Tuesday, March 24, 2009

{TWD} A Tale of Two Crumb Cakes

My favorite crumb cake of all time is a whole grain Maple Huckleberry Coffeecake with crumb topping about a mile deep that Heidi Swanson posted on her blog 101 Cookbooks about 6 months ago. I've lost track of how many times I've baked it; even though it is a bit more complicated than most quick breads, it's totally worth the extra effort. In fact, I have a loaf in the freezer right now. We don't get huckleberries in these parts, so I made my first one with blackberries and loved it so much I haven't veered from that path, although I keep telling myself to try it with blueberries (mmm, or even cranberries).

When I saw that Dorie's blueberry crumb cake was this week's TWD recipe, I was interested in seeing how it would compare with my now-standard coffeecake.

The blackberries gave my crumb cake an odd purplish cast!
n.o.e.'s notes:

- The first decision was what kind of berry to use. Big fat sweet cultivated blueberries, which are what is in my local produce section at the moment, don't do much for me - I much prefer the small tart intensely flavored wild blueberries. There is a bag of wild blueberries in my freezer, which I almost used for the recipe, but I had some blackberries in my fridge that needed to be used up. Who am I to turn away needy blackberries?

- I made this one almost totally "by the book", resisting all temptations to substitute whole grains and reduce fat. This was partly because I wanted to experience Dorie's recipe as written, and partly because my other coffee cake recipe is already healthified and whole grained. If I were to make changes, I'd end up turning Dorie's recipe into Heidi's!

- Remember those duck eggs that I used in the cup custards? I baked this cake several weeks ago, at the same time as I made the custards. I'd read that duck eggs are wonderful for muffins and breads so I set aside a medium one to bake a half recipe of this cake. The egg was just a bit bigger than a large chicken egg. I figured the extra bit of egg would just make the cake that much fluffier (no math skills needed!)

- I baked a half recipe - in a square pan that's about half the area of an 8x8.


- The blackberries were a week or two old and looked a tiny bit dry, so I figured they'd be perfect in the cake. But after washing, patting dry, cutting to blueberry size, gingerly stirring with flour, and folding gently into the batter, they were soft, juicy, and disintegrated into bits, leaving the batter purplish.

- I used 1/2 tsp of lime zest, because I had some already grated in the freezer.

- 340 degrees for 45 minutes.

the verdict:

The crumb cake was light and fluffy and delicious. The walnuts toasted in the topping as they cooked, and paired nicely with the blackberries. (Pecans would also be good.) It's been fun experimenting with the duck eggs. I haven't been able to get any more, but I will keep trying.

So, how do the two cakes compare? The recipes are very similar, except that Heidi's incorporates some finely chopped herbs and maple, has a much higher percentage of zest, vanilla, and crumb topping, and of course whole grains (oats and whole wheat flour). Dorie's would win a prize for "Best White Flour Crumb Cake" (my fellow bakers raved about this recipe on this week's p&q post). But I'd give the blue ribbon to Heidi's cake!

Thanks, Sihan, for choosing such a delicious and versatile recipe this week. If you'd like to make this crumb cake for yourself, you can find the recipe on page 192-193 of Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home to Yours, or on Sihan's blog post. You can see lots of other lovely crumb cake variations (I've heard rumors of cranberry ones and apple ones) by visiting the TWD blogroll and clicking on each baker's blog.

Note to my fellow food bloggers - In addition to giving up sweets for Lent I've also given up Google Reader and general surfing of other cooking blogs. So that's the reason that you've seen fewer of my comments lately. I've been following the maxim"speak when spoken to;" if you comment on my blog, I'll likely visit you and return the favor.

49 comments:

Steph said...

Nancy, I always look forward to your healthified desserts because if there's anyone who make it look good it's you! I'm glad you did the original this week though because it's always nice to do a comparison of recipes. Great sub with the blackberries!

Cathy said...

Mine only turned purple after I tried to compensate for an earlier error. Yours looks great! Glad that it will take the "best white flour crumb cake" ribbon, even if the blue ribbon will go to Heidi's (which sounds really great!) We really enjoyed this one as well!

Mary Ann said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Ann said...

Sorry- I messed up when I was trying to comment the first time.
I love that you compared the 2 crumb cakes and I am very interested in the other recipe, as it is already "healthified". I love that you used blackberries and your red pan is lovely.
Looks great!

SiHaN said...

too bad it didn't get the blue ribbon.. but raving reviews aren't that bad either. haha. Glad you enjoyed the recipe just the way it is my dear.

Elyse said...

Love the duck egg experimentation! Man, I have to try this huckleberry crumb cake; it sounds delicious. Not to leave this blueberry crumbcake behind. It looks delicious, too!! What a precious post title, by the way!

Jin Hooi said...

My cake turned out purple in colour too ..Your cake looks great !! well done .. love your idea of using duck eggs in baking, i will definately give it a go if i can find some duck eggs here ;-)

Audrey said...

I thought this was delicious, which surely signals that it isn't good for me. Sigh. I can see that a recipe that cuts the sweetness a little (does it?) would be better, so now I want to try your other one. I'm so glad you pre-baked with us, Nancy...this was a whole month of keepers, in my book! (Oh, and I prefer those wild blueberries, too...my farmstand has them fresh in the summer - fresh and very expensive, that is!)

Marthe said...

I love your red pan! Your cake looks amazing, I really liked it!

Cristine said...

Your cake looks delicious! And I'll have to give the other a try given your review! :)

Jessica said...

My cake turned a little bit pink from the raspberries that I used but that color baked out. I love (!!) the blackberry & lime zest combination, it sounds so fresh and yummy.

Cakelaw said...

I love the sound of Heidi's cake - delicious! Your Dorie versions also look good.

Jules Someone said...

Hmmmm. That maple cake sounds pretty tasty, too. Thanks for the comparisons. You do have to watch out for the purpleness when cooking with berries. It bakes up to an unattractive gray.

Kayte said...

Oh, I always love to see what you are up to, what new things I learn over here, etc., and this week was very rewarding in all that...lovely combinations and your crumb looks so good. I need to go back, start over, try again...tell me what I did wrong when you visit, okay? I know you will have an answer for me!

rainbowbrown said...

This is most definitely the sort of recipe where whole grain subs are my choice. I used ww flour in the crumb - super good. I dig on Heidi's baked goods and will have to try out her cake.

myfamousrecipe said...

Even though my blueberries were frozen, they still colored the batter. I love the idea of maple in the blue ribbon crumb cake. Sounds great.

Amanda said...

Looks wonderful! We really enjoyed this crumb cake too :)

ostwestwind said...

Great looking cake!

Ulrike from Küchenlatein

Jennifer said...

Your cake looks wonderful!!!!

Di said...

I'll have to try the other cake you referenced. I love lots of crumbs. =) I used blackberries this week as well. I wanted to used lime zest, too, but it turned out I didn't have any limes. Lemon worked. =)

Carla said...

Duck eggs? A farmer in Ireland told me it is not advised to eat duck eggs because they eat garbage, making the eggs more prone to sickness. If you aren't getting sick, then I want to try duck eggs!! Cake looks great. I wanted to do blackberries but went with peaches instead.

natalia said...

Ciao Nancy ! I love your purplish batter !! And I'll have to make tyler's sandwhich !!! baci

Jill said...

Hi Nancy, Your cake looks great and I just love the pretty red pan! I'll have to check out the other recipe - thanks for the tip.

Peggy said...

Nancy I love that you made two versions! I think blueberries and walnuts sound like a great combination! I bet it was delicious. Thanks for stopping by this morning. I so wanted to make this cake, but time just got by me too fast this weekend. Check with me on Thurs for Mango Chicken! YUM
P.S. I gave up gossiping for Lent. I know. . . I should give it up for life!

mike said...

Nancy - I think it looks heavenly! I actually LIKE "mushed" berries - even though we try to avoid them. They're what make the cake extra "moist"! And blackberries . . . mmmm. Leave it to you to deviate into something special, delicious and wonderful!

natalia said...

Ciao Nancy ! Yes this loaf shape is very common here I have three of them , actually one comes from IKEA and It's even in the US isn't it ?

Leslie said...

Just beautiful, Nancy. I think blackberries would have been perfect. I went with frozen blueberries since fresh berries aren't in season yet. Think about how awesome it will be to make this during the summer. Fresh peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries...

The Blonde Duck said...

I'll have a slice of both, please! :)

chocolatechic said...

Whole grains??

In a coffee cake???

Sacrilege!!!

Your cake looks great.

Megan said...

Needy blackberries? That made me laugh.

Too bad Dorie didn't get the blue ribbon - but it was really good!

pinkstripes said...

Your cake looks wonderful.

I'll have to try Heidi's recipe. It sounds delicious.

Reeni♥ said...

It looks wonderful, just loaded with blackberries. Heidi's sounds great, I love lots of crumbs!

Gabe's Girl said...

Wow, what a woman! You gave up sweets and surfing? Wow! Your cake looks wonderful and dainty. I love blackberries. I can say that I have never ever had a huckleberry. I am going to put it on my list of "Must Try"'s.

dharmagirl said...

Thanks for comparing the two--I want to try Heidi's as well. I loved this cake--am about to enjoy another piece with a cup of hot tea in just a minute.

Fit Chick said...

Blackberries sound so good, I need to try that next time. Love the red dish!

Flourchild said...

I loved this recipe. I think your cake looks great!

margot said...

It's so hard to not compare cakes when you have a very favorite recipe. You always have such great notes on the TWD recipes. I have yet to try any of Heidi's recipes (I even bought her book), but it sounds like I should start.

Natashya said...

Great cakes! I will try Heidi's one day, I love her stuff.
But most importantly... I love that red dish! I am pretty sure I need one..

Karen said...

This was a really delicious recipe, especially the topping!
Your other recipe sounds yummy, too. I like Heidi's recipes a lot (I have her cookbook, too), I'll have to give it a try.

leanne said...

I love the comparisions. I will have to go to Heidi's recipe now. It was a good cake but it seems I was holding out for something like Heidi's

Karen said...

Glad that you made this as close to the recipe as possible! It makes a great comparision. Yum on the blackberries!

Katrina said...

Well now I'll have to try Heidi's cake because I'm all about healthifying yummy things! ;) Love your first photo of Dorie's cake.

HappyTummy said...

love the comparison. i'm a fan of heidi's cooking too, and i can see why her cake is so appealing. in virtually every recipe i make in my home, i'm also substituting whole grains.

both of your cakes sound delicious. i love the thought of using blackberries--that really ups the fiber. great job!

bakingwiththeboys said...

I love 101 Cookbooks. Now I need to make another coffee cake! Thanks for the comparison.

Anne said...

I'm glad to see the comparison and would love to try your favorite recipe. I have to admit I wanted to add whole grain to this, too, but I wanted to try it Dorie's way once. Great job! :)

Engineer Baker said...

Good job you, giving those needy berries a home :) I definitely need to try Heidi's cake - that sounds fabulous! And kudos for giving up GR for Lent - I've given up caffeine, but I don't think I could give up my bloggies :)

Tessa said...

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Ruth

http://muffinsnow.com

kimberly salem said...

it looks yummy! i love that pan you baked it in! :) i'll definitely have to try heidi's version, it sounds great.

Tracey said...

Your cake looks wonderful! I'll have to try Heidi's version - it sounds good!