There are some dishes in life that have parts are worth fighting over; the crunchy edges of a lasagne, the crispy rice on the bottom of a pot of biryani, the middle pieces of a tray of brownies (better than the corner pieces, IMO) and the crumbly, icing sugar-topped streusel crown of this Vegan Masala Coffee Crumb Cake.
It all starts with a freshly-made batch of masala coffee — let’s be honest, every great moment starts (and ends) with a hot drink, right? The warmth of the cup around clasped hands, inhaling steamy aromas and waiting for it to cool just enough so we can take a sip gives us time to chat with a friend or quietly contemplate alone. It soothes the soul and allows us to stop and do nothing for a moment during our busy days. Having a hot drink is like having a spa treatment for the soul.
Whenever I’m feeling burned out, I can always rely on a cup of masala coffee with my mum to lift my mood. She makes it milky and sweet, with just the right amount of spice to compliment the aroma of good coffee. It’s made in a pan on the stove, like all good masala coffee and chai should be made. It’s boiled low and slow for at least 15 minutes for a truly authentic Indian taste. We’ll sit, chat, snack and laugh, melting away my stresses and brightening up my day.
This cake is inspired by those moments.
My version of New Jersey crumb cake has extra-thick cinnamon sugar crumb topping, so the ratio of crumb to cake is almost 1:1. It gives you the best of both worlds when you can’t decide whether to have cake or biscuits with your cup of coffee. The sponge cake is perfectly risen and full of rich coffee and spices. You won’t miss the dairy or eggs in this recipe, I promise you.
My spice blend is very typical of what is traditionally added to boiling milk and sugar to make masala chai or coffee. Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, black peppercorns, cloves and nutmeg all combine with espresso powder to make each slice truly taste like a cup of masala coffee. It’s not too sweet and the flurry of icing sugar on top is absolutely necessary to balance out the flavours and create the perfect look of a milky cup of coffee. The end result is as delicious as it is messy to eat.
Make this if you’re in need of a grown-up tasting cake to share with friends or enjoy in the comfort of your own company. It freezes beautifully so you can also stow away portions to eat later.
MORE IDEAS: Transform this cake into a chocolate dream by replacing 50g of the flour in the sponge recipe with 50g good-quality cocoa powder. Add 50g mini vegan chocolate chips to the crumb topping for a cookie dough-inspired finish. Or turn this into a masala chai cake by swapping the espresso powder for 25g black tea leaves — be sure to strain the soy milk before using. If you have pre-made chai masala, swap the individual spices in the sponge recipe for 1 tablespoon of pre-made masala. Alternatively, you could also use 1 tablespoon of your favourite gingerbread or pumpkin spice mix.
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