Right out of graduate school I went to work for a non-profit educational consulting firm. Over the four years I worked there, I spent a lot of time in LAUSD schools.
I spent hours doing classroom observations, attending staff meetings, interviewing faculty and staff and even waiting outside of the principal’s office. I also spent time in the cafeterias (in Southern California, this is where kids go when it’s recess and raining). Yet somehow in all that time, I missed the Angelino institution known as LAUSD coffee cake.
I know, I know. Public school cafeterias aren’t exactly known for their cuisine. But this is the stuff of school yard legend. I came across it in a blurb on some social media platform or another which resulted in a quick Google dive. Turns out, this snack cake has been famous for a very, very long time. In fact, the recipe I found came from a 1994 (!) Los Angeles Times article.
The cake is deceptively simple, with a surprise secret ingredient: nutmeg. If you are looking for something quick to put together for a holiday brunch or gifts for friends or family (it travels very well), consider this recipe LAUSD’s holiday gift to you.
LAUSD Coffee Cake
as printed in the Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1994
- 2 1/2 C all purpose flour
- 1 C brown sugar
- 1 C granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 3/4 C grapeseed oil
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 egg
- 1 C buttermilk at room temp
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment.
- Whisk together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg and oil.
- Remove 1/2 C of mixture from bowl. Add 1 tsp cinnamon and set aside for topping.
- Combine remaining 1 tsp cinnamon, baking soda, egg and buttermilk. Blend well. Fold into flour mixture, do not over mix.
- Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 C reserved topping.
- Bake for 30-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
- Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares.
If you’d like to ice as pictured
- 1 C confectioner’s sugar
- 1/4 water (or to desired consistency
- Once cake is cooled, combine confectioner’s sugar and water in a small bowl. Mix until you have your desired consistency. Drizzle over top of cake. Allow to harden before cutting.
And just like that, the 2019 holiday baking odyssey has come to an end. As always, it was a hoot and even though in the 11th hour I swore I’d never do it again, I’m already dreaming about what to do for next year.
If you followed along with the 2019 Holiday Baking Analytics, you already know the stats. I used nearly 80 pounds of sugar, 36 pounds of flour, 29 pounds of butter and 45 pounds of fruits, nuts and other add-ins. I made nine types of cookies this year yielding 3,761 units. We mailed 22 boxes and delivered another 30 or so in person. Folks, my work here is done.
But, just in case you’d like to make your own, I’ve included links to each of the recipes below.
Cheers and happy holidays to all!
or as we call them in our house, Schweddy Balls
Our house looked like a tornado hit it for a day or two.
There was no theme, but I did have a lot of fun with colored duct tape (seriously–get some, it’s a good time).
And a new company for labels, Paper Culture.
I promised we stuffed as much as we could into each box.
Pre-purchasing labels from USPS is the way to go.
As an added bonus, each and every box (and most of the tissue paper) was checked for safety and construction by our quality control crew.
Traditional chocolate crinkle cookies were the second freshman cookie this year. I wanted something simple and chocolatey to replace the World Peace cookies that have been in rotation for many years. After searching through what seemed like hundreds of chocolate cookie recipes, the road lead me to this holiday favorite.
As I researched across recipes for the optimal chocolate crinkle, I learned that like rugelach, there really is only one recipe with slight variations. Nearly all I saw use vegetable oil instead of butter and unsweetened cocoa instead of chocolate.
Again, never to leave well enough alone, my version has the subtle addition of espresso powder. Because, as I’ve said before, why be normal.
- 1 C (90 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 C (325 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/2 C vegetable oil (I like grapeseed)
- 4 eggs at room temp
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 C (300 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 TBS espresso powder (optional)
- 1/2 C confectioners/powdered sugar
- In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil.
- Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.
- Whisk together the flour, baking powder, espresso powder and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture.
- Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll dough into one inch balls.
- Coat each ball in confectioners’ sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.
Because leaving well enough alone is boring, I like to rotate a couple of the cookie selections each year for holiday baking. This year, one of the new kids is a deeply browned butter, lacy coconut and caramel crispy concoction.
This should not come as a surprise considering my current obsession with caramelized rice crispies. As you might recall, I employed them in various and delicious ways including a Cracker Jack inspired bar, an extra chocolate chip cookie and some meta rice cripsie (or is it Krispy…or Krispie) treats.
And then there is my absolute favorite cookie discovery of 2019: Browned Butter Coconut Cookies.
I know. You know. Where I’m going.
These take some time; the butter needs to brown and cool in advance and the caramel crispies need to be made separately. BUT, if these flavors are your jam, it’s totally worth it.
Brown Butter Caramel Crispies
For the Caramelized Crispy Rice
- 2 C crispy rice cereal (have had good results with both regular and brown rice versions)
- 3 TBS water
- 1/2 C granulated sugar
- Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan add sugar. Then add water and mix until sugar dissolves. This is the last time you are going to want to touch the mixture until you take it off the heat the first time.
- Bring mixture to a boil (don’t stir) and allow to simmer until the syrup just starts to brown.
- Remove from heat and mix in cereal (I find a rubber spatula works the best). Gently mix cereal until ever last piece is covered in syrup. By the time you there, everything will have dried and look like its dusted in snow (and now we know how they make Frosted Flakes).
- Return to heat over a medium burned and fold constantly. The sugar will start to melt and caramelize. Keep folding until you reach desired depth of caramelization. I know the version I like is done when the sugar starts to smoke.
- Spread cereal on parchment lined baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
- From here you can store in an airtight container in big hunks.
For the cookies
- 1 C (2 sticks or 225 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 TBS water
- 1/2 C plus 2 TBS (125 grams) granulated sugar
- 3/4 C (145 grams) packed light-brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 C plus 3 tablespoons (175 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Slightly heaped 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 3 C (180 grams) dried, unsweetened coconut chips
- 1/2 batch caramelized crispy rice (so feel free to eat the other half)
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Once it is a deeply fragrant, almost nut-brown color, remove from heat and pour butter and all browned bits at the bottom into a measuring cup. Adding 2 tablespoons water should bring the butter amount back up to 1 cup.
- Chill browned butter in the fridge until it solidifies, about 1 to 2 hours.
- Scrape chilled browned butter and any bits into a large mixing bowl. Add both sugars and beat the mixture together until fluffy.
- Add egg and beat until combined, scraping down bowl as needed, then vanilla.
- Meanwhile, whisk flour, baking soda and salt together in a separate bowl. Pour half of flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined, then add remaining flour and mix again, scraping down bowl if needed. Add coconut chips in two parts as well.
- Fold-in caramelized rice crispies.
- Scoop dough into 1 inch balls, flatten each slightly and arrange all onto a baking sheet (separating layers with parchment paper). Refrigerate for an hour up to over night.
- When you are ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
- Arrange a few with a lot of room for spreading on the baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden brown all over, about 10 minutes (rotate halfway through cooking). Repeat to bake all cookies.
- Cool cookies on baking sheets for 1 to 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cookies keep for up to one week at room temperature. Extra dough can be stored in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for a month or more.