CFF: Coffee Cake…fruit or vegetable?

It’s about as difficult to trace the origins of coffee cake as it is to eat a piece without leaving a trail of crumbs.

Coffee cake genealogy began as honey cakes which evolved to galettes, to sweet yeast rolls and crumb cakes and streusel and Danish coffee cakes infused with the moisture ensuring beverage itself – coffee. Over time coffee cake became an American institution with variations as diverse as our family trees.  And as coffee cakes go, blueberries, cinnamon, and nuts are popular ingredients among many cultures, but to Midwesterners, rhubarb rules.

Rhubarb (What is it exactly: a weed, a vegetable, a fruit?) has wealth of minerals and vitamins, and when combined with sugar becomes a perfect balance of flavor that bounces off your taste buds. The perfect accompaniments are conversation (thick with weather, jokes, and the opposite sex…thin with politics and religion), forks, and straight, not sweetened, hot coffee.

This Sunday, near to the very middle of the U.S, Vermillion (South Dakota) celebrates Rhubarb Day. Sure they’ll have an Apron Display and a Biggest Leaf Contest and port-a-potties for the crowds. The festival is one of many that take place around the country every spring and summer, depending on when the local Chamber of Commerce departments say the rhubarb is in season.

Now, just in case your back yard stalks are bright pink and ready to break off, we have a coffee cake recipe for you direct from Walhalla, ND in Mary Kram-Danielson’s “From My House to Your House Through the Rhubarb Patch” cookbook.   (Sorry no photographs on this one.)


1 pkg. yeast

1/4 c. lukewarm water

1/2 c. milk

2 Tbsp. shortening

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

21/2 c. flour

melted butter


1/4 sugar


3 c. rhubarb

1/4 water

sugar to taste (about 1 c.)

– Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Scald milk; add 1/4 cup sugar, salt and shortening to milk. Cool to warm. Add flour to make thick batter; mix wel. Add yeast and egg; beat well. Add more flour to make soft dough. Knead well. Put in a greased bowl; cover and let rise to double. Punch down; let rest 10 minutes.

– Pat 3/4 dough into a round baking dish. Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Spread rhubarb filling over dough. Roll out remaining dough 1/4 ” thick. Cut into strips 1″ wide; put on filling to make lattice. Rise 45 minutes. Bake 35 minutes at 350.



P.S. I do not live on a farm and there is no way in Hell I’m taking the time to make this. If anyone out there does, let us know how it turns out. Meanwhile, I’m going down to the bakery to pick up a rhubarb coffee cake from them and will sip on a tasty cup of French Roast while I wait to hear back.;


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2 Responses to “CFF: Coffee Cake…fruit or vegetable?”

  1. Katharine Lehmkuhl Says:

    I have rhubarb in my (neighbor’s) yard and your recipe bookmarked; I’m two steps towards getting this done.

  2. Lynn Says:

    Do let coffeesnobolgy know the results.

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