This is day 10 of 10 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses! Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.
Harbord Bakery is an everything bakery – the main wall lined with shelves proffering rye breads, fluffy challah, dense poppy seed Danish rings, and the fabled Thursday-through-Sunday-only chocolate babka. In comparison, the mocha java cake is a bit more discreet. We’ve only ever seen it in the freezer section, innocuously tucked away against the lemon and blueberry loaves. My roommate bought it once out of curiosity – a deep brown loaf cake with a tight, silky crumb, and intense coffee flavour. We devoured it within days – a slice for breakfast, oh a slice for afternoon snack, maybe another with tea in the evening. It’s such an anticipated treat that when we do buy it, we usually crack open the plastic clamshell as soon as we get home and eat the first piece (or two) while still frozen, breaking the softly brittle slices into pieces in our hands. It is just as great frozen too.
I’ve retained the name of the cake, mocha java, to be true to the original which is quite a zinger of a phrase. A zing emphasized by the Papyrus font the cake labels are printed in (takes me back to the immense envy I had when Solomon, a super clever and computer literate child in my grade 4 class, printed a story he had written in Papyrus.)
The tight crumb, one that is soft but doesn’t crumble, reminded me of my favourite lemon loaf, which I used as a base recipe. I quickly discovered the “mocha” in the title is a complete red herring – the first cake I made, with some cocoa powder, had a flavour completely off course and I realized that no, despite the power of suggestion suggesting otherwise, there was no chocolate flavour in that cake. I had also included cocoa powder as I wasn’t sure how instant coffee could produce such a deep colour–but it turns out with enough instant coffee for the flavour, you can get it there. To add extra moisture, flavour, and ensure that the crust is soft, just as in the original, I also brushed the cake with some additional coffee at the end.
This brings me to the end of the series. I’m a bit relieved – I’ve never come close to posting so many days in a row before! While I tried to prep as much as I could before starting the series, sometimes it takes a looming deadline to coerce myself into writing. Despite the work, I enjoyed it – I often struggle to think of content or topics to write about, but it comes more easily when you’re writing about things you love, such as these small Toronto businesses and their food
It was, of course, only a tip of the iceberg in terms of all the amazing local businesses that feed us. While it does reveal that my eating out tendencies tend to be mostly cafes for midday teas while studying, cafe representation was a bit exaggerated as these were also the businesses which gave me inspiration for a bake (don’t worry, I do cook too, but my cooking is quite…eh…).
And while the 10 day series proper has ended, I plan to continue this project every so often. I came up with quite a brainstorming list while settling on the final 10 bakes. As physical distancing continues, I’ll occasionally tackle some of these other local business-inspired ideas that I had, groceries willing of course. For anyone who has seen and read any part of the series, I hope it has you thinking of your own local small businesses! Stay safe, stay well.
mocha java loaf
- 138g all purpose flour
- 100g whole wheat flour (or use more all-purpose)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 135g sugar (use 150-180g for a sweeter cake)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 10g instant coffee (about 1.5 tbsp I’d estimate) dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
- 85g heavy cream
- 1 stick butter, melted
- strong coffee, to brush on the cake after baking
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan with a parchment paper sling and butter the exposed sides of the pan.
Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs thoroughly to combine, then whisk in the vanilla extract, dissolved instant coffee. Slowly pour in the heavy cream while whisking. Mix in the flour mixture with a spatula, and finally add the butter in 2-3 additions, folding in the butter completely each time. Scrape the batter, which is beautifully ribbony, into the prepared pan.
Bake for around 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer is removed clean. Remove from the oven, prick lightly all over with a wooden skewer and brush generously with strong brewed coffee. Once removed from the tin, brush along the sides to soften and moisten all the edges and corners.