Saving Granny’s Coffee Cake

Funny story: when I was a kid, my mom was making her mom’s coffee cake recipe one day and had pre-measured out the various ingredients on the kitchen counter, including a mound of what looked like whipped cream. When it comes to thieving a scoop of whipped cream on the fly, you need to move fast and ask questions later. Unless the question is: “Hey, is this whipped cream or unmelted vegetable shortening?”

oh yeah

Yeecch! I’ll never forget that disgustingly slimy mouthfeel of eating a scoop of shortening. I’m actually making a face as I write this: such a revolting yet funny kitchen memory. Vegetable shortening will have no place in our kitchen especially because these highly processed fats become, through industrial manipulation, not simply less healthful for the body but more dangerous for the heart muscle once they’ve been exposed to high heat in the oven or on the stove.

In my analog recipe box (do people still use recipe boxes?), several much loved recipes had lingered too long without my bothering to make them because of the inclusion of shortening in the ingredient list. Chief among my favorite recipes was Granny’s coffee cake: despite my love for this recipe’s cakey texture and buttery brown sugariness I just couldn’t get past the slimy shortening.

coconut oil: looks like shortening but tastes delicious

We replaced the highly refined shortening 1:1 with unrefined coconut oil. The healthy, natural fat of unrefined coconut oil not only doesn’t transform under high heat into an unhealthy trans fat as does vegetable oil and shortening products but it imparts a wonderfully subtle sweetness throughout each bite.

an old photo of my grandma between two of her sisters

From my Granny to you, enjoy this delicious recipe for a light coffee cake with great texture and flavor. Use unrefined coconut oil which melts easily and quickly. If you’re short on butter or disinclined to use butter for the topping, use unmelted coconut oil instead. Makes two 9-inch cakes.


2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
2 eggs
3-1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cup buttermilk
2 tsp. lemon juice

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1+ Tbsp. butter


– Mix sugar, nutmeg, coconut oil and eggs.

– Mix together dry ingredients.

– Alternately add mixed wet ingredients with the buttermilk and lemon juice into the dry ingredients. Pour into 9-inch pans lined with a thin layer of coconut oil.

– Cream topping and spread topping on coffee cake batter. Be sure to distribute topping all the way to the edge of the pan to avoid a brown sugar collapse into the center of the coffee cake.

– Bake at 350° F for 35-40 minutes until a knife piercing the center comes out clean.

– Cool, slice, and enjoy.

Granny’s Coffee Cake, sans shortening

You may also like...