Coffee cake isn’t a delicacy that demands attention or flash. It doesn’t need to be wrapped in fondant or adorned with buttercream roses.
You can gussy it up with macerated blueberries, a spiced apple compote or a custard, but it’s just fine on its own, no makeup needed. This is a dessert, after all, that can be eaten without a plate or fork, and is socially acceptable to have for breakfast.
Coffee cake is confident. Functional. Just your basic crumb cake base—butter, eggs, sugar and flour. It usually includes sour cream, but if you’re too lazy to go to the store like me, plain yogurt will do.
There are, however, a few requirements: It must be spiked with a strong dose of cinnamon, and it must, obviously, be accompanied by a cup of coffee.
Today is National Coffee Cake Day (I don’t know why; I don’t ask these questions), and the Post and Business Journal celebrated by ranking two Bundt-style staff-baked versions, as well as a sample from Sweet Jill’s Bakery on Second Street.
A note on the Sweet Jill’s entry: Staff writer Alicia Robinson reportedly made a coffee cake, but proclaimed in a panic that it was “as hard as a brick.” I’m sure it would have been fine, but I do understand; you’re not a baker if you’re not a perfectionist. So Sweet Jill’s was chosen as a stand-in.
We rated each of the three cakes from zero to five on two criteria: Taste and appearance.
And the resounding winner: City Editor Hayley Munguia.
This month’s Food Fight judges sounded like seasoned food critics in their comments, taking note of the winning cake’s appearance, moist texture and “strong cinnamon flavor.”
“Perfect glaze execution,” one anonymous commenter wrote. “Clingy and overwhelming.”
I came in second place—which I’ll take as a win in beating out the pros at Sweet Jill’s, despite the fact that my coffee cake glaze wound up in a grayish puddle on the plate. Or, as one commenter wrote cynically: “Pooled at the bottom and ruined … like my soul.”
I strayed from my go-to recipe—which involves a cup of oil, boxed yellow cake mix and instant Jello mix—in favor of a more homemade version, but should have skipped the glaze. It’s coffee cake, after all—no frills needed.
If you’re too lazy to bake, that’s fine. There’s many places to grab a slice around town, starting with Sweet Jill’s (5001 E. Second St.).
Other bakeries to try:
- Doly’s Delectables, 245 E. Broadway.
- Babette Bakery, 1401 Atlantic Ave.
- Jongewaard’s Bake N Broil, 3697 Atlantic Ave.