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Monday, April 7, 2008

National Coffee Cake Day

I can't believe I almost missed National Coffee Cake Day today. That's what I get for "coffee clotching" all day. You see, it was one of those dark, cloudy, damp, dismal Mondays in New York and the phone just wouldn't stop ringing. Who says it's National Coffee Cake Day anyway? It appears it's another one of those days proclaimed to be a "national" food day with very little support as to explain why. Quite frankly, I'm delighted! The notion of giving coffee cake a day of its own sits just fine with me. There's even a chance that a whole month is dedicated to coffee cake. Isn't that just wonderful! I'm still checking but, it seems that May, may just be Coffee Cake Month. We'll have to see. In the mean time, let's see what few little crumbs we can salvage to celebrat the rest of coffee cake day.

I don't know if I ever mentioned this before but, I'm not much of a baker. I suppose, I consider myself a sort of a "freelance" cook which to my taste simply means, I don't like following recipes. I know what you're thinking. She doesn't like following recipes but she has so many cookbooks. What gives? Nothing really. I have been known to follow a recipe or two in my day especially around the holidays. Like most families, we have traditional dishes we associate with personal milestones, holidays, celebrations and anything in between. Baking Panettone is one of those times when I must follow a recipe. Panettone is an Italian Coffee Cake prepared with yeast and a host of other ingredients. The sweet rich yeast dough is studded with raisins, filled with nuts and candied fruit. "Panettone" derives its meaning from the Italian word "panetto," a small loaf bread. With the addition of the "one" at the end, the meaning translates to "large bread." Nonnalina's Kitchen gives this definition:

A tall, fat cylindrical egg-rich cake studded with candied fruit and served traditionally at Christmas and Easter. A specialty of Lombardy. source

Where’s the Coffee in Coffee Cake?

Since I'm not much of a baker, I decided it was time to brush up on my coffee cake lingo while trying to scoop up a few links and recipes for all to share. Thank goodness is was fairly easy, there's some very informative sites readily available on the history of coffee cakes. I even found a site that defogs the steaming question; Where’s the Coffee in Coffee Cake? I was somewhat surprised to discover that the "definition" given to coffee cake is simply a cake that is served with coffee. Coffee cakes come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and flavors. They can be pound cakes, sponge cakes, yeast risen batter cakes or leavened by baking powder cakes. They can contain nuts, fruits or spices individually or all combined. They can be plainly decorated, glazed or streuseled. The one common denominator is {drum roll} they all go GREAT with a hot cup of coffee or a sweetly brewed cup of tea. A perfect example of a coffee cake is the traditional King's Cake baked for the official opening of Carnival Season in New Orleans. A nice thick piece of King's Cake and a hot cup of chicory coffee, oh my, it doesn't get much better than that; or does it? I think June Meyer who wrote the Hungarian cookbook titled June Meyer's Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes now in its third printing, would claim title for her Hungarian Coffee Cake recipe. The recipe is on her website which I have provided a link for below. Just like the Italians have their coffee cake steeped in Panettone history, coffee cakes are as diverse as the countries they have travelled from.

The German as well as the Holland communities were prominent in New York, Delaware and in New Jersey and were well known for their coffee cakes in the colonial days. Their recipes are very similar to the recipes for the pastry that are used today. The Scandinavians were advocates of the coffee break and they desired something sweet with their coffee and thus contributed to the evolution of their tasty cake. The Scandinavians were just as proud of their abilities to produce the tasty cake and other varieties of pastries as the people who emigrated from Central Europe to America. In the book Listening to America, the author claims that in the year 1879 coffee cake became a well known term in America. Historians have gone through old cook books and have concluded that recipes for coffee cake were being published for everyday American homemakers during the late eighteen hundreds. There are numerous varieties of this type of cake and a couple of the popular varieties are the streusel version and the crumb cake and streusel variation. source
Coffee cakes are baked by every ethnic group and each has their own specialties... American coffee cake recipes (as well as European recipes) vary vastly from regions reflecting a melting pot of recipes brought from immigrants the world over. Interesting to note, is that many older recipes changed with the advent of commercial baking powder in the 1850's. Prior to that many of the treasured older coffee cake recipes were leavened by yeast, especially cake yeast. exellent resource

If you minus the cake, add an extra helping of gossip, and shave a few morning hours, I was pretty much coffee clotching all day today. Hence, the slow delivery of this post. ”An afternoon kaffeeklatsch (coffee-and-cake gossip session) is one of Germany’s most cherished traditions. According to Evan Jones in American Food: The Gastronomic Story, German women brought to America the concept of the kaffeeklatsch, a break in the day to meet for some coffee, a sweet, and a little gossip. He also notes, the Scandinavians were probably more responsible than anyone else for instituting the idea of the American coffee break that featured sweets, since so many of their simple pastries were called coffee breads, coffee cakes, or coffee rings. I have to say, all this gossiping around a pot of coffee sounds much like a kettledrum except, a kettledrum beverage of choice is tea and the sweets are usually baked dainties or sandwiches.

As a child of the 60's, growing up on suburban Long Island, I have vivid memories of afternoon coffee clotches. All the neighborhood mothers would gather at one house, drink pots of coffee, smoke tons of cigarettes and nibble on Entenmann's cake. those were the days when Entenmann's was still family owned and operated and you could go to the bakery factory in Bay Shore and buy "damaged" cakes for half price!) The words coffee klatch or coffee klatsch come from the German root word kaffeeklatsch German, from Kaffee (coffee) + Klatsch gossip defined as "an informal social gathering for coffee and conversation." I venture to guess, if I accused my daughter of participating in a coffee clotch at the neighborhood "play date" meeting at the park, she would vehemently disagree. After all, she doesn't drink coffee. Well, the sewing circle may be at the park, and the coffee cake may have been replaced with a quick trip to Cinnabon, the concept, is pretty much the same.

I have gathered quite a batter full of recipes and links to share below but first, I would like to mention some highlights of my discoveries and also offer a recipe for a coffee cake filling which I found quite intriguing. IMHO, the most comprehensive source, which I noted above as an excellent resource, for everything coffee cake related can be found at baking 911. It's the second listing below. Not only does the article go into the history of coffee cake, there is also an extensive list of traditional coffee cakes from all over the world. Resources #6 & #7 are from The Fresh Loaf. I singled them out because the notion of baking cheese pockets, which I believe can be frozen, would certainly be a charming addition to an at home modern day play group. I can just imagine those little ones getting their sticky fingers into those pockets. For all you tea lovers out there, I have included a recipe link for mini tea cakes carefully baked by T.W. over at Culinary Types. I only have one contribution to National Coffee Cake Day. It's from one of my kitchen shelf cookbooks titled The Best of Everything Cookbook (1971) Published by The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, it truly is the best of everything compiled with over 500 recipes from more than 60 of the world's best cookbooks. The list of authors is a Who's Who of Cooking." There are recipes from James Beard, Julia Child, Helen Brown, Roy Andries de Groot, Dione Lucas, Ann Serrane, Mimi Sheraton and a host of others. I doubt the book is still in print but if you do happen upon a copy, give it a good look through. It really is a wonderful book and worthy of a place on the kitchen book shelf. I feel safe in making this claim, it's why I don't link to retail book stores to make money:)

The following recipe for coffee cake cheese filling is listed under the included recipe for the "cake" but I compared the recipe to the above recipe for Basic Coffeecake Dough and they are the same except for the one included in The Best of Everything Cookbook Makes 2 very large coffee cakes. The Cheese Filling recipe is from The Art of Good Cooking by Paula Peck.


Coffee Cake
Cheese Filling
2 tbs. yellow raisins
1 tbs. cognac
1 C. cream cheese or cottage cheese or 1/2 c. of each
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbs. flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. melted butter
1 tbs. sour cream
1/2 tsp. lemon rind
1/2 tsp vanilla
Mix raisins with cognac. Cream together cheese, sugar, and flour. Stir in egg yolk, then melted butter, sour cream, lemon rind and vanilla. Add cognac soaked raisins.

Resources (follow the numbered links)

  • 1. National Coffee Cake Day (Apple Nut Coffeecake)
  • 2. Where's the Coffee in Coffee Cake
  • 3. Basic Coffee-Cake Dough
  • 4. Basic Yeast-Risen Coffee Cake
  • 5. Coffee Cake Dough (German family recipe)
  • 6. Coffee Cake (yeast)
  • 7. Cheese Pockets
  • 8. Raised Almond Coffee Cake @ Cream Puffs in Venice
  • 9. Pecan Coffee Cake (why not bake this Pecan Coffee Cake for Pecan Day. 
  • 10. Mini-Bundt Coconut Tea Cakes with Cardamom & Rum Cream Glaze (T.W.'s mini tea cakes would be perfect with coffee or tea)
  • 11. Italian Coffee Cake (Panettone)
  • 12. June Meyer's Authentic Hungarian Heirloom Recipes (now in 3rd. printing)
  • 13. Coffee Cake Wreath (lots of fillings)
  • 14 What is King Cake?

6 comments:

  1. Hi Louise!
    I enjoyed reading about coffee cake and also looking up the great links you suggested. Coffee cakes in all their variety are one of my favorites to bake and eat.

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  2. Hi Manuela,

    Once again, I'm so glad you are feeling better. I'm a big fan of coffee cakes also. Although, that delectable cake you baked looks mighty tempting.

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  3. I LOVE Panettone! Thank goodness someone in my family likes to bake it so I don't have to. Sorry I missed Coffee Cake Day, but if a whole month is dedicated to it, let me know and I'll whip up a coffee cake or two in its honor. Like you, I'm not keen on baking, I prefer to cook. And, like you, I have a pot-load of cookbooks (and continue to get more) because I love reading them, and use them as guidelines for things I end up making. Sure, I will follow a recipe or two to the letter, but I do have a bit of a rebellious streak that prevents me from doing what I'm told when it comes to cooking. Enjoyed this post!

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  4. Hi Pattie!
    Fancy finding you here. I'm delighted you enjoyed this post.

    You sound like me. I knew there was a reason why we hit it off, lol....

    Thanks for dropping by. Now for the coffee!!!

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  5. I've enjoyed reading your blog (and visiting your suggested links), Louise. Who would have known an Official Coffee Cake day even existed - how fun. Keep up the great work =)

    - Shannon, Crumb Cake Creations, LLC

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  6. Hi Shannon,

    Thank you for your kind words. You have one mighty tasty looking site yourself. Now tell me, who doesn't absolutely adore New York Style Crumb Cake, lol...Drop by anytime. Right now we're in the middle of the annual Picnic Game. You know the one, I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing...Hope to "see" you there!

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Through this wide opened gate,
none came to early,
none returned to late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise