Grandma’s Coffee Cake

In April I visited my wonderful Grandma on her farm in Leamington, Ontario. Her famous coffee cake is one the first desserts I ever remember her making.

“Grandma what is that?” I asked her when I was six years old. She was sitting at the table along with my parents, two uncles and two aunts. They were chatting and smiling.

“It’s coffee cake,” she answered.I don’t remember eating any then. I thought it was something for adults only, just like coffee. While some coffee cake has coffee in it, hers doesn’t. This coffee cake made me quite curious, even then.

I asked her if we could make a coffee cake one morning during my visit. “Sure,” she said. “Just let me make sure I have enough yeast.” She opened the fridge and pulled a plastic bag tied with a knot from the door. “Looks like enough,” she said.

I found out Grandma has been combining two recipes to make her family-famous coffee cake. The two recipes are from The American Woman’s Cook Book, published by The Culinary Arts Institute in Chicago in 1951. The thick book contains over 800 pages (!) of almost every recipe you can think of. I was really impressed! “It’s the only cookb ook you’d ever need,” said Grandma.

Hers was falling apart. I can tell it was used create one joyful family meal after another. The book — and her cooking and baking — brought people together again and again.

Grandma's cookbook

Grandma’s cook book

Grandma's cookbook

Grandma’s cookbook

Grandma showed me how she makes the cake (I’ll post the recipe later once I’ve tried a second time). It’s a yeast-based cake that’s kind of like a giant cinnamon role. She first made the dough, then started to roll it out into a rectangle with a rolling pin. We took turns. “Does it have to be a perfect rectangle?” I asked her. “No,” she said. “Nothing ever has to be perfect.”

Isn’t that a wonderful line we can apply to just about anything in life?

After we rolled out the dough we spread brown sugar, cinnamon and some chopped walnuts on top (from a tree my dad planted many years ago). “Spread it right to the edges,” said Grandma.

We then rolled the dough up and placed it into a chiffon cake pan. It slid right in and was the perfect size. After 64 years, Grandma has it down.

Letting the coffee cake rise

Letting the coffee cake rise

It then had to rise once again. We let it rise for about in an hour and then baked it at 400 degrees Celsius for about an hour. The top got golden brown. It was already 8 pm when we pulled out of the oven, and I was off to visit a friend. The next morning, I made a simple icing from icing sugar, butter and some water (Grandma told me the recipe) and drizzled it over the cooled cake. I then sprinkled some crushed walnuts over the cake. They stuck to the icing like glitter does to glue.

I definitely knew without question what I was having for breakfast that morning. I sliced a cake of Grandma’s iced coffee cake and made myself a coffee. It was delicious — just as I remembered. Just like memories, some recipes should last forever, right?

the adored coffee cake

the adored coffee cake

coffee cake for breakfast.

coffee cake for breakfast


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