On the occasion of today’s celebration, I had to return with a fresh treat of coffee wisdom. As I recently discovered, the United States has devoted national food holidays to every day in the calendar ranging from curiosities like National Bicarbonate of Soda Day (December 30th) or National Brown-Bag-It Day (May 25th) to the amusing National Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day (November 12th) or Kitchen Klutzes of America Day (June 13th). April 7th is American National Coffee Cake Day – very suitable for this blog.
However, unlike the name suggests, this holiday for cake connoisseurs is dedicated to a special kind of cake served alongside, rather than baked with, this wonderful hot beverage. Yet, I would never rule out the option of using coffee as an ingredient of course.
For someone who can always find a good reason to bake, National Coffee Cake Day provides the perfect incentive to cast an eye over the historic correlation between coffee and coffee cake. After all, can you think of any better complements than those two?
Just like the British value their tea time, many countries around the world cherish the tradition of an afternoon coffee break. In Germany, particularly women enjoy a so-called “Kaffeeklatsch” – getting together for a coffee-and-gossip break in the afternoon that is typically accompanied by a slice of cake. In recent years, however, the afternoon coffee break has been driven to near extinction by ever more busy and long work days. Without a doubt, such development is connected to the increasing popularity of coffeehouse chains in today’s to-go culture, responding to the demand for a quick caffeine boost at virtually any time of day for everyone whose time is precious and limited. Consequently, quiet coffee breaks with family and friends tend to fall solely on Sundays in many, foremost European, countries these days.
The history of coffee cake itself is rather difficult to trace back: This typically single-layer cake evolved over the centuries with ties to a variety of baked goods, including Christmas fruit cakes, ancient honey cakes, French galettes and Danish pastries. Cross-national movements of people have significantly contributed to the spread and changes of coffee cake recipes. Dutch, German and Scandinavian immigrants are believed to have introduced the concept of coffee cake to North America where it was gladly received and refined over time.
Nowadays, numerous variants in the shape and form of coffee cakes include bread, bundt or tube pan shapes, as well as ingredients of honey or maple syrup, fruits and nuts, spices, yoghurt, streusel or crumbs. Whilst many American streusel cake recipes give instructions for cinnamon and brown sugar swirls in the center of the cake, such a use of the term is misleading. The German word “Streusel” actually refers to cake crumbs (generally made from a combination of butter, sugar, flower and cinnamon if desired). In this way, what is widely believed to be crumb cake in the United States is in fact streusel cake. In the end, though, the correct name of individual coffee cakes is irrelevant considering that they are all equally delicious – and preferably enjoyed with coffee.
So, what’s better than celebrating this day accordingly by indulging in a scrumptious slice of coffee cake and a cup of steaming coffee? To try something new and different, I recommend this easy-to-make family recipe for “Babovka” – traditional Czech coffee cake.
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ cup icing sugar
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3-4 eggs
- 200ml whipping cream (not whipped)
- For variation: add coconut flakes, cocoa or raisins, or alternatively glaze with chocolate
Preheat oven to 175°C. Generously butter a bundt cake pan (22cm) and lightly dust with flour.
Combine eggs and cream in a bowl and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine flour, icing sugar, vanilla sugar and baking powder. Add to wet the ingredients and mix well. Add suggested ingredients as desired.
Pour batter into pan and place on a baking sheet in the center of the oven. Bake about 50-60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.
Lightly dust with icing sugar before serving. Enjoy!