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Cream Cheese Apple Coffee Cake

n. a kind of melancholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life. 

  That word right there, real or not, describes me exactly these days.  I don't know if it's the autumn weather or the total incomprehensibleness of near-death incidents and death itself, but everything is quaking with fragility.

  I've been thinking a lot about the number of spaces I've occupied with my quiet this year.  In the beginning I was cleaning out my old room, which seemed to receive the stamp of "old" way too fast.  My window, my keyboard, my piano stool, my creaky little bed.  The walls that had 3-4 layers of paint underneath them, each color telling a story about some phase I went through in my life.
  I went from that back to my dorm room.  Concrete walls that filtered sound all too well, my bed that was 6 feet off the ground, my desk where I spent many melancholic hours doing homework, a roommate that somehow brightened my day a little bit every time she got back from class, a neighbor that would kick my door open regularly just to come and sit with me and my moods.
  I packed that up too.  I occupied my little trailer room for awhile, adorning the cheap wooden walls with quotes to help erase the angst that the boonies of Wisconsin instill in me.
  I left for Arizona.  I had the room that was meant for an office, double doors with no locks that liked to jam and unlatch loudly.  A tiny bed on the floor, a love seat, blaze pink portable closet, and a dresser with my food props piled on top.  The loneliness felt there is still very vivid, even with an aunt that bought my sad self ice cream and little dogs with sweet kisses.
  Then I was in a guest bedroom for the Schuster season.  I fell asleep on the lower half of a trundle every night, just across from a sewing machine.  Photo albums, old clothes, and questionable puppets piled into the closets and corners.  I felt the temporary-ness of it, and I wished it was otherwise.  I had a friend at least, coming and checking on me often.  But it wasn't my home.  It wasn't a white farmhouse surrounded by fields.  It wasn't my soft grey-walled bedroom with an old, stained carpet.
  And until I can really establish myself someplace, I don't think I'm going to ever really feel that sense of home again.

  It's a hard thing to come to terms with.  It's hard realizing you took a lot of things for granted.  I remember standing by my bedroom window, looking at the U-Haul parked in our front yard.  It didn't seem real, and it still doesn't.  Even now, surrounded by house plans and new beginnings, my heart aches for the room that I thought would always be familiar and on-hand.

  And that's heartily unrealistic of me, even without moving away there's no way I could've stayed there forever.  I guess I'm feeling a little bit more lost than usual lately, and my subconscious keeps reverting to missing things that made me feel like I belong.  My house, old relationship, and messy educational college journey are just a few things that have been my haunting me lately.  Because without those things, I'm just a girl going from one space to the next, and everything is just dull.  

  I made a cake with apples, topped it with cream cheese, and then a generous amount of streusel.  It was incredibly delicious, but even eating that warm from the pan did very little for me.  I'm sleeping in late, I don't want to really "hang out," I have a temper to be reckoned with, and I'm so sucked into this void of me that I'm not even comprehending other people's problems and pains.  And it's weird.  It's really weird.  It happened even when I was at my busiest point with work, nothing makes it go away.

  I hope it stops soon, because I need to get out of this apple-baking lingering fall rut that I seem to have fallen into.  I really do...

  ...maybe a piece or two of cake will do the trick.

Cream Cheese Apple Coffee Cake
Yield: one 8x8-inch cake

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled and chopped apples (chopped small) 

Ingredients for the cream cheese layer:

  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar

Ingredients for the streusel:
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt 
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease an 8x8 inch square pan. 

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter and sugars for the cake and mix until fluffy.  Add the egg, oil, and vanilla and mix until combined.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Stir into the butter mixture on low speed, mixing just until combined.  Stir in the chopped apples.  Spread into the prepared pan. 

In the bowl of a mixer or with a handheld mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla for the cream cheese layer until smooth and combined.  Spread over the cake batter in the pan. 

Combine all the streusel ingredients using your hands or a pastry blender until well combined, the mixture will resemble coarse meal.  Sprinkle over the cream cheese mixture. 

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the topping is browned.  Allow to cool for about 2 hours before serving.

Sources: Yammie's Noshery