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Triple Citrus Coffee Cake

The end result!

Today is Sugar High Friday! Hosted by Alice from My Adventures in the Breadbox, this month’s theme is “Pucker up with Citrus.” I immediately thought of Sorbet, Key Lime Pie, tarts and various fruity sauces that would fit the theme nicely, but none of the recipes I had for those desserts excited me. I’m a sweet girl, not a big fan of tart flavors and puckering up, so I went in search for a challenging recipe that had a nice, soft citrus flavor.

Last weekend I attended the French Culinary Institute’s Passion for Pastry Conference, where I serendipitously learned a great recipe for Triple Citrus Coffee Cake, presented by Tara Bench from Martha Stewart Living. The recipe was obviously perfect for the citrus theme of today’s event, and the bread’s staggered shape looked like a good challenge to create. I was a little nervous attempting this recipe since I had never made bread before. I know what you must be thinking — how can you leave to be a baker and have never made bread? I’ve been too caught up in cakes and cookies and decided to finally use this opportunity as my chance to try it.

The most difficult part of this recipe for me was finding the time required to complete all of the steps. You have to let the bread rise (or “proof” as I learned at the class) twice, which takes a total of 2 hours in addition to the time required to measure and mix ingredients. (It took approximately 4 hours to complete from start to finish.) Once the bread has properly risen, you roll the cream cheese filling into the dough and pinch shut. You then slice the dough and spread the pieces apart like wings, which will puff up and turn a nice gold brown during baking. The instructions are hard to interpret by description alone, so I have included pictures to help show you how it works. A few things I learned while making this recipe:

  • The weather and temperature inside your house will affect how much flour you need to add into the dough. I had to add the maximum amount of flour recommended by the recipe (6 cups) to get the dough to properly pull away from the bowl.
  • I’m not a fan of poppy seeds, and replaced the amount called for with finely chopped cranberries. It gives the filling an extra cranberry kick and still holds up nicely against the bread. You can also replace the poppy seeds with chopped nuts or other dried fruit.
  • Watch the bottoms of the bread, especially the loaf on the bottom rack, as it gets close to being done to make sure you don’t over bake.
  • If you don’t want to bake both loaves at once, you can put one in the freezer after it is fully prepared (complete step 6, but do not start step 7.) You must freeze the bread before letting it rise for a second time. Once you are ready to bake, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost for 4-5 hours. This will take the place of the second 30 minute rise the recipe calls for.

The end result is a beautifully shaped loaf that tastes like a cheese danish. The citrus is faintly present, but the cream cheese and cranberries definitely have the most impact. I may rename this recipe to “Cranberry Coffee Cake” or “Cranberry Cheese Danish” in the future, but in honor of the Sugar High Friday theme, we can refer to it by the original Triple Citrus Coffee Cake name for now. Enjoy!

Triple Citrus Coffee Cake
Recipe by Tara Bench, Martha Stewart Living
Makes two 16-inch loaves; each serves 6 to 8


1/2 cup warm water (about 110ºF)
2 packages dry yeast
2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten, plus 1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
13 tablespoons (1 5/8 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 lime
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon salt
5 to 6 cups flour, plus more for work surface
1 pound (two 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries (4 1/4 oz.)
2/3 cup poppy seeds (or chopped nuts or dried fruit)


1. Butter a large bowl; set aside. Stir warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon granulated sugar in another large bowl until yeast dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk in orange juice, 2 eggs, remaining 2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, citrus zests, and salt. Stir in 5 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time (add up to one cup flour if needed), until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ball.

2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead until smooth and slightly sticky, about 5 minutes. Transfer to buttered bowl; brush dough with 1 tablespoon butter. Loosely cover with plastic wrap; let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, make filling; mix cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Stir in dried cranberries and poppy seeds; set aside.

4. Butter two baking sheets; set aside. Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll out one half into an 11×15 inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons butter, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Spread 1 1/2 cups filling evenly over butter. Beginning at one long side, tightly roll dough into a log, encasing filling. Pinch seam to seal.

Pinch the dough shut after filling

5. Carefully transfer log to a prepared baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make 6 cuts, about 2 inches apart, along one long side of log, cutting three-quarters of the way across.

Cut the dough 3/4 way through after pinching shut

6. Lift the first segment, turn it cut side up and lay it flat. Repeat with the next segment, twisting so it sits on the opposite side of the roll. Continue down log, alternating sides. Repeat with remaining dough, butter, and filling; place on second baking sheet.

Turn the dough over so it is on the opposite side of the roll

The dough is now ready to rise for the second time

7. Preheat oven to 350ºF with racks on upper and lower thirds. Loosely cover dough with buttered pieces of plastic wrap, and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Brush dough with egg wash, avoiding filling. Bake on upper and lower racks, switching positions of sheets halfway through, until cooked through and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Carefully slide cakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely before slicing.


Barbara says on May 20th, 2005 at 10:25 pm:

This looks fabulous. It will soon be winter here and I’ll have time to make this. It sounds and looks fabulous.

chronicler says on May 20th, 2005 at 10:49 pm:

This looks really good. What a great opportunity to be able to go to the conference! It’s prbably the most creative way to enter a recipe for a SHF! You could always glaze it with a citrus glaze to bring out the citrus flavors.

I understand the time contraints. Everytime I wait until the day of the event I end up changing my mind about a recipe. Yours looks like it turned out great, even if it did eat up a lot of time.

Rachel says on May 21st, 2005 at 7:00 am:

Oh yum, yum yum!

Lori says on May 21st, 2005 at 8:17 am:

My goodness, for someone who’s never baked bread before, this is outstanding! I wish I’d been as lucky when I was a bread novice!

Kelli says on May 21st, 2005 at 10:02 am:

I love the idea to add a citrus glaze! Thanks. That would make this bread truly decadent (as if all the butter and cream cheese filling didn’t already :) ) I highly recommend trying this bread with other fillings too, it could be different every time you make it.

Jessica says on May 21st, 2005 at 10:35 pm:

I agree-baking bread and pastries is completely different! Bread is not one of my strong points, and I can’t “troubleshoot” a loaf as well as I can analyze cake/cookie recipes. This looks really good, but I’m too chicken to make it-there’s too much butter and cream cheese!

tanvi says on May 21st, 2005 at 11:36 pm:

so pretty! and tasty im sure :-)

Alice says on May 22nd, 2005 at 10:04 am:

Gorgeous! I’ve always wanted to try a bread like that myself…maybe this is the one I should tackle first. Thanks for such a wonderful entry!

keiko says on May 22nd, 2005 at 3:12 pm:

Kelli, I know I’m going to love this… it looks so good.

Nic says on May 22nd, 2005 at 9:13 pm:

Wow, Kelli. That is one heck of a loaf for your first bread! I love the look of twisted coffee cakes like yours.

Jennifer says on May 23rd, 2005 at 1:32 pm:

I have had this very recipe in my “to make” pile since last Christmas…I think I might just have to try it out, seeing how great it sounds! Very impressive.

Tea says on May 23rd, 2005 at 3:38 pm:

What a delightful looking pastry. It’s very impressive and looks exactly like something I’d buy when I go to a coffeeshop. Yum!

Kacee says on November 20th, 2005 at 2:23 pm:

Oh my God this is such a fantastic recipe! It’s from MS Jan 04, and I’ve made it many times, it works well if you cut the pieces an inch to an inch and a half thick, so that when you twist them they sort of lay on top of the last one. It makes it a little sturdier to move and transport, too.

ricetta says on May 5th, 2007 at 10:49 am:



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Lovescool is the documentation of a journey to discover what sweet things are out there, why people love them so much, and perhaps what it takes to start something new.

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An interest, that turned into a blog, that turned into a career. Kelli Bernard is now the owner and baker of Amai Tea & Bake House.

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