Coffee Cake Supreme

I remember an argument I had with a best friend when I was seven. We often fought about everything from religious differences to what we were going to wear, and in this case, to what one should eat for breakfast. At recess, I told my friend my mom had made coffee cake for breakfast, as she sometimes did for a special treat, even though it was a weekday. A simple cake, low in butter and sugar, but with the characteristic flour, butter, and sugar crumble for topping. My friend couldn't believe I had eaten cake for breakfast. I tried to explain that coffee cake was something made specifically for breakfast, and was very irritated that even after detailed explanation, she would accept that my mother had allowed me to eat cake for breakfast.

I still have to explain to people what coffee cake is. Most french-speaking people I know think it's a cake made out of coffee. Others think, much like Bethany did, that it's absurd to eat cake for breakfast. Perhaps it is? But coffee cakes range in richness and texture. Some are made with yeast, others, like the one below, are made with baking powder and soda. They can be light and airy like brioche or dense like cake. My parents always made coffee cake when I was growing up. For birthdays, we make a yeast coffee cake from the Joy of Cooking that has been a family tradition for years. On Christmas morning, we make another lemon-flavoured yeast coffee cake, also a long-standing family tradition. Cakes are for celebration, and what better thing is there to celebrate than the morning? So go! Eat cake for breakfast!

I've been wanting to make Tom Douglas' Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake for ages. The breakfast section in his Seattle Kitchen cookbook is unreal. There is not one recipe I have made that has been unsatisfactory in terms of breakfast foods. It starts off with a long discourse on the importance of coffee and the hottest places to get breakfast in Seattle. This coffee cake has to be one of the best I've tasted. But save yourself: Tom D goes heavy on the butter and sugar. I reduced the amounts called for, and we still dug in with exclamations of: mmmm, so buttery! oh wow! unreal!

Tom Douglas' Sour Cream Blueberry Coffee Cake

Adapted from Tommy Douglas' Seattle Kitchen

I used whole spelt flour which lends a very tender crumb and a wholesome nutty flavour. And, as mentioned above, I reduced the amounts of butter and sugar, but mostly just in the cake. I didn't hold back on the streusel. Streusel's need the full amount of butter and sugar, in my opinion. The next time I make it, I might reduce the amounts even more. It's quite buttery as it is. You can easily double the amounts to make enough to fill a 9 X 11 baking pan.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Grease a 9-inch cake pan.

For the Streusel:

1/3 C whole spelt flour
1/3 C firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
4 TBS (3/4) stick cold butter

- Mix the dry ingredients together
- Cut in the butter using your fingers or a pastry blender. Using your fingers works best so you can achieve a fine cornmeal-like texture.
- Put into the fridge until the cake is ready to bake.

For the Coffee Cake:

1 1/4 C whole spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
3/4 C butter
1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1/2 C sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C blueberries

- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (if using).
- In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar. Follow with the sour cream and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture in three parts.
- Fold in the berries.
- The batter will be very thick.
- Pour into greased pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

If it's scorching hot and humid outside, like it is right now in Montreal, perhaps you'd like to make some iced coffee the night before? Coffee is the proper accompaniment for such a cake, you know.

Cold Brewed Iced Coffee

Brewing coffee cold over night produces a mellower drink with hints of caramel and chocolate. Here's how:

Use a French press if you have one, but if you don't, a jar will work fine.

- Mix 1/3 C coarsely-ground coffee and 1 1/2 C cold water in a French press or jar.
- Let stand on the counter over night or for 12 hours. This makes a sort of coffee extract.
- In the morning, press down the coffee in your French press or filter the brew through a coffee filter or cheese cloth TWICE.
- Pour equal amounts coffee extract and water into a glass with ice. Add milk if you wish.

Oh my lord! Everyone is rejoicing because now I'll stop talking about making iced coffee or finding iced coffee or drinking iced coffee; I simply just did it. But it's been a long time coming.

Happy breakfasting folks!


  1. Oh breakfast is my absolute favorite.

    To do: Coffee Cake and Yogurt pops. Both look divine.


  2. This is the best cake ever! I even had some for supper.

    I was, initially, slightly confused to discover that Tommy Douglas was not only the first leader of the NDP in 1961, but also a popular 21st-century chef! A quick internet search confirmed that I was acting crazy and set me on the right track. Clearly, I have a lot to learn about the food world.

    Sour cream is so lovely to bake with no? So creamy without being overbearing.

    Also, I like that I get to read on my bag of spelt flour 'farine d'├ępeautre', which I think sounds lovely.

    Thanks Judy and Tommy!


  3. Jules.

    I'm more than thrilled that you have now discovered the only Tommy Douglas I've ever known about (thanks to my American parents etc and being relatively out of touch with politics). It is the best cake ever. And you used spelt flour! Awesome. It's great to cook with and easier to digest than wheat, I find.



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