What is coffee cake? Judging by the name alone, one might think it is cake that’s flavored with coffee. Like chocolate cake, except coffee.
Although I suppose that’s a possible variety, coffee cake most often refers to a sweet quick bread-like cake, swirled with fruit, nuts or cream cheese and, if you’re lucky, streusel (I can’t be the only one who really likes streusel, can I?). Occasionally, coffee cakes are made with yeast, like Pawmaw’s Coffee Cake, but I think that takes away from the beautiful simplicity of this treat. Coffee cake is typically made with on-hand and seasonal ingredients, is easy to mix together, infinitely customizable, and is best enjoyed still warm from the oven.
Why, you may ask, is it called coffee cake? Well, it’s delicious to eat while drinking coffee. It’s a bit of a holdover from the days when neighbors and friends had lingering conversations over coffee and a sweet treat. Food historians agree that the tradition of coffee cake originated in Northern Central Europe sometime in the 17th century, marrying the introduction of coffee to Europe with an already-rich history of cake and pastry-baking. German, Dutch and Scandinavian immigrants brought the tradition to America, and by the 1870s, coffee cake became a common term in the American lexicon.
Instead of quick texts between activities, try a coffee cake recipe and invite a friend to catch up over a cup of coffee and piece of cake.