While I am a fan of quick breads and Bundt cakes, particularly the ones that include chocolate chips, I am becoming more and more attracted to Polish-style coffee/snack cakes. What could be so different? First and foremost, Polish coffee cakes tend to be low in the sugar department. Yet they still taste good. There are two basic types that I’ve encountered. One type is the yeast-based coffee cake. As you might imagine, given the addition of yeast, those types of cakes take a long time to make. We move on to the other type. It’s a favorite in my household and is a cross between cake and shortbread. That describes the base, that is. Then you can add a topping, usually fruit. And then you can put another layer of the cakey-shortbread dough, meringue, or a crumb topping.
To make this cake, think of the butter and flour used to make shortbread, but with a bit of sugar added (usually confectioners sugar), as well as eggs, and sour cream or milk. Baking powder is also added giving the dough some rise. Also ground nuts are sometimes added. For this post, I opted to prepare a plain version of the cake–without fruit or other topping aside from crumbs. As we inch closer to summer though, I will get ready to make some delicious fruity versions!
First I heated a cup of milk with over a stick of butter until the butter melted.
I took it off the heat when it just started to boil.
I mixed flour with confectioners sugar (i.e., powdered or icing sugar). That’s right–not granulated sugar but instead confectioners sugar. Baking powder was not mixed in. That will come later (oddly enough).
So then using my Kitchen Aid standing mixer, I put the flour and sugar mixture into the bowl, turned the mixer on low, and let a stream of the hot milk/butter mixture pour in. After about a minute or even less, the mixture formed a smooth but thick batter.
I then put the bowl in the refrigerator for about an hour. The goal is to get the batter to room temperature and not to get the batter chilled to a lower temperature than that. When the batter is ready, the rest of the steps can be completed.
I preheated the oven and prepared the 9″ x 13″ x 2″ pan by greasing and flouring it. Then I prepared the crumb topping. I took a frozen stick of butter and grated it with a hand-held grater (large holes). If the butter is frozen, it makes it so much easier to grate!
I had a pile of butter that looked like grated cheese!
I added a mixture of flour and granulated sugar on top of the grated butter.
I “kneaded” it briefly with my fingers until pea-size crumbs formed.
Then, before the butter got super soft, I finished preparing the batter. I added in the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts, and baking powder to the cooled batter.
Using my electric mixer, I mixed this on medium low for about a minute until the batter was smooth.
I then spread it evenly into the prepared pan.
Finally, I sprinkled the crumb topping over the top of the batter.
I baked this “placek” (Polish word for this cake) until golden brown.
I let it cool to room temperature before cutting.
I tried a piece at this point. It was so so.
I refrigerated the cake overnight. Then I tried another piece. It was DELICIOUS.
Moral of the story: Some cakes need to be refrigerated–especially overnight–to taste their best. Also, it looks like this cake might have taken just as much time as making a yeast-based cake . . . .