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A coffee cake to make for a busy week

Recipe: Pears contrast with tart cranberries

Pears and cranberries balance each other in this spiced coffee cake.

Pears and cranberries balance each other in this spiced coffee cake.

Kathy Morrison

This is the week everything speeds up. So much is happening in the moment that it’s nice to have something done ahead – even if it’s just a coffee cake for drop-in guests or to serve on Christmas morning.

Ingredients for a pear cake
Two little Bosc pears were used in the cake.

My favorite winter baking fruit, the pear, gives this coffee cake a tender moistness, and the cranberries provide tart contrast. Bosc pears are excellent in this recipe, but a not-too-soft Bartlett also will work. Use dried cranberries, as noted below, or sub in fresh (or frozen) ones, lightly chopped. Change up the spices to suit personal taste – cardamom also is perfect with pears. 

The streusel especially can be done ahead and refrigerated, and the cake reheats quite beautifully in the microwave. Whew, at least that’s done.

Spiced pear and cranberry coffee cake

Serves 12-16


For the cake:

⅔ to 1 cup dried cranberries (or 1 cup fresh cranberries, lightly chopped)

1/4 cup unsweetened or sweetened cranberry juice or regular apple juice (skip if using fresh cranberries)

1-½ cups all-purpose flour

2-½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

⅓ cup unsalted butter, melted

¾ cup brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1 large or 2 small ripe but mostly firm pears, peeled, cored and diced, about 1 cup

Flour and sugar and butter in a bowl
A patry blender makes quick work of streusel.

For the streusel:

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks


If using dried cranberries, soak them for up to 30 minutes in the juice. (If the cranberries are very hard, try heating the juice first, then soaking.) Once the cranberries are softer, drain off the juice and reserve for another use, or drink it!

If using fresh cranberries, make sure they’re at least cut in half; additional chopping is optional.

When ready to make the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and lightly grease the paper with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and the spices.

In a larger bowl, combine the melted butter and the ¾ cup brown sugar. Let the mixture cool slightly if it’s still warm, then stir in the egg and vanilla. Blend in the buttermilk or yogurt.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mixing until smooth. Fold in the diced pear and the cranberries.

Cake batter in a square baking pan
Spread the batter evenly before adding streusel.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan (it will be thick), using a spatula to spread it into the corners.

Make the streusel: Stir together the ½ cup sugar, ½ cup flour and the ½ teaspoon ginger. Cut in the butter chunks using a pastry blender or two knives. (A small food processor also can be used.)

Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the batter. Bake the cake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cake cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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