Food & Wine

A fall take on coffee cake

Photo Sarah Manning/Special To The Town Crier Spiced Harvest Coffee Cake contains sweet potatoes, an uncommon ingredient for baked goods. In addition to their nutritional value, sweet potatoes add moisture to batters.

It’s that time of year again – the season of wool sweaters, warm spices, crisp leaves and root vegetables. As soon as pumpkins start appearing at the market, I surrender to cravings for chai tea and baked goods. I find myself in the kitchen more than usual these days, baking something sweet or stirring a pot of soup. But all too often, I use the same tried-and-true ingredients time and again. This month, it’s time for something new.

Pumpkins, squash and carrots abound in autumn baked goods, but we don’t see sweet potatoes as an ingredient too often. With their bright-orange flesh and rusty skin, they’re hard to miss, but they pack quite the nutritional punch. Much in the same way as zucchini, they add great moisture to batters, as well as a hearty dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Their sweetness makes any extra sugar unnecessary, ideal when your aim is a more wholesome indulgence.

In this moist, rustic coffee-cake recipe, unpeeled yams are coarsely grated and folded into a whole-grain, hazelnut-flecked batter. It’s perfect for afternoon tea, breakfast in the quiet hours of dawn or brunch with friends. You’ll most likely find yourself sneaking slice after slice as you pass through the kitchen. At the time of year when the air gets that signature chill and the leaves turn crispy, this nutritious take on coffee cake should keep you warm.

Sarah Manning is a Los Altos High School graduate who blogs weekly about her culinary adventures. To read her food blog, visit

Spiced Harvest Coffee Cake

Streusel topping

• 1/3 cup spelt flour

• 2 tablespoons wheat germ

• 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar

• 2 tablespoons hazelnuts, coarsely ground

• 1 tablespoon pepitas

• 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces


Dry ingredients

• 1/2 cup spelt flour

• 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

• 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour

• 1/4 cup wheat germ

• 1/3 cup turbinado sugar

• 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon

• 2 small carrots, coarsely grated

• 1 small sweet potato, coarsely grated (approximately 2 cups total)

• 1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely ground


Wet ingredients

• 1/2 cup yogurt

• 1/2 cup whole milk

• 1 teaspoon lemon juice

• 1/4 cup grade B maple syrup

• 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

• 2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

• 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease square cake pan with butter.

For streusel topping, measure flour, wheat germ, sugar, hazelnuts and pepitas into small bowl. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry cutter. Work quickly so that butter stays cold. Continue until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Whisk first nine dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir in grated carrots, sweet potato and hazelnuts, breaking up clumps with your fingers.

Stir yogurt, milk and lemon juice together. Let mixture sit until bubbles start to form. (Alternatively, use 1 cup buttermilk.)

In medium bowl, whisk maple syrup, ginger, butter, egg and yogurt mixture until thoroughly combined.

Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients, being careful not to overwork batter.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and smooth. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over batter and press slightly into batter.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, testing cake with toothpick. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then slice and transfer out of pan to cooling rack.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos