The first time I had coffee cake I was about seven years old. Our parents brought us to the States for the first time ever to meet all our American family. It was Christmas, so [since it only snows in Rome during freak winters…so never] for the first time in our lives we were going to have a real[ly] white Christmas!! So a 9-hour flight later we landed at JFK International Airport in New York and drove up to Montclair, New Jersey to see the first batch of cousins! A couple days later we left NJ and headed north to Providence, Rhode Island. To the eyes of a seven year old who hadn’t seen snow in years, you can imagine what it could have looked [and felt] like!! We walked into my aunt’s house and it just got better! Picture the initial scenes of the first “Home Alone” movie. Mom, dad, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters-in-law, grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews…the whole nine yards!! Maybe a bit overwhelming when you’ve grown up with a small-ish family, but when the time came for presents…overwhelmed would be a massive understatement!!
Moving on, a few days after Christmas my uncle decided we should go down to Florida…by car! My aunt flat-out refused and jumped on a plane the next day. We drove for three days. We stopped in Washington DC, drove through the Carolinas, visited an old friend of my mom’s in Savannah, Georgia and finally reached our destination…the warm and sunny Sanibel Island, Florida. Overall, the trip was great…albeit a bit crowded. But the thing that I remember the most is eating what my mom claims, to this day, is “the best coffee cake in America” (something she ate all the time growing up in NY), to the point of feeling physically ill!
When I first tried coffee cake I was a bit reluctant because, well, I was seven and the name is not very clear about the composition of the cake in question. Coffee? Bleghh!! But once I took the first bite, my love for it only became stronger, and fifteen years later we are making it from scratch for the first time. We adapted the recipe from an old-school American cookbook my mom has had ever since before we were even born. The recipe is super simple, and has officially received the “mom-stamp”. Let’s hope for the best!
For this recipe, you’ll start by making a BASIC BAKING MIX
8 cups of white flour
5 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
Combine dry ingredients well in a bowl. Add oil and use your fingers to get a crumb-like texture. You will not be needing the entire quantity for the coffee cake. This recipe makes extra mix so you can store it in the fridge in an airtight container, for up to 4 weeks. You can use it to make biscuits or muffins too!
The mix should look something like this!
For the coffee cake:
2 cups of basic baking mix
1/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup of water
3 Tbsp sunflower oil
For the crumb topping:
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup basic baking mix
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
1/4 cup of chopped nuts (optional)
For the coffee cake: Beat sugar, egg, water and oil together. Stir in baking mix just until moistened. Fold in nuts if used. Spread the batter into a greased 20cm pan or ring mold.
For the topping: Mix ingredients until crumbly, and sprinkle over batter.
Coffee cake is perfectly [but not too] dry and crumbly. If you have it with coffee it is divine…hence the name!!