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Mother’s Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake, photographed by Becky Lugart-Stayner

This classic cake makes an excellent centerpiece for Christmas morning breakfast, which is when my mother always served it to our family prior to the gift-fest around the Christmas tree. She made it ahead of time and warmed it up gently in the oven, covered with foil. I do the same thing, but we go right to the Christmas tree and turn to orange juice, coffee, and this simple and wonderful cake as a breather. Country-style sausage patties, scrambled eggs, cream gravy, and biscuits follow, once every present has been opened, and all that holds us until a Christmas dinner much later in the day. I love this time of year, and I love going to my local grocery store and seeing a major section of the green metal shelves lining the baking aisle completely empty, except for a snowy dusting of flour. Clearly, people who don’t bake constantly turn to it and hooray for that! I hope this time of year pleases you, whether you decorate, bake, and watch favorite movies, or whether you travel, hibernate, or pass the time in simple ways.

Mother’s Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake

Cinnamon-Raisin Filling

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups raisins

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted

Coffee Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspooon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

Heat the oven to 350 F, and grease and flour a 13-by-9-inch pan. To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, the nut mixture, and the melted butter by the baking pan.

To make the coffeecake batter, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and stir with a fork to mix them together well. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl, combine the butter and the sugar, and beat with a mixer at high speed, stopping to scrape down the bowl, until they are pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Using a large spoon or a spatula, add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and stir only until the flour disappears. Add about a third of the milk and mix it in. Repeat two more times with the remaining flour and milk, stirring just enough each time to keep the batter smooth.

Spread half the batter evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter, followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the batter, and then carefully spread the remaining batter over the filling, using a spatula or a spoon to smooth the surface all the way to the edges of the pan. Repeat the process, using the remaining cinnamon mixture, butter, and nut mixture to cover the cake evenly.

Bake at 350 F for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, fragrant, and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes on wire racks or a folded kitchen towel, and then serve in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm, or at room temperature.

This recipe comes from Southern Cakes: Sweet and Irresistible Recipes for Everyday Celebrations (Chronicle Books 2007), by Nancie McDermott. All rights reserved.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. Jamie Reply

    I always love baking but there is something so special and festive about holiday baking! This fabulous Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake is just what my men – and I – love for breakfast and to have around the house to nibble on all day. Bookmarked – I have to try this!

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      I missed this lovely comment back in the holiday season, and never replied. But here and now, today, March 5, 2013, I love seeing it. Happy baking to you and happy eating to your whole family. I know from your blog that your home is a place of extraordinarily fine food.

  2. David Reply

    I cannot overstate how absolutely wonderful this recipe is. It is hands down the best coffee cake I have ever eaten. It is the only cake I have ever baked that people literally fight over. I cannot bake these fast enough. My recommendation: follow her directions exactly as written, change nothing, alter nothing (Nancies Mom knows best). Its as good cold as it is warm, and while I rarely warm up cakes in the microwave (they dont seem to do well in there)- this wonderful creation even nukes well. Thanks Nancie.

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Mr. Pagano, I am blushing and beaming on reading this comment from you. This makes me so happy, that there are not words to express it. So I will say this only: Thankyou.

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