An Iconic Coffee Cake

One ritual, so to speak, that I really enjoyed when we visited relatives in Germany, was their afternoon kaffeeklatsch. What’s a kaffeeklatsch? Basically, a mid-day gathering for comaraderie over cups of coffee and sweet bakery items. 

Now you don’t have to remind me how busy we all are during the holidays, but it seems to me carving a little time out in the afternoon for family and friends is exactly what we need. 

Having people over in the middle of the day allows you to keep things simple. A pot of coffee and perhaps some freshly brewed tea along with a square of coffee cake warm from the oven is as appealing as it is doable.

For the coffee cake how about my updated version of Ruth Lyons’ coffee cake? 

Recipes have been around for decades. The original recipe, was, I believe, shared by Ruth Lyons, a beloved national celebrity who hosted her iconic television show in Cincinnati during the 50’s and 60’s. 

What I love about this coffee cake is that it’s easy to make, not cloyingly sweet, with just the right amount of streusel topping. 

Oil replaces butter for a couple of reasons: back in the day it was less expensive and always available, plus it lends moistness to the cake that stays for days. 

Ruth Lyons’ coffee cake

I used less oil and salt than my original recipe, and a little more cinnamon.  Baking powder was added to give cake more lift.


9×13 pan, sprayed or brushed with softened butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar, packed (I used dark)

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg or 1 teaspoon already ground nutmeg 

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vinegar (I used clear)

1 cup milk (I used whole milk)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Preheat oven to 350. 

Stir both sugars, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together in a big bowl.

Add oil and stir until crumbly. You may want to use your fingers to break up the brown sugar. 

Take 3/4 cup out and set aside for topping. Leave rest in bowl.

Stir vinegar into milk. This makes “sour” milk, sort of like buttermilk but not as thick. 

Blend vinegar/milk mixture into sugar/flour mixture.

Beat in egg, baking soda and baking powder. 

Pour into prepared pan. 

Sprinkle with topping. 

Bake on middle rack 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Mine took a bit under 30 minutes.

Cut into squares. Yummy served warm.

Serves 12-15 or so.
Store, covered, in refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

Can be frozen up to 2 months.

Tip: How to flatten a cake that humps up in the middle 

When it comes out of the oven, place a kitchen towel on top and very gently pat hump down. Remove towel.

TIp: No nutmeg? Just use 2 teaspoons cinnamon. 

2 thoughts on “An Iconic Coffee Cake

  1. My mother watched the Ruth Lyon’s show in the early 60’s when we lived in Terrace Park outside of Cincinnati. We gathered as a family to discuss making donations to her Christmas fund and we each did! My brother’s name (he was 8) was drawn, the show called our house and my mom answered the question correctly. We won a TV!! which we kept for years and years. I look forward to making this coffee cake!


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