Taxes suck. Adulthood sucks too. The flu sucks even more. There’s a lot of things that the world doesn’t tell you about adulthood. I am not like the rest of the world. I’m giving it to you straight. Granted, by now it’s too late because you, more than likely, have already become an adult. The only kids that I know who read my blog are mine, after all. But, just in case you had any hopes that your adulthood would be easy- there it is. It won’t be. Unlike adulthood, though, this Caramelized Citrus topped Ginger Sour Cream Coffee Cake, doesn’t suck. The name is as long as all get out, but at least it’ll make paying your taxes a little easier to bear.
Flu season is at its peak during tax season. Coincidence? I think not. The powers that be have vowed to make you ransom a child during the time of year where you may, or may not, be on your deathbed. May the odds be ever in your favor.
I’m paranoid about leaving the house these days. Just yesterday, I was in Wal-Mart and saw a woman cough into the air. Dead serious. No shame in her game, at all, just, “I’ma go ahead and hack my germs all over this here bread display.” I stopped my cart and stared at her, like, “Why? Why would you do this? What person past the age of four releases their biological business all over the bakery section? You’re evil.” I thought that super hard as I stared her down.
She mumbled a feeble, “Oh, I’m sorry.” But I just mean-mugged her and said, “It’s flu season, you know?” She sauntered off muttering about how she was hell bent on destroying everyone with her germs…or something like that. Needless to say, I’ve been pumping my family full of Vitamin C in any way I can get it. For me, the cheapest, and healthiest way is through citrus fruits. Now, guess what season it is in addition to flu and tax season? Yep, you’ve guessed right- it’s citrus season! Most of these vitamin-packed lovelies are ripening as we speak. As a result, you should be seeing all sorts of citruses like kumquats, blood oranges and varieties in between.
While slicing these beauts up one day for the family’s daily hit of Vit C, I decided they would be amazing caramelized. That’s just what I do, after all. I become inspired by ingredients I see laying around, and I think to myself, “Self? What are we gonna do with the rest of these sliced fruits?” Then I answer myself, “Let’s make these into something to eat?” And, then myself says back to myself, “You’re such an intelligently hot, creative genius.” And we lock eyes and wrap one another in a warm embrace and realize we’re a little off our rocker. But, back to citrus.
The average adult needs 85 milligrams of Vitamin C a day. Vitamin C helps support healthy immune functions, it’s a great anti-oxidant, and helps prevent scurvy. If you’re a pirate sailing the open seas, that’s great news. But, if you’re just a landlubber roaming the germ-filled aisles of Wal-Mart, the former are even better news. While this Caramelized Citrus Coffee Cake won’t aid much in delivering your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C- it is caramelized in brown sugar after all- it will use up any stray slices of citrus you may have left over.
For this recipe, I’m thinly slicing an orange, a blood orange, kumquats, a lemon, and a lime.
Oranges have the highest amount of Vitamin C of any of the citrus I’m using here- a whopping 70 milligrams. Granted, you’d have to eat the entire orange, peel and all, to get it. Or, you could just drink an 8 oz glass of OJ. The blood orange is my favorite citrus ever. The red flesh is the result of an antioxidant pigment that also contributes to the unique flavor of the fruit. It tastes like something between a rose and an orange for me. The beautiful color only adds to the fruit’s exotic lure. Kumquats are the premies of the citrus family. Their edible peel is sweeter than its flesh which makes it a perfect caramelized fruit. Limes and lemons are the citrus fruits with the next highest amount of Vitamin C here, with each containing 4, and 2.5 mg, respectively.
Do you have to use them all? No. Use just one type (the sweeter ones preferably) or a combination of two or three.
In order for these fruits to be caramelized properly they need to be sliced thinly. Like, paper thin. The reason is two-fold. First, I want to candy the slices, and the only way to do that is by making sure the slices can absorb the hot sugar as it cooks. A thick slice will caramelize the exterior, but leave the interior sour (in the case of the lemon and lime). To thinly slice for a perfect caramelized citrus, you can either use a very sharp knife, or a mandoline. No, not the lute-like instrument. The slicer.
Let’s have a brief chat about mandolines. Mandolines don’t get the respect that they deserve in the home chef’s kitchen. You know how I know? Because they don’t get respect in the trained chef’s kitchen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a chef, or cook, lose the tip of their finger(s) because they thought they were more gangster than the mandoline’s blade. Bro. You’re not more gangster than that blade. Tony Montana wasn’t more gangster than the blade. Al Capone wasn’t. Freddy KRUEGER…well, yeah, Freddy was more gangster. He had blades for hands, for crying out loud. But, my point is, the guard on a mandoline is there for a reason. That reason is because ER visits are costly, and fingertips are precious…to the government…who taxes us. Taxes still suck. Losing fingertips suck more. Use the guard.
Whatever tool you use to accomplish the slicing, slice each of your fruits and prepare to assemble your pan.
A caramelized anything requires the sugars of that thing to be cooked to a point where they brown and sweeten. I’ve caramelized many things in my life, but onions are the most widely known caramelized food item. Since the fruits we’re using are more sour than sweet, they need extra help in the caramelizing process. I add brown sugar to the bottom of the bundt pan to not only accomplish a properly caramelized topping, but also to candy the fruits in the process. It almost preserves the slices. Sprinkle your brown sugar into the pan in an even layer.
Make sure you push some up onto the sides as well, as we’ll be putting slices there to flavor the cake as much as possible.
Now, arrange your fruit slices in a decorative pattern. Don’t worry too much about what colors go where. Think about what flavors will fill each slice when it’s cut, as well as how the differing sizes will look when de-panned. The colors will fade as the fruits are caramelized, but the surprise is in getting a bite laced with lemon and blood orange, or orange and lime. Divine!
Fill in any holes in the arrangement with your kumquats. Make sure that you’re also going up the sides of the pan. These slices will shrink, so be liberal in your arrangement. Now, bake for 30 minutes to get those slices nice and caramelized.
See, the shrinkage is real, my friend. Set your pan aside to chill out while you prepare the cake batter.
The last time I said I was making a coffee cake to a friend, they went into this whole diatribe of why my coffee cake wasn’t a “real” coffee cake. You know what I did? I stared at him until he finished and asked, “So, you want a slice, or no?” I, legit, have seven school books which cost more than $80 a pop on the subject of baking. I double-checked for the purpose of this post, and not ONE of them clarify what makes a coffee cake a coffee cake. These books teach the fundamentals of bakery, people.
You know what makes coffee cake a coffee cake in my opinion? Can I drink coffee with it? Can others drink coffee with it? If the answer is a resounding, “YES!” then it’s a coffee cake. Which, due to the nature of my addiction to coffee, makes every cake a coffee cake.
Now that we’ve clarified that, we need to combine all of our dry ingredients together and sift them to aerate the mixture. We aerate to get that compacted flour back to its useful state. We sift, after measuring, to create a well-combine dry mixture that is full of volume and not weevils. If you don’t have a sifter, but do have weevil-free flour, just aerate and combine the dough by whisking the dry ingredients together for a few turns. Combining these dry ingredients prior to adding the wet ingredients ensures we won’t overmix, and toughen, our cake. If we added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients one at a time, we’ve just increased our mixing time by at least 3 minutes. More mixing means more gluten development, which means tough and chewy cake. I talk about that more here.
The sifting of ingredients is only one step in the method we’re using to create this cake. The Creaming Method is a process of combining the ingredients in cake, muffin, or quickbread recipes, in a way that produces the lightest, most tender crumb possible. It begins with the creaming (fancy that) together of the sugar, butter and flavoring. I cream these ingredients for different lengths of time depending on what I’m making. Obviously, the process is sped up with a hand mixer, or a stand mixer. In fact, if you don’t have one of those, borrow one from a neighbor because you’ll never get the same results from hand mixing with a spoon. Back to creaming:
Cookies get a shorter cream time because we like chewy, not cake-like, cookies here. Cakes and muffins get a much longer creaming time because I want those sugar crystals to be as encapsulated as possible by the fat. They, in turn produce a pocket of air which creates a fuller, fluffier, tendererer (the hell?) crumb. Seven minutes, I’m talking here. Cream for seven minutes.
The next stage of the Creaming Method is the gradual addition of the ROOM-TEMPERATURE eggs. Please don’t use cold eggs when you’re baking. Sure, crack and measure them when they’re cold, it actually makes them easier to handle. But, when it comes time to mix in, use room temperature eggs. Adding cold eggs will just cause all of your creaming efforts to go to crap. It won’t ruin the work you’ve done, per se, but it won’t do anything for your time either. In order to achieve that airy mixture again, you’re going to have to beat the butter mixture for an additional 5 minutes, or more, to warm it back up.
The take away from this? Put your eggs out on the counter to warm as soon as you know you want to bake. If you get a bug up your butt and don’t want to wait, set them to warm in a glass of warm (not hot) water for 10 minutes.
Add your room temperature eggs to the batter, one at a time. I cringe every time I see these tasty-esque videos showing the cook dumping the eggs into a batter all at once! “THAT’S NOT HOW THIS GOES!! THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS GOES!!” Adding the eggs all at once doesn’t give the batter a chance to incorporate the eggs properly. You may think you’re thorough, but you get tired of the mixing and you dump the eggs into the bowl and you’ll only mix for a minute. You want to move on to the baking and eating, I get it. But, because of that, you have globules of egg white here, and pockets of yolk there. A poorly mixed batter will result in a poorly baked cake. Facts.
Add your eggs, one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Scrape down the bowl to make sure random bits of butter haven’t attempted to abscond with a bit of egg yolk to start a new life. Add the other egg and do the same thing over again.
The final step of the Creaming Method is two-fold. Adding the wet and dry ingredients. We always begin and end with the dry because the chefs told us to. Nah! Not really. Well, that’s partially why, but the main reason is to create a balanced batter. Adding the wet ingredients causes the batter to become oversaturated, if you will. Ever mixed heavy cream too long? It turns into butter. Well, adding too much liquid forces the butter to separate which creates a whole host of problems. We balance that out by first adding the flour to dry out the batter. Mix just until it’s absorbed- meaning a few bits of flour here and there are no biggie.
Next, add the wet ingredients- in this case, sour cream. Mix, once again, until it’s incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, but don’t mix. Add the flour, followed by the last of the sour cream, and finish with the last of the flour. Scrape down the bowl and give it two turns to finish.
Now top your caramelized fruits with the batter, do your best not to stir or mess with the batter too much at this point. Any further mixing will increase the amount of gluten developed. Bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. Don’t wait any longer than those five minutes, though. You want to catch the caramelized topping while it’s still liquid, or it will stick to the pan.
Allow to cool slightly, pour yourself a cup of coffee (to make this official) and get started on those taxes. Stay inside too…the Coughing Assassin is still on the loose.
Pin this recipe to share with your friends and family- we all know they’re suffering the pangs of adulthood, too.
Caramelized Citrus Topped Ginger Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Yield 8 servings
Thinly sliced citrus fruits can be tailored to your preference.
Special Equipment Needed:
- mandoline (optional)
- 9" bundt pan
1 medium orange, thinly sliced
1 medium blood orange, thinly sliced
6 kumquats, thinly sliced
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
1 medium lime, thinly sliced
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
- Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 9" bundt pan (or spray with non-stick baking spray).
- Sprinkle 3/4's of the brown sugar in an even layer into the pan. Make sure to push up some of the sugar to coat the sides. Arrange your sliced citrus in a decorative pattern. You may not use all of the slices, but use as many as you can to create an overlapping layer of fruits. Top with the remaining brown sugar. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the fruits look glassy and the sugar is molten.
- In a medium-size mixing bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients, except the sugar. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix on medium-high for 7 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally during mixing.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until fluffy. Scrape down the bowl after each addition is fully mixed.
- Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the batter. Mix, on low, only until the flour is absorbed. Add half of the sour cream. Mix on low to combine, then scrape down the bowl. Repeat this step until you've incorporated all of the flour and sour cream.
- Scrape down your bowl and give the batter two stirs to finish blending. Pour your batter over the caramelized fruit.
- Bake the cake for 60-65 min, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. If you find your cake is browning too much before the bake time is up, cover with a piece of aluminum foil.
- Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Place an inverted plate over the cake pan and, carefully, flip the two over to remove the cake from the pan. Set the plate onto the counter with the pan still on top. Allow the pan to sit over the inverted cake for 5 minutes. This will allow the remaining sugar to coat the cake. Remove the cake, and allow to cool until warm.
- This cake will keep for 4 days, covered, at room temperature. Enjoy!