Monday, March 11, 2013

a coffee cake story

Let me tell you a story about coffee cake.

A week ago today, I turned in what I hope is the final draft of my dissertation.  For those that don't know, I've been working on this sucker for about 5 years.  My goal has been to get my Ph.D. in America history so that I could teach at the university level (or at least college-prep high school).  The topic of my dissertation is political newspapers in early America.  It's pretty fascinating (trust me).  I talk about the role that newspaper editors played in the formation of America's first political parties.  It took me years of research, but I finally have 246 pages of history submitted to my dissertation committee.  Let's hope they pass it without any more major revisions!

Oh what does that have to do with coffee cake?

Well, one of the more prominent and memorable historical characters in my dissertation is a guy named Hezekiah Niles.  Few people today have heard of him, but he was really quite famous in his day.  He edited the most popular national news magazine of his time - the Weekly Register.  It was probably about as well known as the Wall Street Journal or New York Times is today.  Niles was so...shall we say, beloved...that he even had a few towns named after him!

So I'm flipping through my Gooseberry Patch cookbooks the other day, and I come across a recipe in Farmhouse Kitchen - it was called Niles Coffee Cake!  I thought, "no way!"  But sure enough, it's a recipe that originated at a church in Niles, Michigan - a town named for Hezekiah Niles! 

I knew that this recipe was the one that I was going to bake to celebrate the completion of my dissertation.  It's an awful lot like monkey bread, so you know you are going to love it.  Join me in raising a glass of coffee - and a fork of coffee cake - to Hezekiah Niles!

So like I said - it's a lot like monkey bread.  The night before you make it, leave out a loaf of frozen bread dough for about an hour to let it start thawing.  Meanwhile, spray a bundt pan with cooking spray, and sprinkle some chopped nuts in the bottom.

Cut the dough into 16 chunks and arrange in pan.

Sprinkle with one 3.5 oz. box of cook-and-serve butterscotch pudding.

In a saucepan, melt together a stick of butter and a half cup of brown sugar.  Pour over the top of the bread.

Cover the pan and let it sit on the counter overnight.  In the morning, it should be nice and this!

Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until light golden.  To serve, turn out onto a decorative plate.

Niles Coffee Cake
from Gooseberry Patch Farmhouse Kitchen
  • 1 loaf frozen bread dough
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup cook & serve butterscotch pudding mix (3.5 oz. box)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

The night before, let frozen bread dough stand at room temperature for one hour.  Cut dough into 16 pieces and roll into balls.  Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray; sprinkle nuts into bottom of pa.  Arrange dough balls in pan; sprinkle with pudding mix and set aside.  In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter and brown sugar together.  Pour hot mixture over dough balls.  Cover pan; let rise overnight at room temperature.  In the morning, bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until rolls are light golden.  Turn out onto a decorative plate; serve warm.  Serves 6 to 8.


  1. Love this story and the connection! Thanks for sharing and congratulations on finishing. <3

  2. What a neat story and fun connection! Congrats on your dissertation!


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