Recently we explored the origin of the term “coffee table”. (Whew, am I glad it was invented in time to have some place to put the remote, the TV Guide, and that book by Kramer about coffee tables). That got me thinking about other coffee named things that we take for granted but that don’t have coffee in them. Cake! Of course, coffee cake! (Sometimes called Kuchen or Gugelhupf ) It doesn’t have coffee as an ingredient, but has the name. What’s up?
The concept of coffee cake has no specific inventor or date of conception. Food historians reveal that it evolved from ancient honey cakes through various cultures to sweet cakes and yeast rolls made in medieval times, and then to sweet yeast breads & cakes developed by Dutch, German, and Scandinavian cooks. When coffee was introduced to Europe in the 17th century these cakes were a perfect partner for a cup of coffee.
The first coffee cakes were more like bread than cake. Simple recipes of yeast, flour, eggs, sugar, nuts, dried fruit and sweet spices eventually changed to include sugared fruit, cheese, yogurt and other creamy fillings. (Oh, cherry cheese Danish where art thou?).
Immigrants from Europe brought their recipes with them to America and kept tweaking them with new ingredients until the sweet treats we enjoy today came to life.
Although Germans brought the Kaffeeklatcsh to their communities, Scandinavian households, where a pot of coffee was usually brewing on the back of the stove, were most likely responsible for creating coffee breads, coffee cakes, coffee rings, and other sweet rolls for their midmorning or mid-afternoon coffee klatch.
Still according to the book Listening to America, by Stuart Berg Flexner, it wasn't until 1879 that the term "coffee cake" became a common term. Recipes for “coffee cake” with coffee as an ingredient began to appear in cook books in the late 1800s; finally in 1909 a recipe reflecting the modern day American coffee cake appeared in the book The Art of German Cooking and Baking, by Wetzel Bros.
My favorite is the type with a Streusel or Crumble topping. I am enjoying one at my desk right now! An Entenmann’s Mini Crumb Cake. And I am pairing it with an Americano I made from Supreme Bean Organic coffee on the Expobar Espresso machine in our break room. Yum!