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.
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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
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)
I grew up in a restaurant family (my parents owned the now closed Quilted Giraffe in NYC) and I've always loved to cook.
My interest in the connection between food and health led me to pursue a graduate degree in naturopathic medicine. I don't practice medicine anymore; I have a blog called Healthy Green Kitchen that I started in May of 2009 and I wrote a book called One Simple Change that will be published in January, 2014.
I live in upstate New York with my family and many pets.