Heirloom Recipes

Bessie’s Bundt Kuchen

By • September 30, 2013 • 4 Comments

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Every week, we’re unearthing Heirloom Recipes -- dishes that have made their way from one generation's kitchen to the next.

Today: Winnie Abramson of Healthy Green Kitchen shares a modified version of her grandmother's kuchen. 


My grandma Bessie’s bundt kuchen was a legend in my family. A drop-dead gorgeous, streusel-embellished coffeecake, my mom recalls that Bessie began making it sometime in the mid-1960s. Bessie baked her kuchen for holiday meals and whenever family and friends gathered at her home, until she died in 2005.

Kuchen is German for “cake”. According to The Joy of Cooking, traditional kuchens were breakfast pastries made with yeast and sometimes filled with fruit. Kuchens were very popular among American Jews: my 1954 copy of The Settlement Cookbook contains eight whole pages of kuchen recipes. I don’t know for sure where Bessie got her recipe (which my Aunt Beverly gave me after Bessie passed away): it relies on baking powder as a leavening agent instead of yeast, but we’ve still always called it a kuchen. 

There was nothing not to love about Bessie’s recipe, but I’ve made a couple of small changes since I began baking it for my own family. The original called for a mixture of butter, brown sugar, and whole pecans to be pressed all over the greased bundt pan before the batter is spooned in, but since my kids don’t love nuts in baked goods, I did away with the pecans. I found that adding cinnamon and flour to the streusel made for a tastier mixture: one that bakes into the top of the cake and creates a thick ribbon running through the center. Lastly, because the streusel is quite sweet, I reduced the amount of sugar in the cake by half of a cup.

I'm pretty sure that Bessie would approve of the ways in which I’ve adapted the recipe; I know for certain that she’d be overjoyed by my continuing the tradition of sharing it with people I love. It makes a great brunch accompaniment and a lovely dessert -- and while it's a coffeecake, don’t let that stop you from serving it with tea.

Bessie’s Bundt Kuchen Recipe

Serves 12-16

For the streusel:
1 generous cup light brown sugar
1 cup organic Einkorn wheat flour (or unbleached, all-purpose flour)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 stick salted organic butter, cut into 8 pieces

For the cake:
3 cups organic Einkorn wheat flour or unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teasoons baking powder
Zest from 1 small lemon
1 cup milk (I use organic, whole milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 sticks salted organic butter
1 1/2 cups sugar (I use organic sugar)
5 large eggs (I use organic, pastured eggs)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Jump to Comments (4)

Tags: heirloom recipes, kuchen, coffecake

Comments (4)

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12 months ago Assonta Wagner

I made the Kuchen for my family's Friday breakfast..they loved it! I used brown sugar instead of white and a whole tablespoon of vanilla. (We like vanilla!) The brown sugar gave it a caramel-y flavor throughout..paired with the cinnamon streusel, the kids went through half of it before they left for school! I will be making it again!!

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12 months ago Assonta Wagner

I think I have that copy of The Settlement Cookbook. I collect old cookbooks and love them. The recipes are amazing and I often go to them for meals and snacks. I am definitely trying this recipe!

Chris_in_oslo

12 months ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Wonderful story! I always like it when families adapt and adopt their own names for dishes, and I also love it when we are aware of the continuing changes we all make to traditional family recipes.

But wait! Under "Known Forms of Kuchen," Wikipedia lists "A coffee cake–like pastry, with veins and pockets of cinnamon and sugar baked throughout; its primary components are butter and sugar. (Most popular in Montana and Southern Indiana.)" Coincidence or some connection?

Newliztoqueicon-2

12 months ago Lizthechef

There is nothing I love more than a recipe with a family story. This looks like a winner for certain -