You might be one of the millions of people who loves having some type of cake alongside coffee. It’s a bit of a tradition for many people to eat coffee cake while they’re enjoying their cup of caffeinated goodness in the morning.
However, many people are curious about why coffee cake is called coffee cake to begin with.
When you go to the store, you’ll find lots of baked goods that are marked specifically as being coffee cakes. There are a wide variety of baked goods that are marketed and presented in this fashion, but why is it called coffee cake in the first place?
Well, there’s actually a little bit of history that you will want to learn about coffee cake to gain a greater understanding of this topic.
Does Coffee Cake Contain Coffee?
One sort of odd misconception says that coffee cakes have some type of coffee in them. This isn’t generally the case, but someone could technically make a coffee cake that did use coffee as an ingredient.
It just wouldn’t be normal to do so and the coffee cakes that you find available for purchase at stores don’t contain coffee.
Some people make this mistake because they assumed that coffee cakes were named how they are because coffee is a primary ingredient.
It’s actually just that these cakes are meant to be eaten alongside coffee. People buy cakes like this because they want something to accompany the coffee that they’re drinking.
Think about how many coffee shops in America also sell various pastries. You would be hard-pressed to find a successful coffee shop that didn’t sell coffee cakes, doughnuts, bagels, and other things of that nature.
These two things are simply linked together in peoples’ minds.
The Beginning of Coffee Cake
Coffee cake is something that evolved over time and it has its roots in sweet dishes that were created in Vienna. Eventually, Northern/Central Europeans started to come up with ideas about eating cakes while they were enjoying coffee in the 17th century.
This region of Europe was already known for making various types of sweet cakes and this seemed like a natural transition.
The cakes that people ate alongside coffee were generally quite sweet. There isn’t one specific type of cake that is known to have been the first coffee cake, though.
It’s just notable that the overall tradition started way back in the 17th century and that it continued to evolve from there.
It’s possible to trace the roots of American coffee cake all the way back to old German traditions, too. Germans have enjoyed coffee along with types of pastries for a long time and they call this “Kaffee und Kuchen.”
Essentially, the coffee cake tradition is something that has old roots and it came to America because it was popular elsewhere first.
Many of the popular coffee cakes in Germany have types of streusel toppings and they also often make use of cinnamon. You’ll also find German coffee cakes that are actually fruitcakes and it’s worth noting that the type of cake doesn’t necessarily matter.
The most noteworthy thing about the German coffee cake tradition is that German immigrants are among the many that are responsible for bringing coffee cake to America.
Even though coffee cake as a concept didn’t begin in Germany specifically, it’s easy to see that Germany had a huge influence on how coffee cake would be seen moving forward.
The types of pastries that were made by Germans began to be very closely associated with drinking coffee. This would cause more people to start trying coffee cake and the idea of having these two things together spread over time.
Traditional American Coffee Cake
Interestingly, there is a type of coffee cake that is considered to be a traditional American coffee cake. This is a type of pound cake that is sweet and layered with brown sugar.
If you’ve ever purchased coffee cake from a supermarket before, then you’ve almost certainly had this cake at some point.
Often, you’ll find that these cakes will be layered with a pecan-laced streusel and they make use of cinnamon quite often, too. If you go back to the German tradition that was mentioned earlier, then that should sound quite familiar. You can easily see coffee cakes in America have been influenced by the German tradition.
Lots of cakes are presented as coffee cakes now simply because they go well with coffee, too. The traditional cake described above isn’t the only type of coffee cake. You can have something be called coffee cake even when it is quite different from the norm.
People Like Coffee and Cake Together
Aside from the fact that the coffee cake tradition goes back quite a long way, it’s also good to know that people simply like to eat cake while they are having coffee.
The reason why so many cakes are called coffee cakes in stores is simply that they go very well with coffee. People love eating coffee cake and having a fresh cup of coffee in the morning.
It isn’t unusual at all for people to buy different types of coffee cake and then invite friends over to chat while having coffee.
The name coffee cake is likely simply related to the fact that people took a liking to enjoying these cakes while chatting over a cup of coffee. As it became more and more of a tradition, stores started marketing more cakes specifically as coffee cakes.
Now you know the history of coffee cake in a much more detailed way than you probably expected. This is actually something that is a tradition and there is a good reason why various pastries are called coffee cake.
Whether you consider yourself to be a coffee cake connoisseur or if you just like to have it now and then, it’s neat to know more about its roots.
The next time that you decide to have some coffee cake, you should remember that people have been enjoying this tradition for hundreds of years. It’s something that connects you to the past and it might be something that your kids will very much enjoy in the future, too.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.