Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jewish in L.A. in the 60s: Chocolate Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Let me take you back to the days when bubbes got together for an afternoon of mahjong or canasta and gossip. When stay-at-home moms, otherwise known as moms, dropped the kids off at school and then stopped by a friend's for a cup of coffee and a cigarette. When the family gathered for Sunday brunch. Everyone. Every Sunday.

This was the age of the coffee cake, the centerpiece of all these gatherings.


I miss coffee cakes. I miss the Sara Lee pecan coffee cake my mom regularly bought, topped with skinny curving lines of white icing that my brother, sister, and I would surreptitiously peel off the top, leaving it naked and crusty--and Mom very irritated. I miss babkas--especially the chocolate cinnamon ones--sweet and yeasty with a scent straight out of the Diamond Bakery on Fairfax Ave. in L.A. (which is still there) or Bea's Bakery in Tarzana (also still there).

In other words, I miss being Jewish in Los Angeles in the '60s and '70s.

That life will never be recreated--and it's probably a good thing. But I have a coffee cake recipe from my friend Beth Goren that sends me straight back to those days. This was her Grandma Adele's cake that Beth would bring back to summer camp from her days off when we were camp counselors. I lived for that cake back then--as you would if you lived for over three weeks with 10 12-year-old girls. It's your classic coffee cake, made moist with sour cream and sweet with a boatload of chocolate chips. But the aroma. It's a heady cloud of cinnamon. Does anyone even make these anymore? I was so tickled when I found Beth on Facebook and was able to get the recipe from her. Because now I make it.

This isn't some very fancy dessert one of my very talented pastry chef friends  would make. In fact, they'll probably laugh when they see it. No, this is your grandma's humble coffee cake and it requires your gathering a group of girlfriends over for a leisurely gossip session, ideally with a pot of percolated coffee served in cups and saucers--no mugs.

So get out the butter and chocolate chips. The angel food cake tube pan. The sour cream (de rigueur for coffee cake) and the cinnamon. And enjoy going back in time.

Grandma Adele's Coffee Cake
(printable recipe)

This cake has a very thick batter so don't worry that you can't "pour" it into the pan. Also, it is very cinnamon-y, so feel free to cut back on that a bit if you want a less powerful cinnamon flavor. While many coffee cakes are made in bundt pans, you'll want to use a two-piece tube pan, usually used for making angel food cake.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour

Mix until lumpy and set aside. Save 1/2 cup for topping.

1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 16-ounce container sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips (setting 1/4 cup aside for topping)

In another bowl, mix wet ingredients and slowly add the flour mixture (minus the reserved 1/2 cup) to the wet ingredients. Mix by hand until blended. Mixture should be lumpy.

Add chocolate chips (minus the reserved 1/4 cup). Scoop the mixture into a greased tube pan (not a bundt pan) and smooth/even the top. Spread the topping over the cake and then sprinkle the reserved chocolate chips over the topping. Bake at 350 for one hour.

Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for at least an hour on a wire rack. Slide a knife between the edges of the cake and the pan and carefully slide the cake out of the pan. Then slide the knife under the cake and carefully separate the cake from the bottom/tube and lift it onto a platter.



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