Oat, Brown Sugar & Five Spice Coffee Cake

BreakfastCakeBreakfast food for non-conformists.

Last week my friend Treasha’s mum made a Five Spice Grilled Cake which was utterly delicious and I have no idea how to even begin to make that one.  But it got us talking about the spices we liked to eat and I started thinking about how I could incorporate five spice into sweet instead of just savoury dishes.

Around rolls Sunday morning and all I can think to buy for breakfast is oats but now I have them home I don’t want to eat porridge.  In fact, I don’t want any sloppy food today.  Thus in the spirit of compromise between what I need to eat and what I think I want to eat, out pops this cake. Let us peasants eat cake if there is no bread!

This cake was lighter in texture than I expected but deceptively stomach-filling and soul-sustaining. All I had to hand was dark brown sugar which meant that the edges and the top crisped almost into caramel. I have heard it is not supposed to be used for cakes but I’m gonna keep doing it.

Most importantly, the house smelled wonderful for most of the day, and the cake is just as good to eat today as yesterday, if not a little better. Recipe inspired by Deborah Madison and Treasha’s mum.

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 12 dried apricots, cut into 4 or 6 depending on size
  • 110g butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chinese five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda (baking soda)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Topping Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 50-60g butter cold from the fridge
  • 1/2 cup skinned, chopped almonds


  1. Mix all the topping ingredients together with your fingers (or a food processor if you have one). You want it to resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Refrigerate.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375F. Boil 1 1/2 cups water and pour over the oats, add the vanilla essence, cinnamon and five spice.  Grease and flour 23cm cake tin.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time.
    Doing this step by hand has given me blisters. If you have the right equipment to make this step less painful, I recommend you use it.
  4. Once the mixture is smooth, add the oats and mix through.
  5. Combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a separate bowl then add to the above mixture and stir gently with a rubber spatula until smooth.
  6. Pour into cake tin, arrange the dried apricot pieces around the top of the cake.
    I pushed them just under the top of the cake batter because they will sink anyhow and I didn’t want them on the very top or very bottom of the cake.
  7. Sprinkle over the topping mixture and bake in the oven for around 35 minutes (until skewer comes out clean).
  8. Cool for at least 45 minutes if you don’t want to burn your mouth.

Warning: if you open the oven 100 times (as I did in the first 10 minutes) it will cool down then the crispy topping will be virtually non-existent. I have to say this because the aroma kept drawing me over to the oven and I had to get quite stern with myself to stop from opening the door.



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