WEEK 7: Argroves Manor Coffee Cake; the good, the bad and the ugly
Erin Mann | Contributor
This week I had the pleasure of baking with an old friend. I hadn't seen Jenni in over two and a half years. She'd been abroad volunteering with the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan. She came over to my apartment with her apron (a gift from her land lady in Azerbaijan) ready to assist me with baking Argrove's Manor Coffee Cake.
The baking party didn't start right away as we had much to catch up on. She shared Peace Corps stories while I asked question after question about what life was like for her during those two and a quarter years. What did you eat? What is the climate like? What language(s) did you learn?
Jenni talked about her cooking experiences in Azerbaijan. She had come up with her own system of measuring because she didn't have standardized measuring tools. She had a small container that she used as her 1 cup measurement and estimated half cup and quarter cup measurements based on that.
We finally stopped talking long enough to begin baking. I was particularly excited to make the filling for this cake - stewed blueberries and apples, mmm. I put a pot of water on the stove on medium heat and melted 3/4 cup sugar in it while Jenni chopped the apples. The recipe called for 1 chopped apple but, because our organic granny smiths were a little on the small side, we decided to use 2 apples. When we added the chopped apples to the pot of sugar water with the blueberries, the proportion of apple to blueberries was too high. I added another handful of blueberries. We let the fruit simmer on low for about twenty minutes.
Meanwhile, we mixed the batter and prepared the streusel. (Note: The streusel for this cake is the same streusel used for the Barefoot Contessa's Sour Cream Coffee Cake last week.) Jenni poured 1/2 of the mixed batter into the pan.
I topped the batter in the pan with ALL of the blueberry filling (remember we'd made a little extra) and 1/2 of the streusel. Next, Jenni added the rest of the batter to the pan, and I sprinkled the remaining streusel on top.
In the oven you go, cake. See you in an hour and fifteen minutes.
We'd worked up quite the appetite with all the chatting and baking we'd been doing so we decided to walk a few blocks to NYPD for a couple slices of pizza while magic happened inside the oven.
My apartment smelled incredible when we returned. We couldn't climb the stairs fast enough! Minutes later I took the cake out of the oven and set it on a cooling rack.
In the recipe Melissa Gray states, "Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. You'll notice the cake will start falling in. That's OK; that's what it does."
I wasn't sure what to expect when this cake came out of the pan.
We removed the cake from the pan and set it on the cooling rack. It was a crooked hot mess! The structural integrity of the cake was clearly compromised. What happened?
Did the excess filling have an adverse effect on the cake's ability to maintain its shape?
Was the result right on par with Melissa Gray's reassurance that the cake would fall?
I stared at the leaning cake willing it not to topple over as Ennio Morricone's famous theme played in my head. Woo woo-woo, waa, waa-waa. This standoff was bound to result in a casualty of some sort. Either this cake was going to slump onto the tabletop in all its steaming, gooey fruit-filled glory, or I was going to flop on the floor sobbing in a puddle of my own tears lamenting this baking failure.
An interesting thing happened when the cake fell; the rest of the cake separated from the streusel! The streusel formed a shell at the top of the cake. The photos show that there is a space between the cake and streusel parts. The streusel shell was delicate to the touch and chunks of it broke off when we cut slices of the cake.
The cake was a sight for sore eyes. That's a fact. Once we tasted it, all worries surrounding the outcome of this cake were blown away like tumbleweed in a spaghetti western. The nuttiness of the streusel was the perfect match for the sweet filling and dense, moist cake. Jenni and I enjoyed our slices still warm from the oven. As I ate mine, I could only imagine how it would taste the next morning for breakfast with a cup of Earl Grey tea.