This cake has what I like to call a nice 'chew' to it -- not thick or dry but still something you can sink your teeth into. It's mild, softly sweet, and moist, while a layer of chocolate chips add richness and two layers of cinnamon-sugar a little pizzazz. On the day of baking, the cinnamon-sugar topping formed a delicate, flaky crust over the surface, which I thoroughly enjoyed and was thus a little saddened when it turned soft in the ensuing days after being covered with plastic wrap. If you want to enjoy that crust, eat the cake after it has cooled on the day you bake it. Although it keeps well for several days and retains good flavor, the surface turns a bit mushy once covered, mostly due to the moisture trapped in a sort of airtight space. Still, that didn't keep me from sneaking tiny squares of cake every morning and relishing each bite.
Even several days later, the aroma of warm, sweet cinnamon emanating from the cake pan alone was enticing, regardless of the memory of eating that first piece and realizing what a good and comforting recipe it was, however simple the ingredients. This is the go-to coffee cake of coffee cakes, the one you can whip up with mostly basic pantry ingredients, and one that will feed a crowd, because it makes a lot. A nine-by-thirteen inch pan? Yeah, that's a lot of cake. I would recommend making it when you have more than a few people to feed. Otherwise, you'll be stuffing yourself with cake everyday for at least week. Of course, some might not find that to be such a bad idea. If that's the case, then this is also a cake that satisfies a craving for something mild and sweet when you want such a thing to supplement an afternoon coffee break.
The original recipe calls for sour cream. I used plain yogurt, because we usually have that on hand in the fridge much, much more often than sour cream. So use whatever suits your purposes, although a low-fat or non-fat yogurt might not work as well. The non-fat versions don't quite add enough moisture or flavor, and it would not be an equivalent to sour cream. Whole-milk yogurt already has less fat than sour cream, so a non-fat yogurt would really be cutting down the fat as well as cutting out flavor. It might also make the cake too light. It is supposed to be somewhat dense, hence the 'chew' factor. The fat is what makes the cake texture soft and moist, so it's an integral part of the recipe. I'm no expert, so this is purely speculation on my part, but it makes sense to my way of thinking about these kinds of things. Followed accurately, this is a recipe that meets high hopes and does not disappoint.
By the way, this recipe comes from a fantastic blog called Smitten Kitchen, which covers all sorts of good-looking, good-sounding recipes with sharp, detailed photos. It's become one of my favorites to read every week.
Cinnamon-Chocolate Chip Cake
Adapted from smittenkitchen.com
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick (8 Tbsp) salted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
16 oz plain whole-milk yogurt (or sour cream)
8 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9x13-inch rectangular pan.
Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together into a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla. Alternately add yogurt and then dry ingredients in three additions each into butter mixture. Beat eggs whites in another bowl until stiff, then carefully fold into batter.
For the topping, mix ⅓ cup sugar and cinnamon together in a separate, small dish.
In prepared pan, pour in half of the cake batter. Sprinkle the top with half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and all of the chocolate chips. Pour remaining batter on top, sprinkling the top with the remaining cinnamon-sugar.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.