Due to the fact that in just several hours I will be hopping on a plane, beginning to make my way back to Minnesota for the holidays, I am going to keep today's post a bit shorter, but still nice and sweet.
Let's talk about books and cake.
There is something about this season that gives me the strong urge to keep a book nestled on my lap, a mug of coffee in hand and a slice of something sugar-laced and delicious balanced on the couch cushion nearby. It was one of my new year’s intentions last year to read three books a month- 36 in total. While there were a couple months where I didn’t quite make it up to par (notedly, when I was a little bit busy getting yoga certified and then last month when I decided to tackle the 900 page Middlemarch), reading three more this month to reach my goal seems pretty feasible. In winter, I devour words like bars of dark chocolate.
Three books a month may not sound like much, but when you get swept up in work and life, reading can often get pushed to the back burner on the list of important things to do with any spare time. During college there truly was no space for leisure-reading, and just afterwards, traveling made it a bit difficult to constantly lug around more than one thin book at a time. Even once I had settled down in one place, it always felt like there were more pressing things to do. Putzing around on the computer feels more “productive” than reading a book, but it is usually the complete opposite due to those internet black holes of endless scrolling and animal videos. Mindfully soaking in words and stories, it turns out, is generally a better use of extra time.
I grew up as a reader, but the true importance of it has only just recently hit me again. People talk frequently about “escaping” into the pages of a book, but when I am reading something I really love, it feels more like a discovery than an escape. Instead of helping you to run away from life the way we mindlessly do by scrolling through social media feeds, good books and stories open you up to new inner perspectives and self-realization. I recently read Rebecca Mead’s beautiful ode to Middlemarch (just after I had finally completed the classic novel myself) and while it may appear to be an in-depth exploration of the significance of George Eliot’s writing, it turns out to be a tribute to reading in general. Mead writes, “A book may not tell us exactly how to live our own lives, but our own lives can teach us how to read a book.” In this way, books become marking points- helping us to see things more clearly within ourselves as move through different stages of life.
Personally, I have rediscovered that being a better reader tends to make me a better person, and vice versa. It is a circular cause-and-effect that books have on my being. Therefore, it may be early for any new year resolutions, but already I am bumping my book goal up to four a month- dare I even say five? I am trying to use this wintertime urge to keep a book constantly by my side to form a habit once again that hopefully will end up transcending the seasons.
I did mention in the beginning of this that part of the winter reading ritual involves a mug of coffee and something sweet, and what better to compliment a cozy morning or afternoon of reading than a crumbly slice of coffee cake? I have always been a lover of coffee cakes- that simple, soft cake base with a crunchy streusel topping- and this one takes those cozy flavors to a new level with the toasty-ness of almonds and a zing of orange. The cake itself is fairly light, but still hearty in flavor and texture, made with almond flour and half whole wheat / half white flours. It is not too sweet, to allow for the crumble on top to add extra sugary, nutty goodness to each bite. This coffee cake is perfect for snowy (or rainy) weekend afternoons or maybe even for a family holiday breakfast (as soon as my mom saw a photo, she instantly requested it for Christmas morning). So, whip up some coffee cake, put on a pot of hot water, and grab a book.
What are you reading these days? (Seriously, I love recommendations).
Orange + Almond Crumble Coffee Cake
Makes 1, 9" round cake. Recipe adapted from Diethood
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC), line a 8-9" springform pan with parchment paper on the bottom and lightly butter up the sides. Make the topping by simply mixing all of the ingredients in a small bowl with your fingers until crumbly.
In a medium bowl, mix together the 3 flours, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Then, in a larger bowl, cream together the brown sugar and butter until fluffy. Stir in the orange zest and syrup of choice, then whisk in each egg, one at a time. Add the yogurt, orange juice and orange blossom water (if using) and mix again until smooth. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula in two parts, mixing each time just until combined.
Spread the batter evenly into your prepared pan and generously sprinkle the crumble all over the top. Bake for about 35-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean and the edges and top are golden-brown. Let cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing up to enjoy!
For the Cake
- 3/4 cup (115g) ground almonds
- 3/4 cup (115g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (70g) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup (112g) light brown sugar
- 6 tbsp butter, softened
- 2 tbsp orange zest
- 2 tbsp maple or coconut syrup
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup (100g) plain yogurt
- 4 tbsp fresh-squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
For the Crumble Topping
- 3/4 cup (115g) almonds, sliced or crushed
- 1/4 cup (56g) light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup (37g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled