Brown Sugar Pecan Coffee Cake

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Once again, Spring Break is over. Besides my parents coming to town, I filled my time with homework, reading cookbooks, baking and cooking, and catching up on the newest season of Once Upon a Time. Overall, it was quite an enjoyable week.

Jonji finished his second year of medical school on the Friday before last, which means he has now entered his month-long study time before his step 1 test. Therefore he now spends almost all of his time at home, alternately studying and listening to Harry Potter whenever he is doing something other than studying. To celebrate the end of the second year, his class held a banquet on Thursday. We dressed up for the occasion and got to the ballroom right on time. Since Jonji is Jonji, we could barely get past the entrance without having to greet another classmate, but we eventually made it to the dinner tables. During dinner there were speeches, which were surprisingly entertaining for a non-medical student, and the awarding of superlatives. I lived one of my proudest moments when Jonji was awarded “Most Gryffindor.” Seriously! Definitely the best one to win. After dinner Jonji introduced me to some of the faculty that have been so important for his successful first two years, and then the dance floor began to fill. We chatted with friends until the very end, at which point we busted out a few moves before the DJ closed up for the night.


On Saturday afternoon we ventured out of our apartment to play ultimate frisbee with a few of his classmates, plus our Depot friend Jeff and his girlfriend, Sarah. I had been griping about playing, since throwing a frisbee has always been one of my least graceful moves, but I’m glad that I went. One thing we quickly realized was that CrossFit doesn’t prepare you whatsoever for chasing around a frisbee, and therefore we huffed and puffed until the game ended.

Easter was a quiet affair at our home. I went to the Farmer’s Market in the morning to stock up on vegetables, and even allowed myself to purchase a basket of strawberries and a bouquet of sweet peas—a couple of rare treats! After a morning CrossFit class, Jonji and I returned home, where I began the long brunch process. Soon I was ensconced in the warm aroma of butter and cinnamon, and that’s when it really became Easter for me. We eventually feasted on eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, coffee cake, and apple crumble, washing it all down with our second cups of coffee.


The O’Regan Easter has always been a joyous affair, with an endless supply of food and chocolate, a couple of eggs hunts, and quality family time. There have also been some smash hits in the brunch department over the years, and my mom’s coffee cake has been one of them. Only recently has she branched out into different dishes, but this one still sticks in my mind as an Easter classic. In fact, I don’t remember eating it on any other day. However, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be made any other day—I assure you that it will taste just as good if you decide to bake it on one of the other 364 days of the year. I’ve altered the crumb topping a bit; I used pecans rather than walnuts and bulked the recipe up with more butter and flour to make it more substantial because, let’s be honest, we’re all here for the crumb topping.

Brown Sugar Pecan Coffee Cake

makes one 9×13 inch dish / 12 large or 24 medium servings

for the cake:
375g (2 ½ cups) all-purpose flour*
75g (½ cup) brown sugar
80g (⅓ cup) granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg

240g (1 cup) buttermilk
150g (¾ cup) grapeseed or other neutral oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten

*For those of you who want a GF version, use 1 cup oat flour, 1 cup white rice flour, and ½ cup tapioca flour.

for the crumble topping:
150g (1 cup) brown sugar
200g (1 ⅓ cup) all-purpose flour
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
227g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into half-inch cubes

1 tbsp molasses
65g (⅔ cup) oats
80g (1 cup) pecans or walnuts, chopped into pea-sized chunks (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside.

To make the topping: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 150g brown sugar, 200g all-purpose flour, 3 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ground nutmeg, 1 tsp salt, and 227g cubed butter. Mix on medium speed until everything starts to clump together. Add 1 tbsp molasses, mix to combine, then pour in 65g oats and 80g chopped pecans (if using). Beat until the mixture resembles slightly crumbly cookie dough. Chill in the fridge or freezer until firm (you want it firm enough that you can crumble it easily).

To make the cake: in a large bowl, mix 375g all-purpose flour, 75g brown sugar, 80g granulated sugar, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, and ½ tsp ground nutmeg together. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together 240g buttermilk, 150g grapeseed oil, and 2 eggs, then pour into the dry ingredients. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry just until the batter comes together. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish and set aside. (Note: it won’t look like enough batter, but it will rise quite a bit in the oven.)

Spoon ⅓ of the crumble mixture onto the coffee cake and cut it into the batter (use a knife to swirl it in) or press it in with your fingers. Sprinkle the rest of the crumble topping on the top of the coffee cake.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Enjoy!

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