If you could be a fly on my wall and peek at my bookcases, you would find them stuffed with cookbooks. I just can’t stop collecting them. They’re beautiful, and I always think that a recipe in a book is so much more finite than on the internet. I know that the creator of the book spent a crap-load of time developing that very recipe, so I trust it more to give me a better experience and a better batch of cookies. Plus flipping through them on a random afternoon is the best.
Well speaking of which…guys I just got Samantha Seneviratne’s The New Sugar & Spice baking book, and I’m obsessed. She set out to brighten up your sweets with a variety of spices like ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. And, spoiler alert, she did it! I have so many recipes in this book marked, that it was definitely worthless to even mark them.
She picks several spices and highlights them, first with a personal connection, and then with some history on its use. She rounds out the intro to each spice’s chapter with notes on the purchasing and proper storage of the spice. But the best part is that after the super helpful background, Samantha uses the spice to either make your favorites even more amazing, or introduce you to new baked goods from around the globe. Honestly, you’ll be wondering how you ever survived without these great recipes in your recipe book.
I automatically stopped at this streusel cake because it uses concord grapes. Concord grapes are kind of amazing because they are so utterly grape-y. Growing up I never understood why grape-flavored/scented candies and drinks were designed the way they were. (PS want to know how a flavor technologist gets the job done? This video from Eater is great!)
I don’t know about you, but I grew up eating the green and purple table grapes sold in clear plastic bags. Where did this grape flavor come from? Because those grapes did not taste anything like a jolly rancher. Well until recently, I still didn’t understand. But then I discovered concord grapes. I mean really, you’ve got to find these near you. The scent and flavor is so strong that it will bring you right back to that generic “grape drink” you most certainly enjoyed at “that one friend’s” house as a child.
I thought I would pay tribute to Samantha’s care of ingredients by explaining a bit why concord grapes are just so grape-y. I’ll keep it brief because I’m sure you’re all excited to get to this recipe.
Often, a food has a principle component that is responsible for a majority of the scent or flavor. Methyl anthranilate (MA) is the molecule that’s largely responsible for that grapey-ness. It naturally occurs in concord grapes, and many other grapes native to North America (Vitis labrusca). Frequently this is used as the only compound in flavored products, but there are a few other flavor notes that contribute to the overall character of the Concord grape. Like 2-aminoacetophenone (2-AAP)! Another, though more mild, grape-y compound in the good ol’ Concord. The more flavor components you add together, the more complex—and realistic—the flavor becomes that you’re trying to mimic!
Chocolate and coffee are two of the most complicated flavors to recreate in the lab for a flavor chemist. They can be made up of hundreds of different compounds, and it still won’t be as good as the real deal.
Well now that you’re all excited about those Concord grapes, here’s the cake! It’s so unexpected with the musky grape flavor. And nutmeg—the featured spice in this recipe—helps to cut through and make the cake an adventure in every bite. Feel free to enjoy it alone, or top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for some real decadence. Add a dollop of plain yogurt for a breakfast treat as well!
**Please try to find concord grapes for this cake! They’re in season right now if you’re in the Northeast or near the upper Midwest. You won’t regret it.
Concord Grape Streusel Cake
Barely adapted from The New Sugar & Spice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (if you’re using dried, you may have to bump up the volume to get the same effect—play around with the amount)
A pinch of kosher salt
½ cup roughly chopped raw almonds
1 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg (see above note)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
⅓ cup buttermilk (or 2 teaspoons vinegar in a glass measuring cup filled to ⅓ cup with milk), at room temperature
2 cups Concord grapes, halved and seeded
- Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Prep a 10” springform pan with baking spray.
- Prepare the streusel by whisking together all of the dry ingredients except the almonds. Add the 3 tablespoons of butter and knead until the mixture is thoroughly moistened. Stir in the almonds and set aside.
- Whisk together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and egg yolk followed by the almond extract, scraping with a rubber spatula in between additions.
- Add half of the flour mixture and beat to combine. Add the buttermilk and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat until the ingredients come together. Don’t overmix!
- Pour the batter into the prepped pan and spread with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the grape halves on top of the batter and press them in. Don’t worry if while you were cutting them in half the skin slipped off—keep both. Also you may be thinking that the skins are chewy and tough—they will bake down in the oven and lend that awesome purple color.
- Top with the streusel, taking care to cover the entire top of the cake. Bake for about 25-30 minutes in the oven checking with a toothpick when you think it’s done—it should come out cleanly when inserted into the center of the cake.
- Let cool slightly, remove the pan edge, and serve!
Full disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review, but all opinions are my own!