If you were to look in Little Man’s cave of a mouth, you would see some newly formed pearls desperately trying to make themselves noticed in this world. They are quiet obnoxious, their mischievous shenanigans during the afternoons have deprived him of enjoying simple things like completing a puzzle or smooshing play-doh into the carpet. Crayons are being bitten and he is miserably demanding popsicles and ice cream for all meals. By far, their worst offense is coming out late at night to play, waking LM up from his silent slumber with their raucous soirees. Three in the morning or five seems to be when they are particularly devilish.
Just as most adults, LM hates being miserable alone and often extends the invitation for me to come and be miserable along with him. (Mr. H does help out, too, but lacks the super-sonic bat-hearing I possess.) After a while a tooth matures, takes its place among the other decent teeth, and has become useful member of society. This development takes about two weeks or so.
Unlike most adults, LM doesn’t realize that sleep is a glorious institution to return to after such an ordeal and he must be re-trained to sleep through the night for a day or two. By then, while I quite remember and desire to return to a normal sleeping habit, I discover that I am in the god-awful habit of rising at five in the morning and wondering what to do with myself.
My go-to routine: make coffee, open the windows to watch the sun rise, enjoy a little uninterrupted reading, and possibly make a delicious breakfast. On a recent morning with a glorious apricot-pink sunrise I was craving coffee cake. Not any coffee cake but the coffee cake of my childhood. Not because we had it often but because we didn’t. It was my mother’s standard contribution for my dad’s work functions or church brunch potlucks. The torture my siblings I would endure as we smelled it baking knowing that, unlike cookies or bars, obtaining a taste would not go unnoticed and we should therefore abandon the idea of such luck. On the rare occasion the cake was for us, we devoured each piece, licking the jam and crumbs from our fingers.
My mother’s recipe calls for Raspberry Jam and Almonds, which is divine. Of course, the morning I wanted to make the coffee cake I was out of both. I substituted Apricot Preserves and Hazelnuts, and decided to add bit of Cardamom because I cannot help myself. (If I were a spice...) For not being the nostalgia-evoking original, this cake was scrumptious. Like raspberry, apricot is tangy and balances the richness of the cream-cheese layer. The cake itself is tender and delicately sweet. And of course the best part is the crumb topping with crunchy, toasted nuts – it is absolutely impossible not grab little bits from the edge while the cake cools. You have been warned.
A new cake demanded a new memory. The weather was just warm enough for me to conceive the idea of a breakfast picnic on our patio; moreover, to convince Mr. H. (He is fond of spending his mornings in a warm robe, on a warm couch, inside the warm house, where people should be at such a time.) Freshly baked cake and hot coffee are also powerfully persuasive. We sat bundled up in our sweaters, quietly eating, ritualistically licking jam and crumbs from our fingers. We sipped coffee as the fog rolled in, dimming the sun and adding a chill to the air. It was a glorious morning and hopefully to be repeated as the next set of little molars make their unsubtle debut.
Apricot, Hazelnut, & Cardamom Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
2 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup Sugar + ¼ cup
¾ cup Butter + a little for the pan
½ teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cardamom
¾ cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
½ cup Apricot Preserves
½ cup Hazelnuts, chopped
Grease and flour a 9 or 10” spring-form pan. In a large bowl, combine flour and ¾ cup of sugar. Cut in butter until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Reserve one cup of the crumb mixture and combine with hazelnuts.
To the remaining mixture add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. Stir in sour cream, one egg, and extract; blend well. Spread batter in the pan pushing up the sides, about two inches.
In a small bowl, blend together the cream cheese, ¼ cup of sugar, and remaining egg. Pour over the batter in the pan. Spoon preserves over the cream cheese filling, gently spreading out evenly. Sprinkle the hazelnut-crumb mixture on top.
Bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 45 to 55 minutes. The cream cheese filling should be just set and the top of the cake golden brown. Cool for 15 minutes before unmolding and serving. Serve warm and store leftovers in the refrigerator.
- One of my mother’s old Pillsbury Cookbooks.
* For the original recipe: swap the Apricot Preserves for Raspberry, sliced Almonds for the chopped Hazelnuts, and omit the cardamom.