Intro: How to Make Placek (Polish Coffee Cake)
This coffee cake recipe, pronounced plah-tsek, is a favorite in my family for holidays, special occasions, or just whenever we feel like having a delicious breakfast item/snack at hand. My mother got this recipe from her mother, who had received this recipe from her Polish relatives.
Here is what you will need to make this recipe:
Large bowls (2)
Fork or pastry cutter
Measuring cups (¼ cup to 1 cup)
Measuring spoons (½ teaspoon to 1 tablespoon)
Large loaf pans (3) OR small loaf pans (8)
Sheet pan (large enough to fit all three loaf pans on it)
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk (can be made using 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice)
½ cup oil (canola, vegetable, olive, or whatever else you prefer)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick (½ cup) butter (room temperature)
1 tbs Crisco (can use butter instead)
1 tsp vanilla extract
*This recipe normally makes three large loaves, but for my demonstration I cut the ingredient amounts in half so that I did not end up with an excessive amount of coffee cake for the number of people I planned to serve
Step 1: Prep Ovens and Pans
Preheat your oven for 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 177 degrees Celsius). Make sure that the oven you are using is wide/deep enough to fit the sheet pan you have selected, as well as tall enough for the loaf pans you have chosen. Grease the loaf pans, using either cooking spray or the wrapper from the butter you will use for the crumbs. After greasing the pans, lightly flour them by taking a small pinch of flour, dropping the flour in each pan, and carefully swirling the flour around until the pans are completely coated. Remember, you can always add a pinch more flour if you need to, but do not start with too much flour at first because you do not want flour-y tasting cakes.
Step 2: Make the Crumbs
To a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, butter (cut the butter into small chunks to make mixing easier), Crisco, and vanilla extract. Using a pastry cutter (or a fork if you do not have a pastry cutter), cut together the crumb ingredients until the ingredients are mostly combined; there will be some lumps of butter, but that is what you want to see. After the crumbs are mixed, set the crumbs aside for later, preferably in the fridge so that the butter does not melt much further.
Step 3: Combine Dry Batter Ingredients
In a new large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using a whisk, mix the dry ingredients together until they are fully incorporated, meaning that you should not be able to distinguish any of the dry ingredients from each other after they are mixed.
Step 4: Add Wet Ingredients to the Dry Ingredients
After the dry ingredients are combined, add the wet ingredients to the bowl: the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla extract. Then whisk everything together. There are a few extra things that are very important to do/remember in this step to make sure your cakes turn out as excellent as possible. When adding the eggs, do not break them directly into the large bowl. Instead, break the eggs into a smaller separate bowl to make it easier to check for shell pieces, and then when you are sure there is no shell, add the eggs to the large bowl. When you whisk the batter together, you want the batter to be smooth, but DO NOT over-mix the batter; over-mixing will result in a tough and unappetizing final product. You want to stop mixing as soon as all the wet and dry ingredients are completely combined and there are no lumps.
Step 5: Assemble the Cakes in the Pans
Pour the cake batter evenly throughout all the loaf pans, using a spatula to scrape as much batter as possible out of the bowl to avoid wastage. Each cake pan should be filled about halfway to avoid the cakes rising too high out of the pans, and the batter should be spread as evenly as possible between the pans so that each loaf ends up about the same size. After the batter is dispersed throughout the pans, use a small spoon to sprinkle the crumbs over the batter so the batter is no longer visible, then very gently use the back of the spoon to press the crumbs into the batter so they will not fall off as much when the cakes are baked. Depending on your preference, you may not want to use all of the crumbs you have made. If this is the case, you can freeze the remaining crumbs in a plastic bag.
Step 6: Bake, Serve, and Enjoy!
Put the filled loaf pans on a sheet pan, then place the sheet pan in the oven. Bake the loaves for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Be sure to turn the cakes halfway through cooking time to ensure that the cakes bake evenly. When the cakes are done, take the pan out of the oven and let the cakes cool for about ten minutes. After the cakes are cooled, use a plastic knife to loosen the sides of the cakes from the pans. Place a plate on top of each of the pans, then quickly flip the plate and pan over so that the cake falls out of the pan. A warning for this step, depending on how quick and careful you are, you may or may not have some of the loose crumbs fly everywhere when you flip each cake (I certainly did), so be ready for some clean-up afterwards. If the cake does not fall out immediately, you may need to either firmly tap the bottom of the loaf pan or flip the pans back over to go around the cakes with the plastic knife again. After the cakes are out of the pans, you can either serve them immediately, or wrap them in aluminum foil and store the cakes in the fridge for later. As for serving recommendations, I would suggest eating each slice with a light spread of butter, and a glass of cold milk, or (as the name itself suggests) a hot cup of coffee, prepared to your liking.
Link for finished product video: