Why Is It Called Coffee Cake? (And What Is It?)

For those of us who have a sweet tooth, there is nothing nicer than sitting down with a cup of coffee and a slice of delicious cake.

Sometimes, it is a fun activity to do with friends, and it can be made even more fun when everyone brings their own coffee cake to the table. Everyone usually brings a different kind, and you can sit down and share as you discuss this week’s news. 

But have you ever wondered why coffee cake is not the same from one person to another? And why is it called “coffee cake” if there is no set way to make it?

This article will answer all of your coffee-cake woes and wanderings, so you can tell your friends the next time you sit down over your cake and a cup of joe.

Why Is It Called Coffee Cake

What Is Coffee Cake?

Coffee cake is more of an idea than it is an actual, concrete dessert. There is no specific type of cake that is known as “coffee cake”, as what cake you eat varies depending on the country you are in! 

So, contrary to what some may believe, coffee cake is not called “coffee cake” because it has coffee in it (unless you’re in the U.K.) It is called “coffee cake” because it is a great companion to a cup of coffee!

What Is Coffee Cake Made From?

There is no straight answer to this question. In truth, it depends entirely on what country you’re currently in. A lot of the time, coffee cake will contain a mix of dried fruit, cinnamon, oats, or nuts. It is sometimes glazed with sugar. 

Some people like to use yeast for their coffee cakes, while others prefer using baking soda. 

Coffee Cake Essential Ingredients

If you want to bake your own coffee cake, here are the essential coffee cake ingredients for a basic one!

These will normally be topped with a variety of different things – such a streusel! If you want to try making your own, all you’ll need are the basic baking ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sour cream, vanilla extract, butter, sugar, and eggs. 

Once cooked, top with your favorite toppings and enjoy with your favorite cup of coffee. 

The History of Coffee Cake 

The idea of coffee cake originated in Europe during the 17th century. In 1763, coffee cake was known by another name, the German “gugelhupf”. The first recording of the term “coffee cake” was in 1850. 

Countries like Germany and Denmark found that their delicious sweet desserts worked well with coffee, a beverage still relatively new to Europe at the time. They decided to serve them alongside each other, which was the beginning of the age-old tradition. 

Eventually, coffee cake made its way to America in the 19th-20th centuries, thanks to German migrants. 

From there, coffee cake has developed and changed, evolving into something entirely new depending on where you are in the world. 

Different Countries and Their Coffee Cake Traditions 

In Germany, coffee cake often has different kinds of streusel as a topping. Some will be made with cinnamon. Some coffee cakes in Germany are actually just fruitcakes – the type of cake does not matter, as long as it goes well with coffee.

When coffee cake was brought to America, sour cream was added as an ingredient. This gave the coffee cake more moisture and helped to activate the baking soda. Today, coffee cake in America is a sweet pound cake layered with brown sugar.

They are also sometimes layered with pecan streusel, and some are made with cinnamon. These coffee cakes are heavily influenced by the German tradition of coffee cakes. 

In the U.K, coffee cake is quite different. It actually contains coffee flavoring, consisting of two layers of coffee-sponge, and coffee-butter. It is often paired with walnuts. 

Our Favorite Types of Coffee Cake

Since there is no set definition of a coffee cake, we have a list of our favorites that you can try next time you’re craving something sweet. 

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Or a lemon tart, a lemon muffin, anything with lemon will make an excellent pairing with your afternoon cup of coffee – especially a classic coffee! Lemon cake’s delicately sweet and tangy flavor is not overpowered with cream. It is simple, just like a classic cup of coffee. 

Classic Coffee Cake

A tell-tale sign that you’ve stumbled across this coffee cake is its scrumptious buttercream! This is a little fancier than the lemon drizzle cake and would work best with a fancier coffee. A cappuccino, for instance!

Scones

Who doesn’t love a scone? You may think this is controversial, but you never know until you try! You can choose to fill the scone with jam and cream or have it plain. Whatever way you choose, we can almost guarantee you’ll want it every day with your classic cup of joe. 

Millionaire Shortbread

Pair this with a latte and you’ll think you’re in coffee heaven! Lattes are a sweeter and creamier coffee compared to their counterparts, which compliments the caramel in the shortbread beautifully. 

Brownies

The more chocolate the better. A gooey chocolate brownie is a perfect companion to a flat white. This combination is the perfect middle ground.

We love how the sweetness of the brownie balances out the bitterness of a flat white, while the flat white adds some edge to the brownie. It’s perfect if you want some variety during your coffee break. 

Final Thoughts 

If you said the words “coffee cake” to a room full of people, everyone would think of something slightly different. Coffee cake is unique wherever you go. This is because it is simply a cake that you eat while having a cup of coffee.

Coffee cake has its origins in Europe, and then it changed slightly as it was brought to different countries, each adding its own spin on the sweet dessert. So, you can eat whatever cake you want with your coffee, and it’ll be called “coffee cake”. 

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Jess Smith
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