A Blog Birthday: Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl

It seems that Little Wanderings has just turned one! After recently reading Cyra of Gastronomic Nomad‘s lovely post, 12 Things I’ve Learnt Thanks to 12 Months Blogging, I realised that my own blog birthday must soon be rolling around. Lo and behold, it had just passed the day before! So, whilst I did miss the actual day last week, I thought there was definitely still reason to celebrate. With cake. Obviously. 

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 2

This Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl comes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (also known as the cookbook that beheld unto me the greatest brownie of all time). Note: it’s a coffee cake in the sense that it’s best served with a hot cuppa, rather than a cake that’s made with coffee. It is unbelievably good, and only adds to my desperate need to one day (like, soon) make pilgrimage to the Baked bakery in New York. From the moment I whipped up the crumb topping, I knew this was going to be something else. Seriously, that pecan and dark brown sugar combo is sensational. The sour cream gives a lovely balance to the cake, and makes for a beautifully light and moist crumb. And you can obviously never go wrong with a chocolate cinnamon swirl. 

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This recipe makes a nine-by-thirteen inch cake, which is admittedly quite a large cake. I like to look at this with the perspective that I can give away a lot of cake to friends and family (and through the awesome power of this cake’s deliciousness, earn their undying devotion), whilst also eating an incredible amount of cake myself. Win-win situation, folks. 

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 4

I’m very proud to have reared this little blog a whole twelve months; it seems like it was only yesterday that Mat and I spent a whole afternoon just brainstorming ideas for the title! I do feel that, after a year of writing here, Little Wanderings is finally starting to take shape. I’m still not quite sure what that shape is, but I’m very excited to keep writing and find out.

And so, simply: happy birthday Little Wanderings! Thank you so much for reading and supporting the blog so far. Here’s to the year to come! x

Little Wanderings - Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl 1

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
INGREDIENTS
Crumb Topping
  1. 3/4 cup plain flour
  2. 3/4 cup firmly-packed dark brown sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 3/4 cup pecans, toasted (toast on baking tray in 180°C oven for 6-7 mins)
  5. 85g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch cubes
Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
  1. 1/2 cup white sugar
  2. 1 tsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon
Sour Cream Cake
  1. 3 1/2 cups plain flour
  2. 1 tsp baking powder
  3. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 225g unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into 1-inch pieces
  6. 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  7. 4 large eggs
  8. 450g sour cream
  9. 1 1/12 tsp pure vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS
Crumb Topping
  1. 1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor for a few seconds to mix.
  2. 2. Add pecans and pulse again until finely chopped and well incorporated.
  3. 3. Add butter and pulse until combined. The crumb should look like coarse sand. Don't worry if it's a bit clumpy, so long as all the ingredients are well combined.
  4. 4. Cover with cling wrap and set aside in the fridge!
Chocolate Cinnamon Swirl
  1. 1. Whisk together sugar, cocoa powder and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
Sour Cream Cake
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 9x13-inch baking pan. I used glass; the Baked boys note that a metal pan will give a crispier edge to the cake. Either way is good!
  2. 2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  3. 3. Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter until nice and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl (in fact, make sure you do this between each step!).
  4. 4. Add the sugar, and beat until the mixture becomes smooth and fluffy.
  5. 5. Add the eggs one at a time. Make sure each egg is well incorporated before the next addition.
  6. 6. Continue to mix for another 30 seconds.
  7. 7. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated.
  8. 8. Add the dry ingredients a third at a time, beating until just incorporated between each addition. Don't over-mix at this point!
  9. 9. Pour one third of the cake batter into your prepared pan. I got quite nervous at this point; I was afraid of over-measuring my first and second layers and not having enough for the top. Despite the fact that I got it right, next time I'd probably go full OCD and weigh my mixture so I know exactly how much to pour out at a time!
  10. 10. Use an offset spatula to spread the cake batter evenly across the bottom of the pan. I didn't have an offset spatula, but found that a butter knife did a pretty great job.
  11. 11. Sprinkle half the chocolate cinnamon swirl mixture over the batter. I poured my swirl mixture into two cups to ensure an even split. Cover the batter completely!
  12. 12. Pour the second third of cake batter over the swirl mixture. Try and pour a few blobs across the whole of the pan, rather than all in the middle. Spreading this layer can be a bit tricky, as the swirl layer will stick to the batter when you lift your spatula/knife. Try and push right out to the edge of the pan with each spreading motion to avoid mixing up too much of the swirl layer with your batter layer.
  13. 13. Sprinkle on the remaining swirl mixture, and then top with the remaining cake batter.
  14. 14. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the top.
  15. 15. Bake in the centre of your oven for 1 hour (or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean), rotating the pan every 15 minutes. Allow to cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 mins. Enjoy!
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/

The Baked Brownie: A Cocoa Quest

Recently I’ve begun to notice more baking recipes calling for dark, high quality cocoa. I’d never much ventured beyond good ol’ Cadbury Bourneville before, so the idea of experimenting with a premium cocoa really intrigued me. Nothing spurred this intrigue more than the famous Baked brownie recipe. Baked is a cafe and bakery in Brooklyn, New York, and I bought their first cookbook Baked: New Frontiers in Baking from Book Depository earlier this year very much on a whim. I’d never even heard of Baked before – but was in the mood for some new cookbooks and this one seemed fun.

I’ll admit, it remained untouched for many months. But when I did finally pick it up with a mission to bring to life a Baked recipe, I couldn’t go past The Baked Brownie. Flung to fame after being featured in Oprah’s O Magazine as one of her ‘Favourite Things’, this brownie seemed to be a pretty big deal. And there’s nothing quite like a fine brownie.

The Baked Brownie urges the baker to “Use a dark unsweetened cocoa powder like Valrhona. A pale, light-colored cocoa does not have enough depth.” It also implores that the dark chocolate one incorporates is a “well-respected chocolate”. Now – the first time I made The Baked Brownie, I used Cadbury Bourneville cocoa and whichever block of dark chocolate was on special at Coles. And I’m not going to lie – those things didn’t turn out half-bad. In fact, they were pretty damn delicious! Which is why I was especially curious to find out how much of a difference it would make if I went the extra mile…

I picked up some Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa for the “well-respected chocolate’, but the dark cocoa powder proved a little more tricky. I couldn’t track down any of the Valrhona brand in Melbourne – it looks like I may have to order it online in future. For the time-being, and after quite a but of hunting, I found a ‘Premium Dutch Cocoa’ in David Jones. Made by a New Zealand company called Equagold, the only description intimated “Rich coloured, mild, bitter sweet flavoured Cocoa produced from the highest quality West African Cocoa beans and processed in Holland”. At $17.50 for 300g, I bit the bullet.

Brownies 2

(For anyone else on the hunt for a high quality, dark cocoa powder in Melbourne – I later remembered from my old days an an employee that Koko Black sell a dark cocoa powder at $14.45 for 300g.)

I was, as The Baked Brownie recipe suggested, less interested in the Dutch processing of the cocoa – but more in its colour and aroma. I was excited to get home and find that this cocoa was a gorgeous, dark brown, and that its smell was so deep and different to any other cocoa I’d used. It actually smelt like real chocolate!

Brownies 3

And so, I whipped up The Baked Brownie once again with my new premium ingredients. Unfortunately I had a minor mishap in removing the cooked creation from its baking dish, leaving a whole lotta brownie stuck to the glass base. Such silly kitchen tragedies can sometimes render me rather defeated, and perhaps it was that (or having eaten far too much brownie mix already) which led me to think, upon tasting the ‘new improved’ brownie, that it really wasn’t anything special. Despite the fact that Mat was experiencing a transcendent moment over his first taste, all I could think was: “Well, gee. That was a waste of money. Stupid, stupid brownies!”

It wasn’t until I opened my tin of ugly little broken brownie bits after work the next night that I truly experienced the awesome power of The Baked Brownie in all its intended glory. If the first batch was pretty damn delicious, this one was freakin’ sensational.

Brownies 1

The depth of flavour, as wanky-food-critiquey that may sound, is honestly what stood out. Using premium ingredients took everything from that first batch and magnified it to create such a rich, chocolatey taste that lit up my whole mouth. I think the texture benefited as well, adding to the wonderful hint of fudginess that makes a really fantastic brownie. I’ve already made another batch (this time removed flawlessly from the baking dish – thank you baking paper!) and I have to say, I think they could quite possibly be the best brownies I’ve ever tasted. I’ve had the joy of spreading The Baked Brownie love to friends and family, and received outrageously good feedback!

So, my foray into the world of dark, high-quality cocoa powder was quite a successful one indeed. I’ll definitely continue to make brownies this way, and I’m eager to start using it in other recipes too. I’m sure Cadbury Bourneville will always have a place in my cupboard, but it’s exciting to get more and more confident in baking and experimenting with how quality ingredients can make such a difference. In the meantime I’ve got a kick-ass new recipe in my repertoire, and a huge new item on my bucket list – visit Baked in New York one day to try the real thing!

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