Kaffeekuchen Coffeecake

By Mark Wieser

One unique thing about the Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cookbook were the suggestions often given from time to time. One recipe called for a 17¢ can of Hersey’s Chocolate syrup. Another, for a Coffee Cake, called for one to begin preparing it at 10:00 p.m.! I don’t know how many of us are still in our kitchens at that hour, but if you are prone to set your thermostat below 70º at night, you might consider allowing more time for this coffee cake to rise.

The one coffee cake I savored most was my grandmother’s. It was topped with what seemed like a huge layer of brown sugar. Dunked in coffee, nothing could have been finer. I was only 7 at the time and already allowed to drink coffee. To this day I like a coffee cake layered with lots of brown sugar, but unfortunately, I don’t take the time to do this very often.

Coffee cake is thought to have originated in Germany. Perhaps some families here still have their great grandparents’ recipes. I have no recipe from my mother or from her mother, but I do have a cake recipe from my dad’s mother discovered when we visit his hometown in Germany.

Remarkably, it wasn’t until 1879 that the term “coffee cake” became common. Its earliest reference was in 1850 and then noted that it was much like a Gugelhupf of the 1760s. A Gugelhupf is a semisweet cake of yeast-leavened dough containing raisins, citron, and nuts and baked in a fluted tube pan. It too, originated in southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Kaffeekuchen evolved from recipes created in Vienna, Austria in the 17th century. These cakes were thought to be great complements to coffee, which supposedly arrived in Europe about the same time. Because coffee was introduced to Europeans by the Muslims, it was suspect and many local clergy condemned its drinking. Pope Clement VIII asked to try it and found it so satisfying that he gave it papal approval. That ended the matter and the stage was now set for cake and coffee to meet.

In America these cakes were often baked using leftovers, making them heavier. Coffee cake is obviously any cake flavored with or intended to be eaten with coffee. In England it is a sponge cake and typically baked in a circular shape. There must be thousands of ways to make one. This one is one submitted by Mrs. Otto Kolmeier and is found in the 6th edition of the Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book.

2 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
2 unbeaten eggs
¼ cup shortening
1 cup milk
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cinnamon

Sift dry ingredients
Work in shortening with a knife
Add eggs and milk
Stir until smooth
Pour into a greased 8 x 12-inch pan

Top with the following:
¼ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
4 tbsp flour
¾ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt

Blend ingredients with a fork
Spread smoothly on top of the batter
Sprinkle with 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans.
Bake 30 minutes in a moderate oven at 350ºF.

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