Coffee Cake

The term “coffee cake” started appearing in print during the 19th century, but it didn’t always refer to the type of coffee cake we would recognize today. Early coffee cake recipes could be for any type of bread, pastry, or cake that could be consumed with coffee…or, like in this recipe from 1877, they might actually be made with coffee.

Luckily the instructions are pretty clear here. The only changes I made were to use candied lemon peel instead of citron (since I happened to have some on hand), and to cut the recipe in half.

The corner looks a little burnt in this picture but I swear it’s not…it’s just a very dark cake.

I baked mine in a loaf pan, since the recipe refers to making “two small loaves.” After making it, though, I think it would be much better baked in a shallower 8 x 8 pan. The cake is very dense and crumbly, and doesn’t slice particularly well. As a shallower cake, it could be cut into square pieces instead (wow, baking a cake in an actual cake pan…wish I’d thought of that!).

In a loaf pan, mine took about an hour to bake at 350 degrees. In an 8 x 8 pan it would probably take less time.

Tasting notes:

This tasted like a cross between gingerbread and fruit cake. It’s very very dense, and gets denser (but also kind of better) the longer you keep it. I didn’t really taste the coffee at first; mostly it tasted like molasses and raisins (no surprise when there’s a pound of raisins in there). After sitting around for about a week the flavors got stronger and I thought I could sort of taste the coffee…at the very least, it definitely tastes like an extremely dark gingerbread. With lots of raisins. And some lemon. But mostly raisins.

It’s nothing like the sweet cake we usually think of as coffee cake today, but it is still good for breakfast.


Olver, L. (2015, January 3). Coffee cake. The Food Timeline. Retrieved from

Wilcox, E. (1877). Buckeye cookery, and practical housekeeping : compiled from original recipes. Minneapolis: Buckeye Publishing Company. Retrieved from

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