James Beard's Coffee Cake

Thursday 25 November 2021

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

I am very much thinking about the American Thanksgiving today as I write this.  I really enjoy the fact that it is celebrated here in the last week of November. 

When I lived in the UK, I always celebrated it in November rather than the Canadian tradition of celebrating it in October.  Celebrating it in November just seemed to get the Holiday season off to a grand start!  

When in Rome however, and this year we did it in October, Canadian style.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 
I am, however,  thinking of  my blessings and all that I have to be thankful for today.  And I truly have much.  When I look around me at my little home, I know that God is good and I am thankful unto Him for all things.

I live in a country which is relatively safe and filled with freedoms.  I have a comfortable home where I am warm and sheltered.  As I write this one of my kittens is nestled into my side and the other is laying on the back of the chair I am sitting in.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

I am surrounded with love and have been always.  I have come an incredibly long ways over these last 12 months due to the love of family and friends and also due to my readers here on the blog and facebook, etc.

I have, for the most part, only ever met incredibly nice people through this medium of blogging. Like Susan Branch, I feel like I am a part of a huge community of girlfriends and even some male friends.
People who share one thing in common and that is a love of food and cooking,  and yes, recipes. I have to say that I am surrounded by people with an immense generosity of spirit, but that is really what cooking  is about when you get right down to it.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

When people cook for you and share recipes with you, they are sharing a chunk of their heart with you.  

I firmly believe that, and I truly love the giving and the taking that surrounds this practice, as well as the generosity of loving sharing that it instills in each of us. 

One only has to read through a community cookbook to feel that love. People are making an offering of their very "Best" to you. What a gift!

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

Much to be thankful for indeed.  This recipe I am sharing with you today is one such gift. It came to me by way of a new "friend," one of my newer readers, Burt. 

Burt reached out to me last week with a very kind and thoughtful e-mail.  In the e-mail Burt mentioned several of their favorite recipes.  I loved that sort of thing, that sort of sharing.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 
I wrote Burt back and asked if they would share the recipes with me. I love to try new recipes and even new/old recipes, and especially recipes which are special to people for whatever reason.

This recipe comes from James Beard's cookbook, entitled "James Beard's Menus for Entertaining."  I think my boss at the Manor actually had that book.  Burt offered to share it with me and I jumped at the chance.

James Beard was one of my inspirations when I was growing up, along with Julia Child, Madame Jehane Benoit and the Galloping Gourmet!

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

The recipe came to be by way of a scanned cookbook page. You can tell from the scan that it is a much beloved recipe. The page looks well worn and is scribbled with notes.

I love it!  I did not wait too long before baking it. I think I actually baked it the very next day!  Oh my, but it smelled lovely when it is baking and I can tell you, it is delicious as well!  I'd expect nothing less from James Beard. 

Thank you Burt!

James Beard's Coffee Cake 


This is a very simple cake requiring very simple ingredients. The most exotic ingredient is Mace, which is the lacy covering of a nutmeg which has been ground.  If you cannot find it, simply use Nutmeg in it's place.

  • all purpose plain flour
  • baking powder (the recipe says double acting, but I think all baking powder is double acting today.)
  • salt
  • mace (if you cannot find it you may use nutmeg in its place)
  • sugar (fine granulated or caster sugar)
  • one egg (I always use large free range eggs)
  • milk (I only ever have full fat milk in my house.)
  • melted butter (I basically only ever have salted butter in the house)
  • butter, sugar and cinnamon/mace to dust.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 


As with many of these older recipes the instructions can be a bit vague to the newer cook, especially one who has no experience in the kitchen.  I always try to dispel the mystery!

In the recipe it says to sift the dry ingredients together.  Did that mean the sugar as well?  I am not sure. My sifter  (which is a fine meshed sieve) would not sift sugar or salt for that matter. So I sifted everything else together and then just stirred in the sugar and salt.

Sifting does several things. One it mixes the leavening evenly into the flour and two it aerates the flour giving you a nicer lift to your bake.

James Beard's Coffee Cake

The recipe said to combine these with the milk, egg and melted butter.  I chose to beat those things together first and then add them all at once to the dry ingredients.  

Much like you would do when making a quick bread.  Burt says sometimes more milk is needed. I did add a tiny splash more as the batter was somewhat stiff. 

You want a batter that softly drops from a spoon. So if your batter is ultra thick, do add a tablespoon more or two of additional milk. 

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

By this time it was already smelling nice and fragrant from the Mace.  Spoon/pour/spread the batter into a buttered 8-inh square pan that you have buttered really well. 

Now here is the surprising bit. You need to dot the top in butter which you have rolled in sugar. No measurements mentioned at all.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

I used approximately 1 1/2 TBS (possibly 2) of really cold butter that I cut into bits and dropped into a bowl of sugar (2 TBS) rolling them about a bit to coat.

I then dropped the butter in little nibbles all over the top of the cake.  Finally you dust the top with some additional mace/nutmeg or cinnamon.  I chose to do some nutmeg and cinnamon.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

Already I was thinking about how those little nibbles of sugar butter were going to melt down into the surface of the cake in sweet buttery dimples.

I was not disappointed.  This not only smelled heavenly when it was baking, but yes, the surface was covered with little sweet buttery dimples of lusciousness! (Can you tell I love LOVE butter?)

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

I could hardly wait to get it out of the oven and dig into it.  Its a good thing this cake is best served hot/warm is all I can say!

I dug in straight away. I just couldn't resist it!  I enjoyed a nice hot cup of Orange, Mandarin, and Cinnamon herbal tea with it. Oh my, but it was some good.  Thank you so much Burt!

James Beard's Coffee Cake

Delicious things like this are surely meant to be shared and so I took some of it over to my friend Sheila who lives next door.  She was also most appreciative and I can tell you, even today I am enjoying it. 

It is pure and simple deliciousness.  A gift for which I am most thankful.

James Beard's Coffee Cake 

Speaking of gifts many of you have remarked from time to time on this lovely tea cozy of mine.

This was also a gift to me, from my friend Ginny in New Hampshire.  She so very generously knit it for me. I am a hopeless knitter. I am much more adept at crochet.

James Beard's Coffee Cake

It is filled with love.  Not only was it a gift from a loving and generous heart and talented hands, but it also is filled with hearts!

Can you see them in the pattern?  Yellow, green and gold hearts are knit right into the beautiful pattern.  It looks a treat on my little Wrendale teapot, sitting on my  little  Emma Bridgewater cork teapot trivet.

Talk about home sweet home and thankfulness. It just doesn't get much better than this.  Cake, tea, the love of friends.  Happy  American Thanksgiving everyone!

James Beard's Coffee Cake

James Beard's Coffee Cake

Yield: One 8-inch square cake
Author: Marie Rayner
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 25 MinTotal time: 35 Min
This is a delicious cake that goes wonderfully with a nice hot cuppa. The recipe was a gift from a friend.


  • 1 1/2 cups (210g) less 2 TBS of all purpose plain flour
  • 2 tsp double acting baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1 large free range egg, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk
  • 3 TBS melted butter
  • Additional butter and sugar for topping (see instructions)
  • mace or cinnamon to top


  1. Preheat the oven to 400*F/200*C/ gas mark 6. Butter a 8-inch square baking tin really well. Set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, mace, and salt together into a bowl. Stir in the sugar.
  3. Beat together the egg and milk with the melted butter. Add all at once to the dry ingredients and beat together until smooth. Pour into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Dot with butter which has been rolled in sugar. (Although amounts were not given, I used 1 1/2 TBS of butter cut into bits and about 2 TBS of sugar) Dust with mace or cinnamon.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and puffy. Serve hot with a nice hot cuppa.
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  1. Well, what a great way to start my Thanksgiving day. I appreciate the kind loving words and the reminder to recognize the sources of gratitude I have in my life.. Balances the Dysfunctional Family Baggage Holiday crazy.

    1. Thanks so much! This is a fabulous cake and what a wonderful opportunity we have on Thanksgiving to take note of our blessings. We should make every day a Thanksgiving day! xoxo

  2. This post is lovely and the coffee cake sounds delicious, too. I'm quite sure I'm not the only blogger who is thankful for you and your generous sharing of your recipes, tips and stories.

    1. Aww thanks so much Jeanie! You are such a treasure to me. Love you to bits! xoxo PS - The coffee cake is fabulous!

  3. Happy Thanksgiving! I love this blog! Recipes I can actually do!!


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