Discover Prompt Day 5: Aunt Maxye’s Coffee Cake

Aunt Maxye’s coffee cake was a staple at all of our Christmas, Thanksgiving, any excuse at all gatherings. I’ve tasted a lot of cinnamon goodies, nothing beats this coffee cake.

Aunt Maxye was Grandma Ola’s sister. I always loved visiting her house. She had a way of making everyone feel loved. When she kissed a friend of mine who had never met her before, she said, “I’m the kissing aunt.” She had beautiful blonde hair and always wore bright red lipstick. Always smiling, she had a way about her that made everyone feel good.

Aunt Maxye’s coffee cake became Grandma Ola’s coffee cake as children grew and memories became less vivid. My mother made the same recipe and we enjoyed it at every family gathering. I first made the coffee cake myself when I was in the 7th grade. For Home Economics class we all had to make a breakfast for our group. I contributed a homemade coffee cake. It was delicious. I’ve been making them ever since.

My mother told me, “You can make or bake anything you want, but you just have to clean up the mess when you’re done.” I was happy to do it, and quickly became the baker of the house.

My two favorite baking projects were chocolate chip cookies and coffee cake. Any excuse at all was an inspiration for me to start mixing. I still love baking, and our kids often ask for coffee cake.

The recipe is easy. You should try making a coffee cake for yourself.

  • 3 cups floor
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Topping:
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons flour

Begin by mixing the topping. Melt the butter, put in a mixing bowl. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and walnuts. Stir by hand, mixing thoroughly. Add flour, mix again. Set the topping aside.

Using a stand or portable mixer, put the shortening and sugar in the bowl and mix until creamed. Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Add vanilla, mix. In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder. Beginning with flour mixture, alternate dry ingredients and milk, mixing thoroughly after each.

In a greased 9 x 13 inch pan, put enough of the cake batter in the pan to cover the entire bottom of the pan, but save enough for another layer. Add about half of the topping mixture. Then spoon the remaining batter over the topping by placing spoonfuls around on the topping and then smoothing with a spatula. Evenly spread the remaining topping over the batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, a few more if needed. A knife inserted in the middle will not come out completely clean even though it is done.

This anytime delight is best enjoyed, obviously, with coffee. I hope you’ll make one soon. Enjoy!

How to Brew the Best Cup of Coffee

If you enjoy coffee as much as I do, then coffee is on your mind throughout the day. Finishing one cup just means the pleasure of looking forward to the next has begun.

Enjoying coffee to the fullest requires care in choosing the perfect mug. Don’t just grab something from the cupboard. Think. The handle, weight, lip, and appearance of the mug are all very important.

Are you most comfortable using the same mug every day, or do you prefer variety? I could live with two or three rather than a cupboard full.

The most important factor in choosing a mug is the thought and feeling it inspires. Do you prefer a message on your mug, or do you like blank space? Your mug should not contribute to the pressures of the day. It should comfort and calm. My first mug of choice is tall, with a pleasing weight and handle. The inscription is, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” My second choice is my tall mug that simply says, “Papa”.

However you choose to brew your coffee, it should provide you with a steaming, flavorful, cup that tastes great from the first sip to the last.

This antique Pyrex percolator works perfectly on our gas stove. The brewing coffee fills the kitchen with an incredible aroma.

For a six-cup pot, fill it to the line with fresh cold water. Add the stem and basket. Place a round paper filter in the bottom of the basket. Use three heaping teaspoons of ground coffee, maybe a little more, or less, depending on your choice of strength. Place the cover on the basket, and the top on the pot. You’re ready for heat. Put the pot on a medium flame, and wait for the magic to begin.

The beautiful thing about our Pyrex percolator is watching the coffee drip through the basket and slowly turning the clear water to brown. Once the perk is constant, the flame should be turned down to low, not simmer, because the perking will almost stop completely. The coffee should be allowed to perk for five minutes and then removed from the heat. Delicious!

A perfectly brewed, delicious pot of coffee.

Do you enjoy your coffee black, or do you use cream and sugar, or just cream, or just sugar? Do you really doctor it with flavored cream? If so, what is your favorite? We used cream and sugar for many years, but now prefer black.

Are you okay with coffee that isn’t hot? When my coffee begins to lose it’s edge, I nuke it. I know, I know. To some people, nuking coffee destroys it. I don’t believe so. I prefer sipping hot, hot coffee. Nothing tepid.

When I do have the pleasure of going to Starbucks, I usually order a Grande Mocha, Extra-hot. I used to request 190 degrees. One time the server said, “And here’s your insanely hot mocha.” What can I say? I like it hot.

The Keurig coffee maker is an easy and fast way to a good cup of coffee. It does provide aroma, but not as much as a percolator on the stove.

For coffee to be enjoyed fully, thought needs to be given to the brewing process. A clean coffee pot, or automatic coffee maker, is very important.

Coffee is a partner in life. If it is given time, is appreciated, and thoughtfully enjoyed, the pleasure returned will be amazing.

Oh wow, my cup is cold.

Ice Cream Research

We lived in Texas for several years. While there we were surprised to learn the term “Cokes” refers to any carbonated drink. At a restaurant, the server asked, “What kind of Cokes do you want?” We’ll have Sprite, or Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer. Sprite Cokes, Dr. Pepper Cokes, Root Beer Cokes. That was Texas.

There are two things you don’t mess with. One is coffee, the other is ice cream. I have had coffee all over the country, and a few other countries. The coffee in Louisiana is served “dark” or “light”. The dark is heavy enough you can almost stand a spoon up in it. Good stuff. In Australia we asked for coffee with cream. The waiter looked at us like we were crazy. She brought us coffee with a bowl of whipped cream. There, you ask for flat white, long black, short black. Not coffee with cream. Gracious.

Ice cream is a serious matter. So serious, that recently we began doing research. We investigated local Dairy Queen’s to discover whether they were creating a proper Mocha-Chip Blizzard. The first time we asked if they could make a Mocha Blizzard, since it wasn’t on the menu, they said, “Sure!”, like it was a stupid question. We were delighted. When we received the non-turned-upside-down blizzard, we were less-than thrilled. It was vanilla ice cream with little flecks of chocolate. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, we thought maybe the chocolate flecks were mocha flavored.

The unset of the research project required us to search out other Dairy Queen’s to discover whether the first Dairy Queen had made a mistake. When we visited another DQ, we asked the same question, and received the same response. We were thrilled to receive a golden-brown swirl of ice cream, standing tall in the cup, about a half-inch above the rim filled with the familiar chocolate flecks. It was delicious! A rich espresso flavor. We knew we were on the right track.

So, that meant we were required, of course, in the interest of proper scientific discovery, to revisit the original DQ, to inquire about their ingredients for what they called the Mocha Chip Blizzard. Obviously, to do a proper statistical investigation, to find whether the null hypothesis was true with regard to the number of chocolate flecks that were in each blizzard, we would have to completely melt the blizzard, count the chocolate flecks, then do the same with a Mocha Chip Blizzard from the first DQ. We decided our research would not reach to that depth. Taste preference would be enough.

At great risk, we took one of our grandsons with us, back to the original Dairy Queen, for the final test. We ordered two Mocha Chip Blizzards, and an Oreo Reeses-Pieces Blizzard for our grandson. When we arrived at the drive-thru window, I asked how their Mocha Chip Blizzard was made. The server said, “With Tiramasu Sauce and Chocolate Chips.”

Once again, we were disappointed. There was no noticeable espresso or tiramisu flavor. Only the familiar chocolate flecks.

At long-last, our ice cream research was complete. The second Dairy Queen served a proper Mocha Chip Blizzard, with a deep and wonderful coffee flavor, enhanced by the chocolate flecks. The original DQ needs to work on what they refer to as a Mocha Chip Blizzard. Like I said, don’t mess with ice cream.

Speaking of coffee, I need some.

Seniors’ Discount Coffee

Let’s admit it. Coffee is not about the taste as much as it is about having a cup in your hand. Trips go better with a cup of coffee. And it doesn’t matter how long the trip is. If you have to be in the car and actually drive somewhere, then it’s coffee time.

I am well into senior land, but the first time I received a seniors’ discount, I was only 45. In fact, it was on my forty-fifth birthday. My wife and I were in the drive-thru at McD’s, and I asked for two small coffees with one cream in each. When we arrived at the window the girl said, “That will be fifty-two cents.” I said, “I ordered two coffees.” “Right. I gave you the seniors’ discount.” My wife and I just looked at each other, I didn’t know what to say. I took the discount.

I wonder if seniors’ discount coffees are skimped in some way to make up for the loss in revenue. Maybe they pull the cup out from under the magic coffee spout just a little early and add hot water. Maybe they have a “seniors only” pot that only contains three-fourths the amount of grounds that a normal pot does.

Isn’t the idea of a discount backwards? It seems, after having four children, that there should be a range of discounts for parents with kids, depending on how many you have. For example, thirty-six years ago, we had triplet boys. Total surprise, boom! We went from one child to four. Coffee should have been free from that point until our kids were out on their own. At the window the McD person could say, “Do you have children? How many? Three? Ok, your order will be twelve dollars and ten cents, instead of eighteen dollars and forty-two cents.”

I have to admit we had the McD meal down to a science. We got one large drink, split if four ways. Four hamburgers, one large fry – four way. Loads of ketchup works like gravy or soup if you have enough.

Bill Knapp’s, God rest it’s soul that is so missed, was like heaven for us. Since our kids’ birthdays are all within a week of each other, we always headed to Bill Knapp’s. We could get a free chocolate cake for EACH child for their birthday. We walked out of there loaded with chocolate birthday cake, which lasted about a month if we froze some! Man, I miss that! No wonder they went out of business!

Seniors’ discount coffee doesn’t taste any different, no matter what they do or don’t do to it. But ask yourself. What does the seniors’ discount mean? Are we being rewarded for actually making it to this age? Are we being emotionally penalized for still being around? Are they saying, “We don’t expect as much from you, so we’re not going to take as much”? Or are they saying, “We know your taste is fading, so we’re not going to charge you as much for something you can’t taste anyway.”

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know the seniors’ discount is available. Coffee at a lower price. What could be better?

Where’s my coffee?

Free Fun

Do you love a campfire? Isn’t there just something about the crackling sound and constant change of the flame that is mesmerizing?

I love coming out to the fire pit after a great campfire the night before to see if there are enough remaining hot coals to start it up again. To be genuine, you have to start it naturally. No blowing on the embers. You have to find small, dry twigs, stack them over the hottest part of ash, and see if they’ll ignite. It’s a thrill to see that first flicker of flame.

Why keep a fire going on the second and third day? Just because I can. No productive reason, other than pleasure. Yes, just like a kid. Our record is four days. No charcoal lighter, no paper, just dry sticks in the coals.

Why do you like sitting by a fire? What is it that makes you stare? To me, there is a calming effect that is hard to match.

When I was a kid it’s a wonder I didn’t burn the house down several times over. I remember making a stove out of a coffee can and a tuna can. I used a can opener to make holes around the closed end of the coffee can, lit charcoal in the tuna can, then turned the coffee can upside down over the burning coals. The bottom of the coffee can is the grill. My grill meat of choice was balogna. Baloney. Ummm, sizzling, curling balogna, fried to perfection in the garage.

There are lots of simple things to enjoy. A campfire is one. There is incredible pleasure in returning the second or third day and finding enough coals to ignite the flame again. It’s something about ashes that look cold, finding fuel, and discovering the coals are still alive. Flame. Not an inferno, just a nice, constant but ever changing flame.

Makes me want coffee. Where did I leave it?

These Taste Great with Coffee

To real coffee drinkers, coffee is a food group. You know that question about what you would want if you were stranded on an island? There’s only one answer. Coffee.

Coffee alone is wonderful, as long as you have something to munch on. No, really. Coffee, by itself, is amazing. Nothing else is needed. Except M&Ms with peanuts. The hierarchy of needs should be topped by coffee, then M&Ms with peanuts. After that, anything else goes.

Have you ever wondered why coffee is offered in just about every office of any kind, anywhere? It’s because serious-minded people know life functions around coffee. If coffee was removed, life would end as we know it. Nothing would work after coffee.

What to eat with coffee is a question discussed around the world. After M&Ms with peanuts, the next best choice is Dove chocolate. Preferably dark chocolate. The little hearts are just the right amount. Next on the list would have to be nacho chips right out of the bag. Have you noticed that the best nacho chips are in the bottom of the bag where you can reach in and masterfully grab a stack of chip crumbs? Lucious!

Another great companion to coffee is McDonald’s pancakes, no sausage, and extra syrup. The little plastic trays they have are great for eating in the car. I’ve done it many many times, syrup and all. No spills! While I was working on my counseling master’s degree, on weekends for over two years I had pancakes at McDonald’s every Saturday morning, without exception.

Every list of what to eat with coffee has to include no-bake cookies. We were recently introduced to peanut butter no-bakes, which are, essentially, the original no-bakes someone made and forgot the dark chocolate. I don’t know how you forget chocolate, but the resulting cookies were fantastic!

After M&Ms with peanuts and Dove chocolate, can you seriously come up with something better to eat with coffee than Bush’s baked beans? Come on! Really! Doctor them up with a little brown sugar and some barbecue sauce, and you’re sitting on the top rung. Coffee and baked beans. Oh, wow!

Here are a few more suggestions you might want to try with your next cup: Frosted Mini-Wheats, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Ritz Crackers, Mini-Saltene Crackers, carrots, apples, cheese of all kinds, potato salad (without mustard), hot dogs, cold bean salad, potato chips, raw almonds, sliced almonds, baked almonds, cashews, Cocoa-Puffs, and ice cream.

I think I have some M&Ms with peanuts somewhere.

Where’s my coffee?

That Coffee Thing

Have you ever wondered why you love coffee so much? Think about it. Is the taste so good that nothing else compares? Is the aroma of your favorite brew so delightful that pressure and anxiety disappear? Does the sound of coffee pouring into a mug open your imaginary special place? Do pleasant memories flood your thoughts when someone says the word “coffee”?

My first cup of coffee was more like coffee-milk. The little cup held less than a measured half-cup, but I remember it just like I’m holding it now. I talked my mother into sharing and I was immediately hooked. More than a half-century later we still have the canisters that held the ground coffee from which I always asked for a sniff.

I have again discovered the pleasure of perking coffee on our gas stove in an antique glass pot. Coffee creates ambience and the aroma lingers in the kitchen well into late morning. Painfully, I also discovered that glass cook-top stoves do not work well with glass coffee pots. A large bubble under the stem exploded spewing scalding coffee all over my hand. That was about fifteen years ago, so I was happy to find gas works well for old fashioned coffee making.

I really became a serious coffee drinker while my wife and I were dating. She knew how to make great coffee taste even better with just the right amount of cream and sugar. We found over the years that coffee was something we could enjoy in a restaurant cheaply. From the Golden Bear in Kankakee, to the Junction in Dekalb, the Sunrise in Geneseo, to Coco’s in Ft. Worth, all places we hardly had two nickels to rub together, coffee sustained us.

I have to say, though, there really is something spectacular about Kona coffee in Hawaii. Oh my gosh! You can make a meal out of it! Delicious!

I don’t understand people who don’t like coffee. There are people who can’t even stand the smell! There is something wrong with that.

I wonder what kind of coffee Jesus drank. Probably the same kind God drinks. Obviously, it’s not drip coffee because that type is really not that old. Probably one of those brewed by putting grounds right in the water and then boiling it until just the right moment. Things would have been a lot easier if there was a verse that read, “Thou shalt drink Maxwell House.” Starbucks is out of luck, they’re too new.

By the way, Sanka is not coffee. It shouldn’t even be mentioned in a conversation about coffee. Postum really isn’t bad, but it’s not coffee either. Tea is for another post.

Where’s my coffee?