Tag Archives: Sweet Sam’s

Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Jim & Patty's Coffee (Portland, OR) - Photo Courtesy of Jim & Patty's Coffee

Sour Cream Coffee Cake from Jim & Patty’s Coffee (Portland, OR) – Photo Courtesy of Jim & Patty’s Coffee


Years ago, the cakes I drooled over were gooey – rich with filling, frosting, and cream.  Now I find myself gravitating more to Bundt Cakes and Coffee Cakes. (Lest anyone become alarmed, this is NOT to say I’ve sworn off gooey cake.)

Of course the age-old question is “Why isn’t Coffee Cake made with Coffee?” After all, there’s Chocolate in Chocolate Cake.  Well, one theory is, since this Cake was often served with Coffee, it was given the name “Coffee Cake.”

Let’s start at the beginning.  What is Coffee Cake?  It’s a sweet cake-like bread typically eaten at breakfast or brunch, and sometimes served warm.  Coffee Cakes often sport streusel toppings – crumbly mixtures of flour, sugar, butter, and spices.  To liven up Coffee Cakes, they may be filled with cinnamon and sugar or even cream cheese.

How popular is Coffee Cake?  And what varieties are out there?

The Sugar Cube's "Crack Coffee Cake" - Photo Courtesy of The Sugar Cube (Portland, OR)

The Sugar Cube’s “Crack Coffee Cake” – Photo Courtesy of The Sugar Cube (Portland, OR)

Kirsten Jensen of The Sugar Cube, based in Portland, Oregon, said the Coffee Cake is one of the most popular breakfast items. In fact, it’s called “Crack Coffee Cake” because it’s so addictive – people keep coming back for it.  Crack Coffee Cake has a moist Coffee Cake base, studded with liberal amounts of seasonal fruit.  It’s flavored with spices such as Saigon cinnamon, ginger, fresh nutmeg, and cardamom.   And it’s topped with toasted pecans, brown butter, more spices, and oats.  Kirsten believes it’s all about the crunchy topping.  She thinks Coffee Cake evokes memories of conversations had while sitting around the family breakfast table.

Crumb Cake from Sweet Sam's (New York City) - Photo Courtesy of Sweet Sam's

Crumb Cake from Sweet Sam’s (New York City) – Photo Courtesy of Sweet Sam’s

Sweet Sam’s, a New York City-based bakery that ships nationwide, offers five types of Coffee Cakes.  The most popular Coffee Cake is the Crumb Cake – its cake base is piled high with crumbs.   Taking 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th places respectively are:  Coffee Streusel Cake (with a filling of finely chopped walnuts, cinnamon, and sugar); Blueberry Crumb Cake (blueberries are in the cake base and the topping); Apple Crumb Cake (diced apples are in the cake base and sliced apples are in the topping); and Chocolate Chip Crumb (semi- sweet chocolate chips are scattered throughout the cake base and topping).

New York City-based sugar Sweet sunshine has “The Real Deal” Coffee Cake on its line-up and it’s one of the most popular breakfast Cakes.  Peggy, one of the co-owners, thinks its popularity is due largely to its cinnamon swirl.

The Andersonville Coffee Cake from Swedish Bakery (Chicago, IL) - Photo Courtesy of the Swedish Bakery

The Andersonville Coffee Cake from Swedish Bakery (Chicago, IL) – Photo Courtesy of the Swedish Bakery

The Swedish Bakery specializes in European-style Pastries and Cakes. While this Chicago-based bakery typically offers 10 different Coffee Cakes in its store, customers can order any of the 35 Coffee Cakes on Swedish Bakery’s Coffee Cake line-up.  The most popular Coffee Cake is the Andersonville – named after the Chicago neighborhood in which the bakery has been located for more than 80 years.  The Andersonville, a Swedish Coffee Cake, has a cardamom dough base with almond and cinnamon fillings.  Pecan Streusel, Coconut Custard, Plain Streusel, and Chocolate Chip Streusel are some of the popular American-style Coffee Cakes.  The Swedish Bakery doesn’t plan to add any new Coffee Cakes this year.  According to Eliza Williamson, the General Manager, “We like to keep it simple and traditional for our customers.  They know what they want and we’ve got it!”

Grilled Coffee Cake from Southport Grocery and Café (Chicago, IL) - Photo Courtesy of Southport Grocery and Cafe

Grilled Coffee Cake from Southport Grocery and Café (Chicago, IL) – Photo Courtesy of Southport Grocery and Cafe

In the bakery case of Chicago-based Southport Grocery and Cafe, you can find Coffee Cake.  Southport’s version is made with sour cream.  In the Cafe you can also order Grilled Coffee Cake.  The Cake is cut in half and house-made cream cheese is added.  The Cake gets caramelized on the top and bottom, while the cream cheese melts.  Jake Davis of Southport thinks Coffee Cake is popular as it reminds us of our families and spending early morning hours huddled over a pan of fresh baked Coffee Cake.  And as Jake notes, while Coffee Cake is simple, you can add a little something to it, such as bacon crumble, fruit jam, etc., to take it to a whole new level without going overboard.

I’m ready to bake, or better yet, eat, Coffee Cake!

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Brownies and Blondies

Samples of "Walnut WItches" at the Fat WItch Bakery

Samples of “Walnut Witches” at the Fat Witch Bakery

Brownie purists may debate the finer points of dense, fudgy brownies versus brownies that are more cake-like.  But I think this detracts from the wider issue—the brownie versus blondie match-up.

Before I started doing brownie/blondie research for this posting, I assumed that brownies would trounce blondies in a popularity contest.  As you’ll see below, that isn’t the case.

Blondies from Sweet Sam's Baking Company

Blondies from Sweet Sam’s Baking Company

Sweet Sam’s Baking Company offers a variety of baked goods—including coffee cake, loaf cakes, cookies, brownies, as well as blondies.  Two brownies are in the line-up: a Walnut Brownie and the more popular Chocolate Chunk Brownie.  Interestingly, over the last year, sales of the Blondie were double that of the Chocolate Chunk Brownie.  And blondies have always been ahead of brownies in sales.

White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies from the Cake Sculptress

White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies from the Cake Sculptress

As the name implies, the Cake Sculptress specializes in 3D/sculpted cakes.  However for brownie and blondie fans, 11 types of brownies and 5 types of blondies are available.  The three best-selling brownies are: Triple Chocolate; Mint Chocolate Chip; and White Chocolate Raspberry.  The Cake Sculptress sells more Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondies than brownies.  Rebecca Goss, of the Cake Sculptress, speculates that people have become a bit disenchanted with brownies, seeing them as ordinary, though tasty, and nothing more.  However, she thinks blondies will never take the place of brownies because of the nostalgia and comfort offered by brownies.  Rebecca relayed an interesting brownie trend: brownie wedding cakes made a brief appearance as an alternative to traditional wedding cakes.

Grandma's Mix-Up Bars from Broadway Baker

A “Grandma’s Mix-Up Bar” from Broadway Baker

The Broadway Baker’s “Grandma’s Mix-Up Bars” sport a graham cracker crust made from homemade graham crackers.  Perched on top of this crust:  Belgian chocolate, unsweetened coconut, and crushed pecans.  A sweet cream is then drizzled over everything.  (For purposes of this post, I’ll take liberties and classify these bars as blondies.) Jim Osorno of the Broadway Baker reports that Grandma’s Mix-Up Bars are more popular than his brownie offering, “Major Brownies.”  Also see the Dessert Surveillance Broadway Baker posting.

Wrapped "Witches" at the Fat Witch Bakery

Wrapped “Witches” at the Fat Witch Bakery

In keeping with the whimsical witch theme, at the Fat Witch Bakery, brownies and blondies are known as “Witches.” Witch types include: Fat Witch (regular brownie); Red Witch (brownie with dried cherries); Java Witch (brownie with cappuccino chocolate chips); Snow Witch (with white chocolate instead of chocolate); and the Blonde Witch (blondie).  To keep Fat Witch devotees from suffering from too much guilt, a few of the Witches are available in small sizes, known as Baby Witches.  Seasonal flavors round out the offerings: a Pumpkin Witch and Pecan Bars.  And new Witch types are planned.  Pat Helding, the founder and CEO of the Fat Witch Bakery has an interesting take on the brownie versus blondie debate: Blondies are a New York City thing so brownies will still get more points in a national popularity contest.

And of the companies above, 3 of the 4 are based in New York City, although they ship nationwide.  The Cake Sculptress is based in Massachusetts.   What does this mean?  I need to ask these questions of more companies outside of the New York City area.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of Brownies and Blondies.

And in the meantime, I have an important decision to make:  I have a brownie and a blondie in my freezer.  Which one do I scarf down now?  Hmmmm…..

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