LAUSD Coffee Cake

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


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 9X13 inch pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg and oil.
  3. Remove 1/2 C of mixture from bowl.  Add 1 tsp cinnamon and set aside for topping.
  4. Combine remaining 1 tsp cinnamon, baking soda, egg and buttermilk.  Blend well.  Fold into flour mixture, do not over mix.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with 1/2 C reserved topping.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes up clean.
  7. 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.