“Christmas Through the Years” is one of my favorite reads for this spell, the darkest time of year. Composed by the late Gladys Hasty Carroll from the rural community of Dunnybrook, located in South Berwick, Maine, Carroll wrote about what she knew and the people she loved. “Christmas is cumulative,” she pens, and the recurring miracle of the Christmas spirit is captured in fifteen immensely readable stories, from 1898 until 1968.
After enjoying her vivid descriptions of sparkling cold Maine Decembers to the homey fragrance of baking pies, I love to reflect upon our own family’s holiday traditions. The joy of Christmas stockings stuffed with presents, each toe filled with a precious orange, the rage of a Nor’Easter and the snugness of an open fire, multiple generations singing songs around the piano, and the kitchen dusted with sugar and flour after our children baked up a storm. These are memories that accumulate more every year, each another chapter in the miracles of love.
The recipe for Wild Blueberry and Almond Streusel Coffee Cake is a baking miracle of love. Adapted from a recipe by the ultimate cake baker, Rose Levy Beranbaum, this is one of the most delicious confections I have ever tasted. The rich buttery flavor has a melt-in-your-mouth crumb, and the crunchy cinnamon and nut topping is close to perfection.
To create this “miracle” requires several steps, and attention to detail. However, there is some room for adaptations. Originally designed as a cake prepared with sour cream, I use local Maine vanilla yogurt, from Quill’s End Farm in Penobscot. Walnut or pecans are often the nuts of choice; try pistachios, almonds, or hazelnuts. Not enough egg yolks, whole eggs work too. Beranbaum suggests thinly sliced apples or peaches for the fruit filling, wild blueberries work for this true Mainer.
Wild Blueberry and Almond Streusel Coffee Cake is rich enough for the dessert table, ideal at a holiday brunch, or perfect for the early morning coffee enjoyed while opening stockings. The cake freezes well, and makes a lovely, thoughtful gift.
After just one bite, your family, friends and neighbors will be singing, “How sweet it is to be loved by you”. Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? What the world needs now is a lot more love. Happy baking!
Wild Blueberry & Almond Streusel Coffee Cake
- 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup almonds or nut of your choice
- 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
- ½ cup flour
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt plain or sour cream work too
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups cake flour may also use AP, crumb not as fine
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup wild blueberries dusted with 2 tablespoons flour I used frozen
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
STREUSEL TOPPING AND FILLING:
- In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the sugars, nuts and cinnamon until coarsely chopped.
- Remove ¾ cup to use as a filling and set aside. To the remainder, add the ½ cup flour and butter. Pulse briefly to make crumbly for the topping.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, ¼ cup yogurt and vanilla. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.
- Add the remaining yogurt and butter, mix on low speed until combined, then increase to medium speed and beat for 1 – 2 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides and gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides.
- Add about 2/3 of the cake batter to the pan. Smooth the surface, and sprinkle with the reserved filling mixture and the wild blueberries.
- Drop the remaining batter in large blobs over the fruit and smooth the top with a spatula. Sprinkle with the streusel topping.
- Bake 60 minutes or more, until a cake tester comes out clean. (Start checking the cake at 55 minutes, frozen wild blueberries take longer for the cake to set)
- Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, and then remove from pan.