Sunday, November 7, 2010

7 November 1956 “Q & A Sunday: The Coffee Cake”

I actually received a few questions about my coffee cake. Two people, overseas readers, asked how I made the recipe without yeast and letting it rise. So, I thought this lovely breakfast or tea-time cake deserved some good answers.
First lets address the old fashioned recipe which does include yeast and a rise time. This recipe also makes lovely buns, very like cinnamon buns. This is the recipe I use from my Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School book from 1955. (note for this recipe, when it refers to yeast cake on pg 67, it is merely telling you to dissolve your yeast in 1/4 warm water.)
This is really a rather easy recipe, but the wait time and messing about with yeast can be an issue for some or for any new bakers. I know I first approached yeast with some trepidation and fear, wondering if mad scientists or movie-type explosions would result.
There are ‘easier’ or no yeast versions of both Coffee Cakes and Kuchen in my other cookbooks. In fact Kaffee Kuchen shows up most times on the same page as Coffee Cake in most of my vintage cookbooks as well as various magazines of the time. They all are about the same. The difference with a Kuchen versus the Cake, is in the kuchen the yolks are added separately and then the whites are beaten stiff and folded in. My recipe in my Better Homes also includes a ‘Topper’ which is the usual brown sugar, flour, butter made into a crumble. However I have also seen Kuchen recipes that simply have you add a well beaten egg, not separating the whites. But, by and large, the Kuchen tends to use the beaten egg whites.
The basic Coffee Cake recipe I use is basically either of these two. One is from Better Homes and Gardens the other from Betty Crocker. They are basically identical. I, however, use melted better rather than oil or shortening or margarine.
coffeecakebetterhomes coffeecakebettycrocker You can see they are basically the same recipe. I usually make the Streusel filled coffee cake found on the Quick Breads page. This mixes the streusel in the middle and on top, quite yummy.
This is very easy to mix up and does not require your mixer. Just some bowls and a wooden spoon is all I use.
coffeecake1 Here is the sugar, melted butter ( I use stove but you could easily pop butter in the microwave to melt it, even in the same bowl-less clean up), and egg. See what a lovely color it is.
coffeecake2 Here it is after the dry ingredients have been added. I don’t even sift my drys for this, I merely measure it straight in and stir away. A coffee cake is very forgiving. You can see the crumble made up in the bowl next it. Those are my fresh chicken’s eggs, they started laying on my birthday!
coffeecake3 Here you see I have put in half the batter (you can spread this batter with a spoon, it is not runny like a traditional cake, making it rather easy to manipulate). And here it is before baking with remainder of the batter and the rest of the crumble.coffeecake4
And, finally, fresh from the oven:coffeecake5 And straight to the breakfast or tea-time table.coffeecake6 Look at those delicious bits of crumble and warm golden cake, mmm…coffeecake7
So you can see, it is rather easy and sets up nicely. It is a nice cake to have about for a quick snack and it packs wonderfully.
Coffee cake is also a good tea cake. It has the firmness that allows one to eat it with their fingers while holding cups of tea, much like an English Sponge. In fact, I find that an English Sponge, a Victoria sponge and so on, are rather similar to our Coffee cake.
Now a coffee cake can also mean, quite literally, a cake which contains coffee. Today that usually means instant coffee, but I am sure using fresh brewed could work but you would need to adjust it to your liquid ingredients.
The sponge (sponge cake) served with English tea can be a Coffee Sponge. Thus, a Coffee Cake, in that it contains coffee.  Every recipe I have seen for a Victoria sponge seems rather similar to a basic no yeast coffee cake, with varying degrees of complications, such as having to stir in each ingredient in a certain order, to serving the cake layered with jam and cream and dusted with confectioners sugar. Any UK readers out there, please give more information. When you eat ‘coffee cake’ ,if you do, is it a coffee sponge? Or do you eat the ‘coffee cake’ that is the yeast risen similar to our coffee rolls? Do let us know.
Here is a very easy Victoria Sponge recipe. It’s base, much like the coffee cake, seems a great vehicle to make any various forms of cake by simply mixing in. This cake, as well, is usually cut in half frosted with jam and dusted with confectioners sugar, yummy!
victoriasponge Victoria Sponge (if you click the image you will get the recipe in metric measurements, we Americans refuse to let go of our Imperial)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch pan. Sift the flour and baking powder into a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing thoroughly with each addition. Slowly stir the flour mixture in with the butter, sugar, and eggs. Beat in the milk and vanilla until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. This cake is traditionally served unfrosted, just cut in two horizontally and filled with jam or custard and dusted with confectioners' sugar.
Here, then, is a recipe for a ‘coffee cake’ that is a sponge with coffee in. It comes from HERE.
1 Cup Caster Sugar
1 Cup Self raising flour
3 Eggs
2 Tbsp Camp Coffee
For filling:
Butter 3oz
Icing Sugar 3oz
Coffee (to taste)
  • Beat together sugar and eggs until light and fluffy
  • Add coffee then fold in flour
  • Pour into two 8 inch sandwich tins and bake at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes
  • For the filling: beat together equal quantities of butter and icing sugar, till well mixed
  • Add coffee to taste
  • Sprinkle a little icing sugar on top when put together and finished
So, here is to a wonderful Sunday morning and a nice hot piece of Coffee Cake, Kaffee Kuchen, Sponge, or whatever you like to call it. Happy Homemaking!
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