- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Easter morning, for many, is hardly a leisurely affair. Especially if there are wide-eyed children in your group, the day starts early and can be nonstop.

If you would like to serve a freshly baked coffeecake with coffee on this special day, there is a solution.

The following recipe for classic coffeecake can be made up to two weeks in advance and frozen. The trick is to wrap it airtight an hour after it comes out of the oven so the freshness is retained.

Remove it from the pan and encase it generously in several layers of plastic wrap. Then slide the entire cake into a heavy-duty resealable plastic freezer bag. Press all the air out of the bag before sealing it and store it in the freezer until the night before you plan to serve it. Let it defrost, still wrapped, at room temperature overnight.

In the morning, heat the oven to 300 degrees, remove the plastic, wrap the cake in foil and place it in the oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through. The basic recipe for classic coffeecake is followed by several variations, if you’d like to embellish it a bit. (Note that the final variation makes a larger cake.) Have fun with this. There’s plenty of room for innovation.

Classic coffeecake

Nonstick cooking spray

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 to ½ cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup buttermilk

TOPPING:

2 tablespoons brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Walnuts or pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for a glass pan). Lightly spray an 8-inch round or square pan with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter for several minutes with an electric mixer at high speed. Add sugar to taste and beat several minutes longer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla.

In a second bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, mixing them together with a whisk. Add dry ingredients in three installments to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. After each addition, mix from the bottom of the bowl, just enough to blend. Don’t over mix. Transfer batter to prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts, if using, and sprinkle this on top before baking.

Bake in the middle of 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick or sharp knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving. Makes about 6 servings.

VARIATIONS:

Caramel-nut-crusted coffeecake. Make the preceding recipe, but melt the following into the sprayed pan before pouring in cake batter: 2 tablespoons butter, 3 tablespoons brown sugar (sprinkled into melted butter), 2/3 cup chopped pecans (sprinkled onto brown sugar). Invert baked cake onto a plate after it has cooled. Scrape onto it any topping that may have stayed in the pan.

Buttermilk-rhubarb coffeecake. Before making the batter, toss the following together in a small bowl: 2 cups chopped rhubarb (1/4-inch pieces), 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour. Let rhubarb mixture stand while you prepare batter, but increase sugar in batter to 2/3 cup and fold rhubarb mixture in with the last installment of dry ingredients. Bake cake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Buried treasure coffeecake. For a larger cake, double the classic coffeecake recipe above and use a standard-size Bundt or tube pan. Instead of sprinkling the topping on the top, put it in the center of the cake. To do this, after misting the Bundt or tube pan, spoon in half the batter, then sprinkle in the topping (now a filling) and spoon on the rest of the batter. You can also add up to ½ cup of any or all of the following to the filling: semisweet chocolate chips; chopped almonds or walnuts; sliced dried fruit; shredded unsweetened coconut; and jam or marmalade.

Bake this larger cake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes. Let it cool completely before removing cake from pan. Then rap pan sharply and invert cake onto a plate (if using a Bundt pan) or pull out the tube and gently lift cake off and onto a plate (if using a tube pan). Cool for another 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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