Pear-Filled Cowboy Coffee Cake

By • September 13, 2011 • 86 Comments



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&MA&M

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)

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about 1 month 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!

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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 ;-)

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about 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!

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about 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

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

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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!

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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)

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

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

Fb

almost 3 years ago BlueKaleRoad

Congratulations on the silver! This is a heavenly cake.

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almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

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

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almost 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.

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almost 3 years ago dymnyno

This sounds awesome! Congratulations!

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almost 3 years ago lapadia

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

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almost 3 years ago SallyCan

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

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almost 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)

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almost 3 years ago SallyCan

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

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almost 3 years ago TiggyBee

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

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you so much, TiggyBee! ;o)

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almost 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!

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almost 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)

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almost 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.

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almost 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)

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almost 3 years ago dymnyno

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

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almost 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)

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almost 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.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

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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)

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almost 3 years ago singing_baker

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

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almost 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)

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almost 3 years ago Waverly

Sounds wonderful, Antonia!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

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

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almost 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)

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almost 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!

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almost 3 years ago wssmom

Woohoo!! Congrats!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

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Thanks so much! I've been preparing for, running to and then, in meetings since early this morning. I'm speechless. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Congratulations AJ! What a great cake! I'll have to take mine without nuts, but I know I'll enjoy it anyway!!!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, F&S! Yes, this would be fine without the nuts. I bet pine nuts would work well, if you can eat those. Or perhaps some roasted pepitas. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago gingerroot

Congratulations, AJ!! This sounds wonderful.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You're so kind, gingerroot. Thank you. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Panfusine

Congratulations on the finalist pick AntoniaJames, .. (I must confess, all my attention was focussed on the other pear recipe that you submitted minutes before the close) but this sounds just Fabulous!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, panfusine. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hurrah! Congratulations! I knew this would be a finalist!!!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, aargersi! I, to the contrary, was not sure this would even find its way into the EPs. (That's the way I felt about my Lentil and Sausage Soup and my Haricots Verts, too!.) ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Midge

This sounds so fabulous. Big congrats AJ!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, Midge. Glad you think so! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Congrats!!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, ChezSuzanne!

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almost 3 years ago Bevi

Congrats AJ! We devoured this one, and the people who work in my husband's office thank you as well!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Bevi, I'm thrilled that (a) you tried it and (b) everyone liked it. Thank you so, so much. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago healthierkitchen

This looks just lovely! Two terrific finalists this week!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, HK and, yes, you're certainly right about those Danish being terrific. This was one of the best "fields" ever, so I am honored beyond words. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago BlueKaleRoad

Wow, what a lovely recipe! I am baking today and wondering if I can squeeze one more thing in...I think the answer is yes. Congratulations!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, BKR, I hope you do make this. It would be such a compliment. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago mrslarkin

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Yay, AJ!! This looks incredibly delicious!! Congratulations!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks so much, MrsL. Coming from a true expert in all things "incredibly delicious," that means a lot! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations AJ, wonderful recipe, well deserved!!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, sdebrango. You are so kind (as always). ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Lizthechef

Way to go, AJ!!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, LTC! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago EmilyC

Congrats AJ -- I had a good feeling about this recipe! I was going to make it before your finalist nod but now I'm even more excited!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, EmilyC, I hope you do try it. Thank you for your kind words! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Congrats, AJ! This is a beautiful recipe, and I will be honored to be the runner-up!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

HLA, the feeling is mutual! Yours is gorgeous, too -- the drool-inducing kind of gorgeousness, in fact. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Oh my. I need this to accompany my coffee. Need!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Well, F&S, they call it "coffee cake" for a reason. Thank you so much. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago wssmom

Need to start baking again, soon .....

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Yes, wssmom, you do! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Bevi

Saved! I am trying to keep a nice treat on hand at all times, so this will get made immediately. Is it a typo that the salt appears as an ingredient twice, or am I miss-reading the recipe?

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

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Thanks, Bevi, for the kind words and for catching the copy/paste error (which I've corrected). ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Bevi

In the oven....

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, I'm thrilled! I hope you enjoy it. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Bevi

Mmmmm...this is so delicious. I suppose I should have waited until my other half got home to make the full presentation, but he will have to settle for seeing the little mouse corner that was devoured. I love that the fruit is everywhere, not just a bite here and there.
The layers of cinnamon rest over the entire inside of my mouth, and I love the fact that the lower layer of cake has a moist feel and the upper layer includes the crunch of the topping.
Brava and thank you for a coffee cake that I can serve proudly, kudos to AJ! Yippee Kiyay Kiyo!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I am honored beyond words, Bevi. And I am so, so glad that you like it!! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

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This looks really good love coffee cake and with pears, fantastic!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, sdebrango. So glad you think so. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love this, and I also love that once again we were both baking today.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you, drbabs! I wish were were neighbors. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

That would be wonderful, but if we were, I suspect we'd both have to do a lot more hiking.

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almost 3 years ago Niknud

LOL! My husband is making fun of me as we 'speak' for my recent attachment to, what he calls, my 'internet friends.' Sigh. Don't get me wrong, my neighbors are lovely, but I wish some more foody people were nearby.... This community is so amazing. And I tactfully don't mention his 'Call of Duty' internet acquaintances.....

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

But drbabs, we could hike together -- and talk about food the whole time! (What do you think I think about when I'm out there alone, utterly undisturbed, in a place where I couldn't get an internet signal even if I wanted one? Most of my new ideas are fairly well developed by the time I get to the place where the Tres Sendas trail meets the West Ridge, after a 20-minute uphill climb . . . .) ;o)

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Niknud, I hear you . . . I suspect Mr. T is silently grateful that most of my foodie interaction (other than with my sons when they are home from college) is on the internet. Otherwise, he can't get a word in edgewise!! You know how that goes. Our food52 potlucks are like a barn on fire. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

AJ, I'm so happy for you, and am looking forward to meeting you one day. Congratulations on being a finalist!

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almost 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oh my stars this looks fantastic - absoltely love coffee cakes and this one is a for sure winner! Yum!! Making it soon!!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, you are so kind. Coffee cakes really are the best, aren't they? I've asked myself as I've been working on this the past few days, "Why don't I do this more often?!!" Coffee cakes are perfect for brunches and holiday breakfasts because you can make them the night before and they taste great when served. And everyone loves them. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago EmilyC

Saved -- this looks divine!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thank you so much. My sweet neighbor (an elderly gentleman taking care of his 3 grandchildren while their parents are away) thought so, too! He was the lucky recipient of the plate of slices I photographed this morning for this post. ;o)

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Yum! I love that you make the topping with the batter, too! When's breakfast??

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Whenever you get here, darling. ;o)