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Coffee Cake is a Tasty Treat with a Rich History

May 21, 2008
As you are getting your morning caffeine fix, have you ever wondered how coffee cake came to be? After all, it often doesn't have coffee in it. It tastes just fine without java. Somebody had to come up with it, didn't they?

Like most foods, coffee cake is an item that evolved over hundreds of years and across continents. People had been preparing honey cakes since biblical times. Gradually the French came up with galettes, the forerunner of the ubiquitous Christmas fruitcake. Galettes also lead to the invention of sweet yeast rolls that eventually resulted in Danish coffee cakes, which really did contain coffee, by the way.

The custom of eating some sweet yeast bread while drinking one's coffee probably began in the 17th century in Europe. Dutch, Scandinavian, French and German immigrants all brought a recipe for some sort of breakfast bread when they came to North America. All the recipes used flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, nuts, spices and dried fruit and probably were more bread- than cake-like. Over the years, people experimented with those recipes and began adding creamy fillings, cheese, yogurt and sugared fruit.

For some reason, the Dutch and Germans in New York, New Jersey and Delaware became particularly famous for their coffee cakes. Their recipes from the colonial times are very similar to those used today. Meanwhile Scandinavians had introduced their versions as well as the concept of the coffee break -- for which we are all ever grateful. The British have their own version that includes toffee.

By 1879, coffee cakes were well-known in America and there were already countless recipes for crumb cakes, streusel cakes and streusel/crumb-cake combinations. Streusel cakes have that swirl of cinnamon/brown sugar throughout the center while crumb cakes have a topping of crumbly flour, sugar and butter and cinnamon. However, food purists know that most Americans have these terms confused. Streusel (pronounced STROI-zuhl in German) means "granules" and actually refers to the crumb topping, not the swirl. Whichever way you pronounce it, the effect is still the same -- delicious.

Many of today's coffee cakes are made with a Bundt pan (a ring with a hole in the center). The Bundt pan is actually a fairly recent innovation: It was created in 1950 by H. David Dalquist of Nordic Ware. Two of his customers, Jews, told him how they missed the heavier European cakes they had grown up with but needed a cake pan with a hole in it. The holes allowed heat to penetrate the heavier batter and did not leave unbaked dough at the center. The women showed Dalquist a ceramic kugelhopf pan and he made a similar version in all-purpose aluminum. However, while kugelhopf pans are spherical with folds like a turban, Dalquist introduced fluted folds into the fluted edges and patented the design.

Coffee cakes are a delicious way to start your day and a delicious accompaniment to any beverage. Next time you have a slice, think of the rich history you are sampling.
About the Author
Rob Carlton writes articles almost entirely for http://www.coffee-espresso-maker-tips.com , an internet site with topics around single serving coffee maker . His publications on one cup coffee pot are found on his website .
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