Monday, April 20, 2015

Why Is It Called Coffee Cake?

April keeps flying along. Having reached the 20th we have landed on the magical day of the Cake Slice Bakers reveal. This month the Cake Slice Bakers had an awesome choice of cakes to bake from the book we are baking from the Southern Cake Book.

From many delicious choices, including cheesecake bars, a decadent carrot cake, a different green tea cake and a brown sugar and pecan coffee cake, I went for the one for which I had the ingredients on hand...the coffee cake. Very glad I did. I was questioned by a friend however. Since there is no coffee in this cake, why is it called a coffee cake. All that I could figure out is that it goes very well with a hot cup of coffee.

This is a simple cake to make. You don't need a mixer, but a pastry tool to cut the butter into the dry ingredients is essential. I know they say you can do it with a couple of knives, but I've tried that and trust me, a pastry blender is a much better tool. Sur la Table has a nice OXO one for $12, but you can ususally find one anywhere that kitchen gear is sold.

Sweet brown sugar, a touch of cinnamon, and chopped pecans are the obvious flavors here, but there is plenty of butter and sour cream in the recipe to add richness. I made a little extra of the crumb mixture and combined it with the pecan mixture for the topping to make it more like the New York Crumb Cake they have at my local eatery. I baked the bottom crust for just a few minutes, too, which made the bottom crust more solid than it might have been otherwise. 

Both of these changes made for an interesting textural contrast. The bottom layer had snap, the middle one with the sour cream was soft and almost pillowy, and the top layer combined both crunch and crumb. I really liked this dessert and so did Sweetie. Surprisingly it kept quite well for a week. I kept it on the counter, wrapped in foil. It makes a big pan of cinnamon sugar goodness, so we gave about half of it away to friends. Probably should have given away more, but it was too delicious to not eat ourselves.

Be sure to check out the other Cake Slice Bakers this month to see which of the selection they chose to bake. You'll be glad you did!

Here is my variation of the Brown Sugar Pecan Coffee Cake from
The Southern Cake Book

This coffee cake has crumbs in the crust, filling and topping. Makes for a quick and delicious cake.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, cubed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Stir together the flour and brown sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly and butter is is very small pieces. This mixture will be divided into three parts:

Press 2 3/4 cups crumb mixture on the bottom of a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch pan (that's where the shortening gets used), spreading evenly and packing down. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

While crust is baking, remove 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture remaining and put it in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add the baking soda to the main crumb mixture and stir to combine. In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg and vanilla. Add to the crumb mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour sour cream mixture over the crumb crust in the baking pan.

In the small bowl that has the 1/2 cup crumb mixture, mix together that crumb mixture, the granulated sugar, cinnamon and nuts. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter in the baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into portions and serve.
Makes 12 servings


  1. Brilliant idea to bake contrast into the classic coffee cake! Yes please to extra topping =)

  2. Elle, I just love your variation of this cake! I nearly made this one and wish I had now after looking at yours. Laura@ Baking in Pyjamas

  3. This is the sandiest and crumbliest and most decadent looking coffee cake I've ever seen - usually that nice sandy topping is ONLY topping, but this looks like it's all over! Yum, and what a difference!

  4. Elle, this was my second choice and I just love the look of yours here. I am so glad it went well! Hazel x

  5. This cake looks delicious! I would love to have me a slice for breakfast! Glad the recipe was a success!

  6. Oh my, that topping is decadent! Noted your tip on using a pastry blender tool! I wonder if it is the same as a Tescoma brand 'dough kneader' I have?

  7. Love your variation and I am all for extra topping. My husband would love this!