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.

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William Randolph Hearst’s Welsh Rarebit

The confusingly-named Welsh rarebit or Welsh rabbit contains no rabbit whatsoever and may not have originated in Wales. It usually consists of cheese melted and poured over toast, although there are many variations in the other toppings. The first recorded use of the term “Welsh rabbit” dates back to 1725, but similar toasted cheese dishes were popular as early as the 14th century. Lexicographer John Ayto suggests that the name “Welsh rabbit” came about in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries, when calling something “Welsh” was a derogatory epithet meaning “inferior” or “of poor quality.” Thus, the name “Welsh rabbit” was a joke – “Welsh rabbit” was inferior because the dish did not actually contain any rabbits.

Alternatively, the dish might have been attributed to the Welsh simply because they had a reputation for loving cheese.

Despite the debates over its name and origins, Welsh rabbit or rarebit remained popular for centuries.  This particular recipe comes from 20th century media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who was passionately fond of Welsh rarebit.  Various family members, friends, and guests of Hearst’s recalled that he frequently served Welsh rarebit as a late-night snack.  Although he employed a large kitchen staff, he took great pride in always making the Welsh rarebit himself.

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