Crumbly, buttery, sweet, and rich are just a few ways to describe a classic coffee cake. Their versatility makes this treasured treat a must-have in every cook's armory. Coffee cake works for breakfast, dessert, an afternoon snack, or a late evening treat. With or without coffee, the ever-popular Cowboy Coffee Cake is a classic. Coffee cakes have evolved over the centuries. The most simple include honey and fruit. Some recipes call for yeast, but baking powder or baking soda recipes are more common.
This coffee cake recipe calls for sour milk or buttermilk. You can even use powdered buttermilk, but if you don't have any on hand, don't despair. Simply add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk, stir, and let sit a few minutes before use. Don't substitute regular milk without souring it first.
You can use either butter or shortening for Cowboy Coffee Cake, each with slightly different results.
Grease one 9"x13" baking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.
Place the flour, brown sugar, salt, and butter into a large bowl. Cut the shortening into the flour using a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture is crumbly. Remove 1/2 cup of this and set it aside before stirring in the spices, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir well with a fork. Add sour milk and eggs, making sure the flour mixture is thoroughly moistened.
Use a spatula to scrape the bowl as you pour the coffee cake mixture into a greased cake pan. Evenly sprinkle crumb mixture across the top. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 at 375 degrees f. Check the cake at 20 minutes to see if it's done.
Test the coffee cake for doneness as any other cake, using a toothpick or a gentle press with your fingers. To use a toothpick, insert it into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean, it is time to remove the cake from the oven. If the batter sticks to the toothpick, let the cake bake a few more minutes. You can also test the cake by gently pressing the top. If it springs right back, it is finished.
You are now ready to enjoy your Cowboy Coffee Cake. It can be eaten hot, cold, or somewhere in between. Served with coffee, or not, this recipe will soon become a family favorite. Coffee cake is generally cut into squares when made in a sheet pan. This recipe can also be made using cupcake papers in muffin tins or square or round cake pans.
As delicious as plain Cowboy Coffee Cake is, you might want to experiment with some variations. You can add applesauce, bananas, nuts, chopped apples, blueberries, coconut, or whatever flavor you want to try. The top can be sprinkled with extra cinnamon and nuts prior to baking, or the nuts can simply be stirred into the mix.
Cowboy Coffee Cake doesn't usually last more than a day or two before it is gone. It can be stored on the counter in a covered cake pan for 2-3 days when prepared using the basic recipe. It can also be made ahead and frozen for up to a month. Muffin coffee cakes are the easiest to store. Pop them into plastic bags and freeze for snacks throughout the month.
The crumbly topping keeps people coming back for more. You can easily add extra flour, brown sugar, and shortening in the first step to double the topping. When preparing in double cake pans, the cake can be layered. Glazes and frostings are popular additions to basic coffee cake recipes. These can be honey glazes, fruit, or simple icings drizzled over almond slices that have been added to the top before baking.
Don't be afraid to experiment with a recipe as simple as the basic Cowboy Coffee Cake. The only caveat is with spices. Often less is more, as they can cover other more delicate flavors. Adding a bit of honey, and almond will create a lighter flavor, perfect for summer.
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