Monday, November 8, 2010

An Afternoon Tea with Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

Ah, afternoon tea. It's one of my favorite things. Nothing feels more special and relaxing than sitting down to a nice spread of food and hot tea. I've been doing afternoon teas for several years now, usually with my sister or sister-in-law. On a good day, every one's here for tea.

I know some people may have their reservations about afternoon tea. It does sound awfully fancy and hoity-toity. But it's not! Sometimes it is, and though I like it that way, I know far too many people who don't. Afternoon tea at home is much more, well, homey. I usually whip up whatever I can by way of sandwiches and try to bake some sort of scone or cake. We do use fancy tea cups, but none of the dishes match. We even use fancy little tea spoons, but that just makes it fun. Even my nephew wanted in on the tea fun!

So today's spread featured a smoked salmon and potato galette, asiago cheese bread, sweet potato cupcakes, and a buttermilk chocolate chip crumb cake. The tea was a vanilla rooibus. All was delicious.

Buttermilk Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake
from Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson

Butter Crumb Topping
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract

Buttery Buttermilk-Chocolate Chip Batter
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bleached cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
3 lg eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 miniature chocolate chips, for sprinkling on top of the baked cake
Confectioners' sugar, for sifting over the baked cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 13 by 9 in. pan.

Make the topping. Thoroughly mix the flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Drop in the chunks of butter and, using a pastry blender, cut the fat into the flour until reduced to small pieces about the size of large pearls. Sprinkle the vanilla extract over. With your fingertips, knead the mixture together until moist, clumpy lumps are formed.

Mix the batter. Sift the dry ingredients (flour through salt) onto a sheet of wax paper. In a small bowl, toss the chocolate chips with 1 1/2 tsp of the sifted mixture.
     Cream the butter in the large bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the sugar in 3 additions, beating for 1 minute after each portion is added, then beat another minute. Blend in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 45 seconds after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. On low speed, alternately add the sifted mixture in 3 additions with the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the sifted mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently to keep the batter even-textured. Stir in the chocolate chips.
     Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
     Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the cake batter, taking care to cover the four corners and long edges. Use all of the topping- the covering will be generous.

Bake and cool the cake. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until risen, set, golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
     Place the pan on a rack. Immediately sprinkle the 3/4 cup chocolate chips on top of the cake. Cool completely.   
     Sift confectioners' sugar lightly over the top of the cake just before cutting into fingers or squares directly from the pan.

Note: this cake is very sweet, so the powdered sugar is optional- it looks pretty, but can be a bit too much.

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