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A Mouthwatering Pecan Coffee Cake Recipe, Plus Musings on What Makes the Perfect Coffeecake...Plus Step-by-Step Pix on Actually Doin' It at the Thorough & Excellent Cooking for Engineers Website. FASHIONTRIBES SWEET TOOTH BLOG

Pecan_coffee_cake (Photo & recipe from courtesy of Michael Chu).


(from Cooking for Engineers reprinted with the permission of Michael Chu)

If you have an analytical mind & you like to cook, Cooking for Engineers - - is calling your name. With handy diagrams, step-by-step pictures, and commentary, it's like having Martha Stewart in your kitchen - albeit male, a computer type & living in the Silicon Valley...which, on second thought, sounds way more fun.

While I've included the full recipe here (which serves 16), definitely check it out in all its glory on the Cooking for Engineers site. The accompanying pix & overview'y math-like diagram of what-happens-to-which-ingredients-when is worth the price of admission alone:

A coffee cake is basically a small cake that's served with coffee or tea and usually consumed at breakfast or during a break in the day. Because it is typically paired with a strong beverage, coffee cakes usually have strong flavors - typically with a nutty or fruity theme. Often, coffee cakes bought at coffee shops are dense and rich (sometimes almost oily) beyond belief. Here is an updated version of my favorite recipe for pecan coffee cake that is both rich in flavor, yet light and fluffy in texture.

After experimenting with adding ground almonds to Chinese Almond Cookies and reading about grinding roasted pecans into Cook's Country's version of Pecan Coffee Cake (which I found surprising because it's a Bundt cake, which they claim is traditional - even though I've never seen a coffee cake sold or presented in the shape of a Bundt - still, could be true...), I thought I should add some ground pecans (essentially a "pecan flour") to the batter of my recipe. I had previously used the pecan streusel topping to provide the pecan punch - which, although simple, worked rather well. It probably helped that this coffee cake isn't particularly tall (thus the ratio between streusel and cake was not overwhelmingly in the favor of the cake and you were practically guaranteed streusel in every bite). However, adding the ground pecans to the batter turned a good recipe into a great recipe.



  • 1 cup (225 g) butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cup (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (230 g) sour cream  2 large (100 g) eggs 
  • 1 Tbs. (15 mL) vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups (125 g) sifted all-purpose flour 
  • 1/4 tsp. (1.5 g) salt
  • 1 Tbs. (14 g) baking powder
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) chopped pecans


  • 2 Tbs. (30 g) butter melt
  • 1 cup (110 g) chopped pecans toast
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 cup (110 g) brown sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and line 9x13-in. pan with parchment paper
  • Batter pour batter into 9x13-in. pan
  • Top with streusel & bake at 350°F (175°C) for 35 min.
  1. Start off by toasting 1-1/4 cup (135 g) chopped pecans. Do this by spreading them out on a sheet pan and baking in the oven as it preheats, about ten minutes. (Preheat the oven to 350°F or 175°C.) Once the pecans are fragrant, take them out of the oven. Keeping them in the oven too long will result in slight burning which will leave an acrid flavor to everything - so avoid this at all costs.
  2. Use a spice grinder or a food processor to finely process 1/4-cup of the roasted pecans (about 25-30 g). Use a succession of quick pulses because too much processing will result in a paste. About ten pulses from my spice grinder provided adequate results. Reserve the rest of the roasted pecans for the streusel.
  3. As usual, assemble your ingredients before beginning. For the dry ingredients, use 1/4-cup (25-30 g) roasted pecans, finely ground, 1 Tbs. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 2 cups (250 g) sifted all-purpose flour. For the "wet" ingredients, gather up 1 cup (225 g) butter, softened, 2 large eggs, 1 Tbs. vanilla extract, 1 cup (230 g) sour cream, and 1-1/2 (300 g) sugar. For the streusel, prepare 1/2 cup (110 g) brown sugar, 2 Tbs. butter, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1 cup (110 g) roasted pecans, chopped.
  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and finely processed pecans together.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer until smooth (about 30 seconds at medium low speed). Using softened butter, will reduce the tendency for the butter to stick to the sides of the mixing bowl (and thus reducing the need to scrape down the bowl).Whisk the flour, baking powder, and finely processed pecans together.
  6. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the sour cream to the mixture and beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl again, if needed. At low speed, mix in one egg at a time. Mix in the vanilla extract.
  7. Remove the mixing bowl from the mixer and add the flour mixture to the contents. Using a spatula, fold the solids into the batter. The resulting mixture may have a few lumps. Don't worry about these - they'll cook out as you bake the cake.
  8. Prepare a 9x13-in. baking pan by greasing the bottom and sides with a little butter. To make extraction and cutting easier, I like to line the inside with a sheet of parchment paper that hangs out over the sides. The extra paper will act as handles later when I pull the cake out of the pan. Press the paper to the pan so it is as flush as possible (wrinkles in the paper will result in wrinkles in your coffee cake).
  9. Pour the batter into the baking pan and level with a spatula.
  10. For the streusel topping, melt two tablespoons butter in the microwave (about 10-15 seconds). Meanwhile, combine the remaining pecans with the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  11. If the butter hasn't completely melted, swirl the melted butter around the unmelted piece until it has completely melted. (If this doesn't work, microwave for a few more seconds.) Pour the butter into the sugar/pecan/cinnamon mix. Mix together until it becomes a uniformly darker color.
  12. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter. I find this is easiest accomplished with my fingers. Using a spoon almost always results in uneven coverage and large random clumps which need to be redistributed later.
  13. Bake the coffee cake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 minutes at 350°F (175°C). A toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean (no wetness, perhaps a dry crumb or two). At this point remove the cake from the oven and let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.
  14. Remove the cake from the pan and set onto a wire rack to fully cool. This is easily done if you made the parchment paper sling. I actually don't know how long it takes to cool the cake because I've never been able to wait long enough - I always cut into it too early because I'm too eager to eat a piece.
  15. Once the cake has been completely cooled (or you can't wait any longer), transfer to a cutting board and cut into reasonable sizes. Coffee cake is pretty rich and is generally consumed with coffee or tea as a snack or a brief respite from the daily grind, so too large of a piece seems to not fit its purpose for existance. (Anyway, you can always grab a second piece...) I cut them into sixteen pieces of approximately 2-in. by 3-in. dimensions. These are fairly sizable, so you may wish to make smaller pieces.

- Lesley Scott

March 23, 2006 in Blog Report, Food, Food & Cuisine, Parties and Entertaining, Recipe, Sweet Tooth, Weblogs | Permalink


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