overnight coffee cake (& our city table)

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It's raining. I'm writing this and everything is eerie. The wind sings. Trees creak, preparing to bow low and the first droplets fall offbeat. Leaves rustle. I watch them move like a sea of fish. Lightning slaps. The clouds' stomachs growl. Rain. On nights like this, when it’s dark, yet wildly comfortable, there is lemon tea and coffee cake.

Coffee cake. Traditionally, a breakfast treat I’ve turned into a nighttime indulgence. When it's right, it melts on the tongue and spreads warmth down to your toes. It’s best eaten immediately out of the oven. And probably with butter. Everything actually is better with butter. When you learn not to fear it, your life and your cooking should improve. I prefer to throw our coffee cake together first thing in the morning, because it has to sit in the fridge for an extended period of time before baking (hence, overnight). This way, I can pop it in the oven while we are eating dinner and then enjoy it late night, while I sip lemon tea and my husband makes espresso, and we can have slow conversations about life’s biggest questions.

In reality, moments like that don't happen as often as we want. In actual reality, we are bogged down with everyday normalcy. Scrubs need to be washed. Dishes need cleaned. Life flies by too fast and I am on the wing, clutching hard, white knuckled, grasping by the fingertips. Barely holding on. My husband and I might pass each other in the hallway... morning… or night… or something… and share a quick kiss. Then, we'll go about the next thing and that’s just life lately. I remind myself that it’s okay. There is always everyday grace to acknowledge and always kingdom work to be done when I’m choosing to be present and aware of the ordinary.

If I had it my way, I'd always spend too much time stretched out after a meal -- dishes emptied long ago. The table is where the hard yet blissful work of being together should be done. At the table, Luke can dream of Oxford in the future. Or I can dream of owning a small flat hidden in the streets of Venice. Or we can dream of both. Together. At the table, we allow ourselves to dream. Maybe we’ll make it work eventually. One day. And we’ll be poor and full and happy, I believe.

But for now, doctors pagers and white coats and 5:00 AM wake up calls are life. Luke talks about his challenging patients and I realize that I always need more patience. To listen. To really hear. By the way, in actual reality, we are still poor and full and happy. We’ll linger a little longer around the table and listen to the rain and be grateful and dream — with lemon tea, espresso, and a heaping pile of coffee cake fresh from the oven. I think we’ll just eat it right out of the pan.

By the way, welcome to Our City Table. I don't get paid for this, I just like doing it. I don't have big plans for it and I don't even really know what it is. Food and our stories, I guess. I don't even know if you'll like it. But I really value creative outlets and food likes to teach me a lot. I used to think that creative things had to bring in money, but I don't believe that anymore. I am so excited to share our table with you, because I love the table. 

Recipe

My mother stumbled across this recipe reading a magazine in a doctor’s office. I wish it had a more exciting story… but I also love that she found it in the mundane and the normal. She adapted it to her preferences and I can reminisce on this cake as a piece of my childhood. I recently adapted it to my preferences and this is the finished product. So, there you have it, overnight coffee cake for your breakfast. Or midnight coffee cake, if you need it for dessert like me. Or, heck, midday, if you just need it right now. I won’t tell.

Cake

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup creme fraiche (you can also use sour cream)

2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. salt

Topping

¾ cup brown sugar

½ cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan or 8 x 8 round cake pan and set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. In a standing mixer, cream butter. Gradually add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each one. Add creme fraiche, mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture, folding it in with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated.

Spread half the cake dough evenly in the pan. Combine all topping ingredients in a separate bowl and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle half the topping mixture over the cake dough. Pour the rest of the cake dough on top and spread evenly. (The middle layer of topping will probably get stuck to the top layer of cake when spreading. It's okay, just spread gently with a spatula or wooden spoon.) After adding the rest of the cake dough, sprinkle the remaining topping over the dough. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes (or until inserting a fork or knife comes out clean) at 350 degrees. If you're worried about it browning on the top too quickly, you can always lay tinfoil over it for the last 10 minutes. Enjoy!