I recently volunteered to help provide food for my church’s Coffee Hour-a time in between services where the congregation can socialize over percolated java and a wide variety of baked goods. Sounds like heaven, right? I volunteered for two big reasons. I love to bake-and I love to test some vintage recipes before a larger crowd than my normal circle of family and co-workers.
So last Sunday, I brought three trays of goodies-a very modern white chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and a flourless chocolate cookie, plus a big tray of vintage coffee cake. I liked this recipe because it’s not anything like the modern version of coffee cake-which often resembles a giant sticky bun, covered in cinnamon, brown sugar and glaze and usually topped with nuts-not that there is anything wrong with that kind of cake!
I thought I’d do a little research into the genre. Foodtimeline.org says that in his book, Listening to America, “Stuart Berg Flexner claims it wasn’t until 1879 that the term “coffee cake” became a common term. Historic American cook books and newspapers support this claim.” Their research, and my own, seems to suggest that until 1890, most recipes were like the one I baked-heavy on molasses as a sweetener and including a large amount of coffee as the liquid. Just before the turn of the century, we start to see recipes that transition to include more sugar, some cinnamon, and in some cases yeast. The evolution appears to be from a cake that *contains* coffee to one that is *eaten* with coffee.
For fun, I invite you to try this recipe-the granddaddy of coffee cake! It comes from the Cloud City Cookbook, published in 1889. It appeared to go over well with the church crowd… when I came back to clean up, a trail of crumbs were left on the tray.
2 whole eggs, plus the whites of two more eggs
1 1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
2 cups raisins
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup cold coffee
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon all spice or apple pie spice
4 cups flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-4 tablespoons milk
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans and set them aside.
Mix eggs, molasses, sugar, raisins, butter, coffee, salt, baking soda and all spice in a large mixing bowl. Add flour gradually, continually mixing to combine.
Divide the batter between the two loaves. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.
When the loaves are cool, make the frosting by mixing the powdered sugar, vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, add the extra milk by the tablespoon until its pour able. Pour the frosting over the two loaves and allow to harden.
Cut and serve with coffee! Enjoy!