By Elizabeth Hudson, special to Edible DC Photograph by Hannah Hudson
Growing up, my Saturday morning alarm was the smell of cinnamon—Momma’s Coffee Cake. Crusty with sugar-cinnamon, this was a serious family favorite, and we four Hudson children blessed it liberally with butter or grape jelly. Our beloved treat was shared across our extended family, just as likely to show up on Grandmother’s breakfast table as our own. Adults now, my siblings and I make it for each other when we visit, our own way of saying, “I’m so glad you’re here!”
Some years after my own kids started eating Momma’s Coffee Cake, my grandmother shared her battered recipe box with me. Inside I found a yellowed, well-worn and fragile notecard. The recipe for coffee cake was familiar, but this wasn’t Momma’s. It was Minda’s.
“Who is Minda?” I asked.
Grandmother smiled. “Well, we never knew Minda, but we think of her. You remember our friends the Clores?” I did remember.Gerald and Anna Clores were my grandparents’ dearest friends for 70 years.
As a young man in the 1920s, Gerald had had a sweet, beautiful girlfriend named Minda, and never in his short life had he ever known anyone like Minda.
Until he met Anna.
Minda began to suspect that perhaps another young woman had entered the picture, but held on until honest Gerald confessed and told Minda he thought Anna was for him. Too tearful to respond, Minda let Gerald go.
But Minda left a legacy in our family nonetheless. She showed up on Anna’s doorstep and still tearful, told her to take care of Gerald. She placed her coffee cake recipe in Anna’s hand. “It’s his favorite,” she told Anna. “Please fix it for him sometimes so maybe he will remember me.”
Whether from guilt or kindness, Anna obliged and for decades she made the coffee cake, sharing the recipe with friends and family while grandly labeling each recipe card MINDA’S QUICK COFFEE CAKE. The tattered card from Grandmother’s box is my 90-year-old treasure.
Five generations have loved this simple spice cake. We sometimes think of the legendary Minda, hoping things worked out for her, and thank her for such a delicious love story.
Minda’s Quick Coffee Cake 1 cup flour 1 egg ½ cup sugar ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup melted butter 3 teaspoons baking powder ½ cup to ⅔ cup milk 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350° and butter and flour a 8” square baking pan.
To make the cake, combine all the ingredients and beat well. Pour the batter into the floured and buttered pan. For the topping, mix ¼ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together and sprinkle over the cake. Dot with butter.
Bake 20 minutes.
Elizabeth Hudson is a former journalist and currently writes history curriculum in Austin, Texas.