds as a topping.
    • Substitute lime juice and zest for the lemon, and add ½ — ¾ cup toasted coconut to the batter.
    • I’d always advocate a dash or two of cinnamon! Would be great alongside a scoop of coffee ice cream.




My Husband’s Not-So-Secret Love Affair

5 Mar

finished granola 2 final

I love my husband.  But ever since I’ve known him, he’s been having this love affair with peanut butter. I first witnessed this little love-fest on our first date: after a movie, we walked to the Penn State Creamery and Joel ordered his beloved bowl of peanut butter swirl ice cream.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but over the eight years we have been together I don’t think he has EVER ordered anything other than a bowl of peanut butter swirl ice cream. Like, ever.

Needless to say, I know the way to my man’s heart:  Soft peanut butter cookies, fresh out of the oven.  Peanut butter toast.  Peanut butter cups. Peanut butter. Peanut butter.  Peanut butter…Throw in some chocolate chips and he is one happy camper!

So when I found this recipe for Peanut Butter Granola a few years ago, I couldn’t get into the kitchen fast enough to bake it.  It comes together in a breeze, and it is perfect served with milk or over yogurt for breakfast, or as a sweet afternoon treat.  So, this isn’t your healthy bowl of bran cereal…but you’ve got your whole grains from the oats and whole wheat flour; ground flaxseed for your Omega-3s, and natural peanut butter for your healthy fats and protein.  Sounds pretty healthy to me!


heres what youll need2

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (Don’t use that over-processed “quick oat” stuff here)
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour (can substitute gluten-free flour if desired)
  • ½ cup flaxseed meal
  • Heavy pinch of kosher salt (~1/2 tsp)
  • 4 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • ½ cup peanuts
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Rubber spatula or spoon
  • Measuring cups (liquid and dry)
  • Large rimmed baking sheet


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine peanut butter, agave, and canola oil in mixing bowl.
  3. Add in oats, flour, flaxseed meal, salt, and peanuts and stir well to combine.
  4. Spread in thin layer onto baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes.
  5. Stir well, then bake for additional 6-8 minutes, until the edges begin to brown.  WATCH CAREFULLY! It’ll be just underdone one minute, and burned to a crisp the next…
  6. Remove from oven and cool for 15-20 minutes.  Then sprinkle on chocolate chips and raisins.  Let sit for a few minutes, then lightly toss the granola to allow some of the melty chocolate chips to coat the granola.
  7. Cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.
  8. Store at room temperature (if your house is super warm, particularly in the summer, you may want to store in the fridge) for up to two weeks.  But I promise it won’t even last that long!


  • Use natural peanut butter!  I love Whole Foods 365 Brand crunchy and creamy peanut butters—just peanuts and salt, no added hydrogenated oils or sugars.  It actually tastes like peanuts!  I also like Smuckers Natural, and Crazy Richards brands.
  • If you don’t have agave nectar…substitute honey, maple syrup, or brown rice syrup.
  • I bet this would be just as yummy with almond butter and chopped almonds instead of the peanut butter and peanuts.  If you try it, let me know how it turns out!



Choco Chip Cookies

27 Feb

finished cookies2

So…Here it is.  My first recipe posting.  Pardon my awkwardness as I get into this blogging groove!

Let me set the scene: it’s Monday and I’m home from work.  The husband has class, so I’m home alone for the evening.  And I’m in the mood to bake (this is no surprise, really).  I’ve got a bag of chocolate chips, flour and sugar on the shelf, and a stick of butter just begging to be transformed into something wonderful.

Well, Mr. Stick of Butter, I’ve got just the place for you…

Cookie Dough3

It seems only fitting to kick off this blog with the classic of all classic American desserts: the beloved CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE.  I’ve made this recipe numerous times, and it never fails me.  I love the nuttiness and heartiness (and bit of nutritional benefit!) that the oats and whole wheat flour provide, and I can adapt the add-ins to my mood and whatever I happen to find in my pantry.



**Follow the French and get your Mise en Place before you start mixing!  This means, gather each ingredient and measure out what you’ll need—you won’t forget an ingredient, and you won’t be hastily rummaging through the cupboard for your can of baking powder and knock your glass bottle of vanilla extract onto the counter, shattering glass into your mixer full of butter and sugar.  Trust me on this one.**

  • 1 stick (4 oz.) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar (I typically use ½ brown and ½ regular cane sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • Vanilla (the original recipe calls for ½ tsp.  Admittedly, I never measure my vanilla—a gentle splash does it for me)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 ¼ cups old fashioned oats (to make oat flour)
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Dash of cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • ¾ cup chopped nuts (walnuts and pecans are perfect here…optional, but highly recommended)


  • Mixer (hand or stand) and bowlStandard flat beater attachment.
  • Food Processor (I like my Mini Prep for this)
  • Medium bowl
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Cookie Scoop (I used a 1 oz size and got about 18 cookies)
  • 2 Baking Sheets


  1. Gather all ingredients (see note above!)
  2. Grind oats in food processor to a coarse flour (a few noticeable oats are okay, in my opinion)
  3. Combine oats with flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in medium bowl.  Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mix becomes pale and fluffy.
  5. Add egg and vanilla and beat to combine, making sure to scrape down the batter from the edge of the bowl.
  6. On low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix until well-combined.
    Add in chocolate chips and nuts.  Mix briefly to combine.
  7. Scoop 1 oz. dough onto cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart (a bit less if your cookies are smaller).
  8. At this point, I chill my cookie dough in the fridge for about an hour.  I’ve found this helps the cookies keep their shape and not spread too much in the oven.
  9. While the dough is chilling, preheat your oven to 375F.
  10. Remove the dough from the fridge and rest on counter for 5-10 minutes.
  11. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on top (rotate your pans halfway through to ensure even baking).
  12. Eat one fresh out of the oven.  Contemplate another.  Then share the rest with your love, your kiddos, or maybe even that crabby neighbor of yours.


  • Butter:  I use Whole Foods 365 Brand Unsalted Butter.  Let it come to room temperature (it will give a bit when you press your finger into it).  If I’m in a rush, I’ll warm in the microwave on 50% power for about 30 seconds.
  • Whole Wheat Flour: I LOVE King Arthur Flour White Whole Wheat Flour.  It’s not as “whole wheaty” (read: dense, earthy) as others I’ve used—much closer to normal All-Purpose, but with a bit of added nutrition.  I always have a bag on hand.
  • Choco Chips: I ALWAYS use Ghirardelli semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips.  Nestle Tollhouse chips just don’t do it for me.  I’ve found that Ghirardelli produces the richest, most chocolaty product (FYI, they make the BEST brownies….recipe to come soon).  Their cocoa is great, too.
  • Variations:
    • Use ½ bittersweet and ½ white chocolate chips.
    • Use chopped almonds for the nuts and reduce to ½ cup, then add ½ cup shredded coconut for an Almond Joy-style cookie
    • White chocolate chips and dried cranberries (omit the cinnamon, add zest of one orange)
    • Use ½ cup chocolate chips, ½ cup raisins, and ¾ cup walnuts for an Oatmeal Raisin cookie.