Coffee cakes, despite their name, do not necessarily involve coffee or coffee flavoring. I find that this can confuse quite a few people the first time they hear the term. It’s also a primarily American term, so it is not really as widely known as some people might think. Coffee cakes are cakes meant to be served with coffee and are generally simple, not-too-sweet cakes adored with a glaze or streusel, rather than with a frosting. Coffee Cakes: Simple, Sweet, and Savory is a cookbook dedicated to the coffee cake. It has many traditional recipes, the kind you’d expect to find in coffee shop pastry cases and at family brunches, but it also has some more unusual savory coffee cakes. While coffee cakes are typically seen as a sweet treat, the inclusion of savory cakes is indicative of the fact that late morning or afternoon coffee might call for something that isn’t sweet, something to take the place of a course of appetizers and cocktails.
The book is broken down by occasion, starting with brunch and ending with dessert. Most of the cake recipes include fruits and nuts, though the dessert offerings are heavily slanted towards chocolate recipes. There are lots of interesting flavor combinations, and it would be quite easy to mix and match ideas between recipes. There aren’t a tremendous number of pictures in the book, but those that are included are lovely and it’s quite easy to take comfort in the fact that streusel-topped cakes tend to be more similar in appearance than heavily-frosted cakes. The best thing about the cookbook is that the recipes are all very straightforward, even those that are yeast-based cakes (or breads, in the case of some of the savory options), with relatively simple ingredient lists. For me, this really sticks with the spirit of coffee cakes as treats that should be as easy to make as they are to eat. This is the kind of book that will get a lot of use because the recipes don’t necessarily require a lot of time to prep and put together, and the results will be appropriate for just about any occasion.