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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In Celebration of Coffee Cakes on April 7th, National Coffee Cake Day: The Delicious History of Coffee

Have you ever wondered how coffee cake came to be?  After all, coffee cake doesn’t always have coffee in it and it’s excellent with or without coffee.  How did all this deliciousness happen?

Coffee cake was not invented, rather it evolved from a variety of different types of cakes into the delicious dessert (or breakfast) we now know and love.  From honey cakes to simple flat cakes, to fruitcakes and than to yeasty rolls, coffee cake progressed over time into one of the most popular and delicious desserts.

Cakes in their various forms have been around since biblical times, the simplest varieties made from honey or dates and other fruits.  The French later developed “galettes”, small and simple round flat cakes.  Later in the in the medieval period a more fruit-intensive dessert emerged, probably a close ancestor to the modern day fruitcakes that are enjoyed around Christmastime.  These were predecessor to the Danish sweet and yeasty rolls meant to accompany the beverage, which gradually led to the development of Coffee Cake—with actual coffee added.

The Danish came up with the earliest versions of coffee cake.  Around the 17th century in Europe, it became the custom to enjoy a delicious sweet and yeasty type of bread when drinking coffee beverages.  Later, French, German, Dutch, and Scandinavian immigrants brought over the “coffee cake” to America as a breakfast bread recipe.  At this point in time, the dessert was more bread-like than the coffee cake we now know, containing flour, eggs, sugar, nuts, spices, dried fruit, and yeast.  Modern recipes contain cream, cheese, yogurt, and sour cream in addition to make the dessert moist and cake-like.  There are many available combinations, everything from blueberry coffee cakes to cinnamon walnut coffee cake and more.
 
By the year 1875, coffee cakes were not only well known in America but they were very popular.  Many recipes appeared with brown sugar crumbs, streusel, and combinations of both types.  Streusel cakes have swirls of brown sugar and cinnamon running throughout the batter with a top combination of butter, sugar, and spices.

The hole in the center of most coffee cakes is a relatively recent innovation—it became popular in the 1950’s.  This “bundt pan” was invented to allowed heavier batters to get cooked all the way through without any dough left unbaked in the center.  The “flutes” or patterns sometimes seen on these pans are for decorative purposes.

Coffee cake is loved by many and has long been associated with coffee and social interludes with friends.  Next time you indulge, appreciate the company of those around you and reflect on the rich history you’re enjoying!


APPLE OATMEAL COFFEE CAKE
Ingredients
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1 cup oats
1/2 cup oil
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup apple, peeled and chopped
Mix dry ingredients together. Add remaining ingredients (mixture will be quite thick). Pour into a greased 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minute

Cranberry-Apple Coffee Cake
Ingredients:
1 box yellow cake mix
1 can cranberry-apple pie filling
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
Powdered Sugar Glaze:
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cake mix, pie filling, and eggs. Mix well and pour into prepared pan. Combine flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon and blend with a pastry blender until moist and crumbly. Sprinkle on top of batter.
Bake for 45 minutes. Cool in pan and when almost cooled, combine powdered sugar and milk and drizzle glaze over the top.
Serves: 10

APRICOT CRUNCH COFFEE CAKE
Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs
1 large jar apricot baby food
1 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped nuts
Mix all ingredients together and pour into a 10-inch bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes, then turn onto cake plate. Dust with powdered sugar.

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