Pear-Filled Cowboy Coffee Cake

By • September 13, 2011 • 86 Comments

349 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!


Author Notes: This is inspired by my mother’s “Cowboy Coffee Cake,” a family favorite when we were growing up. I’ve always admired the cleverness of making the topping at the same time you make the cake. After all, if you’re using flour, sugar, fat and spices in both, why not spare yourself the step of measuring and mixing them a second time? The original recipe does not call for fruit, but I find that the pears improve it tremendously. I urge you to follow the instructions in the exact order stated. You want to mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients the minute you’ve finished preparing the pears, so you can put the whole thing together quickly, before popping it in the oven. Enjoy!! ;o) - AntoniaJamesAntoniaJames

Food52 Review: Spicy and rich with a tender crumb and loads of pears, this is nothing like the stodgy, bland coffee cakes many of us know so well. AntoniaJames' crumb topping is pebbly and rich, the sugar and walnuts crunching pleasantly between your teeth, and the cake itself is light and generously laced with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. The highlight is the melting layer of pears, just soft enough to yield without turning to mush and spiked with more spices. And there's not a hint of uncooked batter where fruit meets cake -- the pears merge effortlessly with the soft crumb. We made this in a 10-inch round pan, and it turned out beautifully. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 8 - 12

The Cake and Topping

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cups dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon (divided: ½ teaspoon + 1 more teaspoon for the topping)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cloves
  • ¼ cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (almonds or pecans also work well)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk

The Pear Filling

  • 1 ½ pounds (4 medium) pears (I like barely ripe Bartletts) (apples, peaches, Asian pears or fuyu persimmons may also be used)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Tiny dash of cloves (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9” x 13” baking pan with butter or cooking spray.
  2. Pulse the flour, brown sugar, salt, spices (remember, only ½ teaspoon of cinnamon) and wheat germ in a food processor four or five times, until combined. Add the butter and process for about ten seconds; scrape down the sides and pulse three or four times. Remove ¾ cup of that and put in a small bowl with the nuts and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
  3. Add the baking soda and baking powder to the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse two or three times.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Then add the buttermilk and whisk well to combine.
  5. Peel, core and coarsely chop the pears; toss with the filling spices (1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg, and a dash of cloves) and the tablespoon of dark brown sugar.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir just until smooth.
  7. Put half of the batter in the prepared baking pan. Spread the pears over the batter; then, cover with the remaining batter.
  8. Sprinkle on the topping.
  9. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly touched
  10. Allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before cutting.
  11. Enjoy!! ;o)
  12. I’ve had this recipe in my files as long as I can remember. The original recipe (whose origin is unknown) calls for shortening, not butter, calls for “milk – sour” instead of buttermilk, and does not contain any fruit. I add a bit of toasted wheat germ, too, for its flavor and texture, and increase the nuts by 50%. If you really love nuts, feel free to add some more. I also suggest using the the food processor for the initial steps of combining the dry ingredients and then cutting in the fat. It's so easy! ;o)
Jump to Comments (86)

Tags: adaptable, apples, Asian pears, brunch, fruit, fruit-filled, home cooking, old-fashioned, persimmons, traditional

Comments (86) Questions (4)

Default-small
Default-small
2010_0425finepix0014

6 months ago BavarianCook

It is now in the oven and already smelling fantastic! I was out of buttermilk (how did that happen?) and used 3/4 c Greek yogurt and 1/4 c milk instead - seems to work just fine. I LOVE that there is plenty of topping and not just the dusting many other coffeecake recipes have. I can't wait to dig into it! Thank you, AJ!

280194_3901959540227_611816486_o

over 1 year ago caroberts77

I made this for a work birthday gathering and it was received quite well. I made a poor decision to not use the specified pan size and ended up over-baking the cake. That being said, another co-worker brought ice cream which took care of any dryness ;-)

Default-small

over 2 years ago fearlessem

I realized I'd never come back to sing the praises of this recipe after making it. It is stupendous. So good!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, fearlessem. I'm so glad you liked it!! ;o)

Food54_profile_pic

over 2 years ago Ms. T

Deeee-licious! I made this for an office breakfast party and it was a big hit. I've never made coffee cake--never bought wheat germ before either--I'm so glad I did both, as this will be a go-to recipe for years to come. Be warned, little backyard pear tree: this year, I am ready and waiting for your fruit!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you! I'm so glad you and your colleagues enjoyed it. And how lucky you are to have a pear tree. By the way, I adapted the topping for this over the weekend to put on a breakfast bread pudding made with challah and chunks of pears. So, so easy, and a huge hit with my brunch guests. I'll post the recipe for that, one of these days. ;o)

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words. ;o)

Fb

about 3 years ago BlueKaleRoad

Congratulations on the silver! This is a heavenly cake.

Sausage2

about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Congrats on the silver AJ! This is really a stellar cake!

Img_7818

about 3 years ago EmilyC

Congrats again on your finalist nod...your recipe has gone into my file and I can't wait to make it again.

186003_1004761561_1198459_n

about 3 years ago dymnyno

This sounds awesome! Congratulations!

Massimo's_deck_reflection_10_27_13

about 3 years ago lapadia

Congratulations on being the "Silver" finalist winner for this beautiful recipe, AJ!

2-11_016

about 3 years ago SallyCan

Leave it to you, AntoniaJames, to take the most fabulous cake and to make it better!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Sally. You would know! I must take issue with you, however, on whether Mother's Cowboy Coffee Cake is THE most fabulous cake. Mother's Sour Cream Cake is actually the most fabulous, to my mind. Did I ever tell you about the time I made it in a Bundt pan (with the overflow into a loaf pan), with an inner layer of the Cowboy Coffee Cake buttery/brown sugary/spiced walnuts? It was really good! Hmm, I should make that again and post the recipe . . .. ;o)

2-11_016

about 3 years ago SallyCan

Leave it to you, AntoniaJames, to take the most fabulous cake and to make it better!

399571_2853636453848_1694221275_n

about 3 years ago TiggyBee

This looks just beautiful and delish...Congrats AJ!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you so much, TiggyBee! ;o)

Img_2474

about 3 years ago Sydney

Good God, I love this! So happy that you added the cloves and nutmeg in both parts. What a phenomenal flavor!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Sydney! I rarely use cloves, because the flavor can overwhelm, but when balanced with the copious amount of freshly grated nutmeg and the cinnamon, it works. ;o)

Img_7818

about 3 years ago EmilyC

This cake is absolutely fantastic, AJ! I made it late last night for breakfast this morning, but my husband and I ended up sneaking bites of the warm cake before bed. It's moist with such a nice density, and the warm spices with the juicy pears are delicious! I substituted oat flour for the wheat germ, and used 3 pears and 1 jonagold apple. This one's a keeper -- thanks so much for sharing a family recipe with us.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Splendid! You know, the one thing I did not change in the recipe from which this was derived was the combination of spices, as they are, to my mind, perfect. This is one of the most evocative food memories from my childhood, due in large part, really, to the wonderful smell of the spices. I'm thrilled that you made this and that it turned out so well. And I love that you used one apple, too. ;o)

186003_1004761561_1198459_n

about 3 years ago dymnyno

Love your recipe/recipes...I certainly don't think "cowboy" and AJ! Sounds delicious!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, that is so funny! You know, when I was little, I thought exactly the same thing about my mother (the antithesis of cowboy, really, in every way) and her "Cowboy Coffee Cake." And I never got a good explanation as to how it got it's name. ;o)

Dscn2212

about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

AJ, I adore you and your heavenly recipes, but I have a serious nut (and chocolate) allergy, so I make a practice of not responding to those which are dependent on nuts (and chocolate, sob) for texture and taste. Nonetheless, great congratulations upon finding your lovely self here once again.

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you . . . I've thought that pine nuts might work. Or how about some nut-free toffee-like candy, broken into crunchy bits (like sesame seed or roasted pepito brittle)? I don't think the topping gets hot enough to melt candies like that, though I don't know for sure. ;o)

Default-small

about 3 years ago singing_baker

wow this looks great! I've never seen a coffee cake with pears in it before!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, s_b! I hadn't either, until I made this. I'd been thinking for months about making this coffee cake, but didn't actually have an "occasion" . . . and then the contest was announced, and I knew that I wanted to do something with pears that involved baking, and then, as they say, the rest is history. ;o)

Logo-fb

about 3 years ago Waverly

Sounds wonderful, Antonia!

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Waverly! Glad you think so!! ;o)

New_years_kitchen_hlc_only

about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, one more thing. . . . I just love it that both finalist recipes are derived from old family favorites.;o)

Gator_cake

about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Me, too! I didn't even think of that, but now that you mention it, it makes it even more special!