Curious case of coffee cakes

A section in Joy of Cooking has been dedicated to coffee cakes, yet none of the recipes ask for coffee.  Oh how deceiving!  It’s like I’ve entered the world of Alice in the Wonderland where nothing makes sense.  If cranberry muffins are made with cranberries then why aren’t coffee cakes made with coffee?  What are coffee cakes exactly?

The term coffee cake is a sweet cake you have with coffee. According to Evan Jones from American Food: The Gastronomic Story Germans contributed largely to the creation of sweet cakes, but perhaps it is the Scandinavian countries that introduced the combination of coffee and cake.  Early coffee cake recipes did contain coffee but has much evolved.  Interestingly enough, a recipe from the early 1900s used yeast signifying that it was more of a sweet bread than the cake we know it be.  (

Well then, would any cake that’s sweet considered a coffee cake?

Quick Cranberry Coffee Cake (Kuchen) adapted from Joy of Cooking

One 9-inch round coffee cake
Preheat oven to 375 Degrees F.  Line 9-inch spring pan with parchment paper.
Sift together: 
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1/4 cups almond flour (grounded almonds)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Beat until creamy in a large bowl with wooden spoon:
1/4 cup butter, softened
Gradually add and beat until light and fluffy:
1/4 cup yellow sugar
Beat in:
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup almond milk
Beat in the dry ingredients.  Add:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Stir until smooth. Spread the batter in the spring pan.  Cover with
1 1/4 cups cranberries tossed with 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberries tossed with 1 tbls of cake flour
1/2 cup apple sauce
Bake about 25-30 minutes.  Cool on rack.

I substituted 1.5 cups of all purpose flour with 1.25 cups cake flour and 0.25 almond flour which I grounded from raw almonds to give it a denser texture and nutty flavour.


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