These sunny, seductive little cakes are perfect mouthfuls of coffeecake from the golden crumb to the zingy cranberry bits to the browned, chunky topping that crumbles apart in your mouth. A basket of these is equally good for breakfast, teatime, or as an autumnal dessert for Thanksgiving. Cranberries are indigenous to America and are harvested in the fall by flooding their fields with water. Each berry contains a bubble of air which causes it to float, float right off the branches of their bush. The only step left is to skim all the glissening garnet colored berries off the surface of the water--and they've already had their bath! All the old baking books in my collection include page after page of coffeecake recipes. Back then, the midmorning coffee break a stimulating cup and a bite of something sweet was a given. Don't we still deserve a little treat to get us through the rest of the day? Everything about the recipe can be done in advance, right down to filling the cups with batter. Just don't sprinkle on the topping (which you can make literally months in advance and keep in the freezer) until just before you bake.
A few 4-ounce cup muffin pans; ribbed paper cupcake liners
Make the Cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the muffin tins with paper liners.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. While the mixer is running, slowly add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, waiting for each to be incorporated before adding the next, and mix until light and fluffy.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Working in batches, add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture, alternating with dollops of sour cream. Mix in the cranberries. Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared tins, filling them no more than 3/4 full.
Make the Topping: Combine the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the butter pieces and, using your fingertips, pinch the ingredients together into a sandy, crumbly mixture. Add the walnuts and mix. Sprinkle the mixture over the cakes.
Bake until risen and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan.
Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand, Gale Gand's Just A Bite by Gale Gand and Julia Moskin: Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, 2001