My mom’s mom was well known for her signature coffee cake, and tonight Carter and I made her recipe. (We halved it because we had only a cup of sugar, which gave me a chance to talk about dividing and fractions.) Even Carter remarked at how easy and fast it is to make. I think that helped keep him engaged in the whole process, as did letting him do several things for the first time.
Carter did the usual—scooped the flour, cracked the eggs (oops! one overboard, it happens), poured the milk. The new technique he learned was how to mix dry ingredients with butter to form coarse crumbs. I had him try using my pastry blender (I love Oxo’s blender with blades) and then I had him try doing it with his fingers, which is a great tactile experience for kids. He liked both ways, and the variety helped keep his interest.
For some reason, Carter is newly entranced with wanting to use the spatula to scrape batter into a pan; he got so excited doing it that he called for Daddy to come watch. He also insisted on sprinkling the topping. Then he put his handprint in the middle. I told him I thought we wouldn’t be able to see it after coffee cake baked, but nothing like an experiment to find out. (Sure enough, telltale ridges remained of his mark.)
When I was checking the coffee cake for doneness, Carter really wanted to use the “needle” (aka a cake tester). I was reluctant because the pan was hot, but I also want him to learn to do these things safely. I put his hand in a long oven mitt that went up his arm and guided his hand, while explaining to check to see if any crumbs stick to it: another new concept. (I can’t recommend the cake tester I have because the metal part too easily separates from its wooden handle, but I do recommend having a cake tester on hand. One of these days, I’ll probably get a Oxo cake tester as a replacement.)
Of course, once the cake cooled, Carter made it his own by adding sprinkles. The candles are for Pink Bear, who celebrates her birthday on a regular basis.
Great Grandma’s Coffee Cake
4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup milk
4 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter two round cake pans or one 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, combine dry ingredients with butter until coarse crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup of mixture for topping.
To remaining mixture, add milk, eggs, and vanilla. Mix by hand until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and evenly sprinkle reserved mixture over the top.
Bake at 400ºF for 35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.