Pecan Spice Coffee Cake
I came up with this cake out of necessity. I had made a birthday cake that called for eight egg yolks, and I did not want to waste the egg whites that were left over. Since the stand mixer decided to give out a few months ago, I didn't have the ability to use the egg whites in a way that might first come to mind: meringues or angel food cake (no, beating egg whites until they are stiff is one thing I just won't do by hand). So, after some fruitless internet searching for an alternative dessert recipe that would utilize that many egg whites, I decided to concoct my own.
The side benefit from using all egg whites is that this cake is lower in fat than it might otherwise be. Of course, I must confess the topping adds most of those calories back into it but the nutty, spicy goodness is necessary for a good coffee cake. I added some cardamom to the topping as a means of giving some variety to the expected spice line-up. Cardamom is one of those rather under-appreciated spices that deserves to be used more often than it is. Its fragrant aroma and unique taste are an enhancement to anything to which it is added.
(Important note: Before making this cake, make sure you have a pan with a false bottom, such as a tube pan or spring-form pan. Because of the way the sugar in the topping caramelizes while baking, this cake would be quite difficult to remove from a regular cake pan without having it fall apart.)
For the topping:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup pecan pieces
- 3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
For the cake batter:
- 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
- 1 cup white sugar
- 8 egg whites
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 cup milk
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- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a tube pan or spring form pan.
- For the topping: In a small bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients for the topping. Blend in the melted butter with your fingers until the mixture forms medium-sized crumbs. Set aside.
- For the cake batter: In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and white sugar together. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites rapidly by hand for about 30 seconds. Add the egg whites to the butter and sugar and blend together. Stir in the vanilla.
- Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Add these dry ingredients to the mixture in the large bowl a little at a time, alternating with the milk, until both the dry ingredients and milk are thoroughly blended into the mixture.
- Sprinkle 1/3 of the topping in the bottom of the pan. Pour 1/2 of the cake batter over it. Sprinkle another third of the topping onto the cake batter. Pour the remaining cake batter into the pan next, then sprinkle the last bit of the topping on the top.
- Place in the oven on the center rack and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. The sugar/nut topping will sink down into the cake as it cooks. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. (Make sure you are sticking the toothpick—or whatever else you are using to test the cake—midway between the side of the pan and the center tube if using a tube pan.)
- Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then gently loosen the sides and slide the bottom/tube piece of the pan out. Allow the cake to continue to cool most of the way, then, while it is still just a little warm, slide a thin knife under the cake to loosen it from the bottom of the pan. (A spatula used for frosting cakes works well.) Invert the cake onto a cake plate. Most likely some of the topping will stick to the bottom of the pan since it caramelizes somewhat while cooking. Just gently scrape it off the pan and sprinkle it back onto the top of the cake.
- I used nonfat milk when I made this recipe, so if you are interested in cutting some more fat out of the cake, then use nonfat milk.
- I realize cardamom is a spice many people do not keep on hand, and it can easily be omitted here if necessary. However, if you want to be adventurous and start using this spice, I suggest purchasing it in a small amount from a grocery store or specialty shop that sells it by the ounce. It is cheaper than buying a large prepackaged bottle of it, and it should last you a while, for a little of it goes a long way.
- You can drizzle a little bit of glaze on top for looks if you like, though the cake is fine on its own.
- This cake is good right after it is made, but is even better after sitting for about twelve hours. I would suggest that if you are making this for a breakfast or brunch to make it the night before you plan to serve it.
© 2012 Rhosynwen