I have a soft spot for coffee cake. They're easy to make, don't involve mixers or equipment of any kind really. I happened upon a batch of ground cherries (which never happens in Kansas City) so I set to work to showcase their taste and texture without having mushy cake. What? You say you can't find ground cherries near you? Pssh, well you're in luck, because I have alternatives so you can still partake in this tender crumbed cake that comes together in 10 minutes!
A crazy random happenstance led me to stop at a grocery store I've never set foot in before last week. It was new and shiny and carried all sorts of ingredients we don't usually find here in the central Midwest. I filled a bag with these ground cherries (or New Zealand gooseberries). I'd seen recipes call for them in the past, but I had never seen them in person.
Their paper coverings were removed and I was left with small sticky fruits that truly needed to shine. Their taste is mellow, but distinct, so I was looking for something where they would retain their texture and not be loaded up with sugar like many ground cherry pies or jam recipes call for. So instead I turned to one of my favorite tried and tested recipes for coffee cake.
I simply adore coffee cake. In my brain, it's not real cake. It's like pretend cake, because you don't have it with ice cream (although obviously I did in the opening photo), it's in fact meant to be had with a cup of coffee or warm beverage. It's a little stiff and holds up great to small fruits being tossed right in. So no worries, if you can't locate ground cherries near you, you can easily substitute in blueberries, raspberries, even well drained (and dried) canned peach chunks if you so desire.
Over the years I've tested hundreds of different coffee cakes until i found just the right combination of ingredients to create one that was stable, held it's fruit and didn't get soggy by the end of the week when kept at room temperature. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. This cake holds the berries tight and by day 7, it's just a big plate of deliciousness and the cake has soaked up a bit of the fruit juice. Assuming it lasts to day 7 that is. No matter what day you eat it on, it's sure to be an instant favorite.
This recipe comes together in 10 short minutes and doesn't involve any cooking of the ground cherries, they just got tossed in at the end. There's essentially 3 layers. The cake layer, the berry/cherry layer and then the crumb topping. It only requires one bowl, one pan to bake it in and one smaller bowl to mix up your topping at the end. It only takes a few minutes to put together and you don't even have many dishes to do once you toss it in the oven. Want to see how to make one at home?
10-Minute Ground Cherry Coffee Cake
Yields: 1 9-inch Cake
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
10 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk (or regular milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar)
1 large egg
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 3 cups ground cherries (or other berries or fruit), husks removed
1 cup chopped pecan pieces (untoasted)
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9" cake pan (the taller the sides the better) or bundt pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter with two table knives until butter is combined with flour and is the size of small peas. Remove 1 cup of flour & butter mixture into a second bowl and set aside (you'll use it for your topping later).
Add in baking powder and soda to base flour mixture and whisk gently (or sift before hand). Add buttermilk, egg, and vanilla, and stir until mixture is free of flour streaks. Lumps are ok as your butter is still chunky, but streaks tell you it's not quite mixed enough.
Pour flour mixture into prepared pan. Scatter ground cherries (or fruit of your choice) over the top. Next, add nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to your small bowl of flour that is set aside. Stir and sprinkle over the top. It will be thick, that's ok. It equals crunchy goodness.
Bake for 60 to 75 minutes (depending on the color of your cake pan) until a skewer (wooden or metal) comes out crumby, but clean. If your nuts start to get too dark (dark brown good, burnt bad), apply foil over the top of your pan to halt that process and allow the cake to continue cooking. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan. Serve and enjoy!
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)