Basic Butter Cake with Streusel Recipe

I am at my best in the kitchen when I have mastered a technique that then allows me to be creative with my palate to create many variations on a theme.  So, for example, learning the technique of searing various cuts of meat in a grill pan stovetop, and then finishing the cooking in the oven with the last minute addition of a wine or cognac to create an elegant but quick pan sauce is one such technique.  From thick steaks, to pork tenderloin, to lamb tenderloin or chops, this technique never disappoints, whether I am cooking for family or whether I am entertaining friends.

It is possible to achieve a perfectly seared exterior, a tender interior cooked to the correct degree of doneness, and a savory sauce.  Another basic recipe and technique that has served me well is a basic buttermilk scone recipe and a technique for handling the dough that involves gently folding the dough in thirds several times prior to cutting the scones for baking, learned from an episode of America’s Test Kitchen.

I have since developed many savory and sweet versions of scones, which seem to delight friends and family in appearances at breakfast, brunch, dinner and tea-time!   I will share these two techniques on another day.

Today, I am sharing the simple technique of making a butter cake, which is so quick and delicious, with its buttery, moist crumb, dense but light and tender texture and a bit of crunchy crust from the sugar content and the streusel topping, that you will eschew cake mixes altogether.

This cake has no leavening agents–it gets its volume and rise from the basic technique of whipping the egg yolks and sugar until when you lift the whisk, smooth ribbons of egg mixture fall slowly back into the bowl.  The moist crumb and wickedly indulgent flavor comes from the butter that is incorporated into the egg mixture thoroughly.  You can vary your extracts, flavoring agents, fresh fruit and the nuts that you utilize in the streusel.  The basic recipe follows, and then some variations.

Basic Butter Cake with Streusel

Ingredients

  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of extract (you can use 1 teaspoon of two different flavors)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and softened at room temperature 1 hour
  • 2 and 1/2 cups of fresh fruit

Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (I use light)
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup nuts

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 10 inch spring form pan or other pan of your choice, but this recipe yields 10-12 cups of batter
In the bowl of your stand mixer, use the whisk attachment and whip the eggs and sugar at medium high speed for 5-7 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and falls in ribbons when you lift the whisk. If you are using a hand mixer, use high speed and beat for 8 minutes. The mixture will be pale yellow and doubled in volume.

Beat in the butter and extracts and beat for about 2 minutes until the butter is well-incorporated and the batter is smooth. Use a spatula to fold in the flour, salt, and the fruit. The batter will be very thick. Spread the batter evenly in the pan.

Make the streusel topping by melting the 1/4 cup of butter in a small saucepan. Then, add the brown sugar and nuts and stir for 2 minutes, cooking until the nuts are all well-coated with the butter-sugar mixture and it is smooth and shiny. Spread it over the cake batter.

Bake the cake for 60-80 minutes for a 10 inch spring form. Mine was done at 70 minutes. When you insert a cake tester, the crumb should be moist but done, not wet in the center. Allow it to cool for 20 minutes and then remove the sides of the spring form and plate. If you utilize smaller pans, then check the doneness beginning at 30 minutes.

Cranberry Butter Cake with Pecan Streusel

In the autumn and winter, when cranberries are plentiful, I use 2 and 1/2 cups of fresh cranberries and pecans as the nut in the topping. I utilize 2 teaspoons orange extract and 1 Tablespoon orange zest.

Summer Berry Butter Cake with Almond Streusel

For a summer cake, I utilized a combination of raspberries and blackberries to total 2 and 1/2 cups; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon orange extract, and I utilized slivered almonds in the streusel.

Other variations to consider:

Lemon Blueberry Lavender: use 2 and 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, lemon extract, lemon zest and a Tablespoon of dried lavender flowers
Cherry Almond Butter Cake: use 2 and 1/2 cups of pitted fresh cherries, and use either almond extract or kirsch for flavoring, and chopped almonds in the streusel.

Be creative and bake with joy and abandon!

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