Great Grandma's recipes

Coffee cake

This cake has had me working hard.I wouldn’t have bothered except that I suspected that it could be REALLY good if I could just sort out the cooking time. I’m yet to meet a cake that tasted better after it’s cooked, and the batter of this cake was gorgeous.

The computer won’t let me crop, so please excuse the garlic, baby leeks and teenage son in the pic

The recipe had me asking Mr Google about sweetened condensed milk, as I wondered if that could be what the ‘sweet milk’ could be. It was indeed available in 1927 when the recipe book was started, so I have used it in my version of the recipe. As an aside, I teach piano, and as reward for students who do practice, I have a prize cupboard, which is full of all manner of things, from stationary to toys. Without fail, though, all my teenage students go for tubes of condensed milk. They are willing to practice 6 days a week for 5 weeks straight for a tube of the stuff. Apologies to the parents of said students, especially those with braces!

The original recipe has a coffee icing. I hate all things coffee (the sole exception to my completely omnivorous habits) and so I put off making this cake for about 2 months and only made it when we had people staying with us so they could eat the icing. However, I enjoyed it, including the icing which was super sweet and only a bit coffeeish. When I was 15 I tried coffee for the first time and hated it. At 25, a decade later, I gave it another go in case my tastes had matured. They hadn’t. At 35 I tried again with the same result. I think I’ll give it a miss when I get to 45. It’s not as though it’s good for me, and I’m pretty confident of the result.

I still don’t think I have perfected the cooking time. My first attempt was at 180°C  which made the outside burn before the middle cooked. I pulled it out after 50 minutes, a little burnt at the edges and a little gooey in the middle. For my second attempt, I used a large rectangular lamington tin, but the cake was dry compared to the original. For take 3, I went back to my large round springform tin, and lowered the temperature to 160°. The cooking time was 1 hour and  20 minutes. I opened the door of the oven at 1 hour and regretted it. As you can see from the picture, the cake sunk somewhat, and the top went from golden to dark within a minute or two when I opened the  door, I don’t know why.

Still, it was a winner, and I’ll keep the door shut for the whole cooking time next time. The version you see here has a lemon icing. The cake is really sweet and rich, and we like it with lemonny icing instead of coffee, but I’ll put both here and you can choose for yourselves.

Here’s the recipe:

250g soft butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 400g tin sweetened condensed milk (skim OK)

3 cups self raising flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder.

Beat the butter and sugar until they are pale. Add the eggs one at a time, and then the tin of milk. Finally sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix through. Scoop mixture into a lined tin. I used a 23cm round springform tin, lined with silicon paper. Bake at 160°C (320°F) for an hour and 20 minutes. (Not fan forced)

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn onto a rack to cool. Ice with your choice of Coffee or Lemon Icing. I left my cake upside down so that the sunken middle was hiding underneath and the top was beautifully smooth.

Coffee Icing

340g icing sugar, sifted, mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm strong coffee.

Lemon Icing

340g icing sugar, sifted, mixed with 3 tablespoons of warm lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped lemon rind.

Ice the top of the cake and let it ooze down the sides.


4 thoughts on “Coffee cake

  1. Your cake sounds really nice, Donna and the pictures look good too. I really am enjoying seeing your recipes and the story of the cooking of each one so do keep up the good work.



    Ian & Lynn Williams

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    Growing Families Australia


    Phone: 0411 289335 or 0412 412868


  2. Hi Donna. Lovely to meet you last week. I really do admire you for your perseverance with this. You inspire me to try a go at my mother’s old recipes (1950/60’s). There are probably some really nice ones!

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