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Coffee cake comfort: Dive in to rich, warm and welcoming

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  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is an apple-pecan version with a layer of apples adding richness and pecans giving crunch. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is an apple-pecan version with a layer of apples adding richness and pecans giving crunch. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is a cinnamon-pecan version with strawberry-pecan butter. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is a cinnamon-pecan version with strawberry-pecan butter. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • This coffee cake recipe from Marion Cunngham is easy to make and is good by itself but is even tastier with fruit and ice cream or whipped cream. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    This coffee cake recipe from Marion Cunngham is easy to make and is good by itself but is even tastier with fruit and ice cream or whipped cream. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is a cinnamon-pecan version with strawberry-pecan butter. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is a cinnamon-pecan version with strawberry-pecan butter. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is an apple-pecan version with a layer of apples adding richness and pecans giving crunch. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

    Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is an apple-pecan version with a layer of apples adding richness and pecans giving crunch. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is an apple-pecan version with a layer of apples adding richness and pecans giving crunch. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is a cinnamon-pecan version with strawberry-pecan butter. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • This coffee cake recipe from Marion Cunngham is easy to make and is good by itself but is even tastier with fruit and ice cream or whipped cream. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is a cinnamon-pecan version with strawberry-pecan butter. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)
  • Coffee cake is a nice treat after dinner, as breakfast or for an afternoon break. This is an apple-pecan version with a layer of apples adding richness and pecans giving crunch. (Renee Brock/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Nothing is more warming and comforting on a brisk autumn day than coffee cake. Not to mention that it’s the perfect excuse for indulging your sweet tooth first thing in the morning.

A form of quick bread, coffee cakes are easy to assemble, too. Put one in the oven. Make a pot of coffee. And your family and house guests will awake to a tantalizing aroma profile — caffeine wafting with cinnamon, toasted pecans, brown sugar and butter. Add sliced apples to the mix, and you have the perfect paean to fall.

Sour cream or vegetable oil ensure moistness. But coffee cakes needn’t be gussied up with toppings. A coffee cake can be pure and plain.

The late great food writer Marion Cunningham, who died in July, was a teetotaler who loved coffee and cake. Starting with a rich batter that tastes like vanilla ice cream, her coffee cake is simplicity itself. With its exceedingly soft texture, it hits all the pound-cake notes without the density.

In her new book, “Pecans,” Kathleen Purvis tells us about a Charlotte, N.C., restaurant that served a coffee cake so popular that the kitchen had to make two dozen pans a day. You’ll understand why when you fork into this nutty spiced cake slathered with strawberry-pecan butter.

Drizzled with icing and laden with pecans, cinnamon and raisins, our Apple-Pecan Coffee Cake has the flavor of cinnamon rolls and the structure of a coffee cake.

Just keep the cake beside the coffee pot and let your guests help themselves. It’s a magnet for nibblers. And when you want to take a homemade treat to a brunch — or even a wake — you really should consider the coffee cake.

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