fruit-filled coffee cake

During a string of afternoon errands, I stopped by McDonald’s for an iced coffee. The drink they handed me (I got caramel flavored) was not an iced coffee. It was more like a chilled, thick syrup with a few ice cubes and a couple coffee vapors. Poison through a straw, was what it was. With every swallow, I felt like I was shortening my life by an entire week.

I gagged down the drink (I needed that caffeine), all the while wondering: Is this the level of sweetness to which most Americans are accustomed? Is our collective sugar addiction so severe that anything less sweet tastes unsweet? Because, wow. And I thought I liked sugar.

(That night we had salad for supper. You said we were going to have spaghetti, my younger daughter fussed. I had said we’d have spaghetti, but that was before I about killed myself with sugar. In this house, Mama drinks junk and everyone suffers the consequences.)

And now, let’s talk cake.

(And yes, ye purists. I’m fully aware that I’m sharing a recipe for cake—a breakfast cake, no less, and with icing—directly after delivering an anti-sugar rant. No one may ever take me seriously again. Which is fine. Let’s move on.)

I feel like I’ve always known about this coffee cake—was it a church breakfast staple when I was growing up, perhaps?—and while I’d made it a time or two over the last couple decades, I never counted it as one of my recipes. But this last week when my older daughter hauled in several bowls of sour cherries from our trees and I found myself standing for far too many hours at the disturbingly, red-juice-spattered kitchen sink, pitting the tedious little stinkers, this was the recipe I found myself fantasizing about.

I made it (obviously), and then I ate it every chance I got for the next three days (hopefully not as obviously). ‘Twas lovely.

Fruit-Filled Coffee Cake
Adapted from Mennonite Country-Style Recipes by Esther H. Shank.

The recipe is a snap to make (once the cherries are pitted, good luck with that), and while I’m partial to tart fruit pared with soft pastry, the cake would probably be delicious filled with any number of fruit sauces: blueberry, raspberry, apricot, etc.

I used lemon juice in place of milk for my glaze—a tasty upgrade—but then I found myself wishing I’d tried a cream cheese glaze. Maybe next time.

This is best served at room temperature. It keeps well, too. Three days out and it was none the worse for wear (or sitting, rather).

1 cup butter
1¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup milk
3-4 cups fruit filling (see below)
1 recipe glaze (see below)

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. Add the milk and stir just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, spread half of the dough over the bottom of a greased 10 x 15 jelly roll pan, making a thin bottom crust. Dollop the fruit filling over the batter and, using the back of a spoon, smooth it out so that it uniformly covers the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the fruit filling and try to spread it out as much as possible. Patches of fruit filling will still peep through, and that’s fine.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Cool for ten minutes before drizzling with the glaze. Cool the rest of the way before serving. Store leftovers at room temperature, covered with plastic.

Sour cherry fruit filling:
3-4 cups sour cherries
½ cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons therm-flo, or cornstarch
a little water

Put the sour cherries in a sauce pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and therm-flo. Add a little water to make a thin paste. Stir the paste into the cherries. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until the sauce is thick and bubbly. If the sauce is too thick, add more water.

Lemon glaze: whisk together 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted, with 2-4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. 

Cream cheese glaze: a fraction of this recipe, but thinned with more milk.

This same time, years previous: better iced coffee (well isn’t that ironic), my ethical scapegoat, the quotidian (6.25.12), chocolate peanut butter cake, lemon ice cream with red raspberries, slushy mojitos, and there’s a red beet where my head used to be.


  • Melissa @ thelittlegrayhouse

    I can't drink sweet tea or coffee drinks anywhere but home, they're all too sweet and give me a terrible stomachache.

    Excited to try this coffee cake recipe. I feel like I'm always searching for the perfect coffee cake recipe and they usually turn out too dry or too soggy.

  • Lisa

    Oh, this looks delicious! It has been SO long since I've checked in here, and for that I am so sorry. Perhaps I should make it up to you by making this! Such a good time of year for fruit desserts! We still have a little rhubarb in the freezer, and we're in that overlap season between strawberries and blueberries – yum, I'm sure I can find something.

    McDonald's is about the only drive-thru around here and for REAL a mom needs her coffee even when toddlers are napping in the car. I've learned you can ask for just ice, coffee, and milk, and repeat the "no sugar syrup" thing a couple times. It's pretty good! At home I like to add a splash of sweetener to my iced coffee, but I don't like it to taste like a melted milkshake.

  • beckster

    Yes, Americans like their sugar in syrup form. It makes my teeth hurt!
    I am so jealous that you have access to tart cherries. These things are scarce as hen's teeth where I live, and I love them for baking. I can't even seem to find them frozen, so I settle for the canned ones, even though they are not nearly as good. This cake look scrumptious!

  • Lana

    Yes! McD's iced coffee is vile! It gives me the worst stomach ache and I am no longer tempted to buy that garbage!

    I was raised on your recipe which was called Cherry Slices at our house and my brother always had it for his birthday cake. I make it with blueberries since I have never been a big fan of cherries.

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