Grandma Piggyback's Broiled Coffee Cake

April 10, 2018
2 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Makes 1 8-inch square cake
Author Notes

This very easy, excellent cake requires no butter in the batter, but yes cream, and it could not be more light and fluffy. But there’s butter in the topping, along with extra cream, which during broiling transforms into a cracked sugar glaze. Do not over-broil! Enjoy the simple rustic quality of the recipe, and the coffee cake itself. —Jenny Klion

Test Kitchen Notes

To read the beautiful story behind this cake, see the full article. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • Batter
  • 1 cup Presto or self-rising cake flour, sifted
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, beaten, then add heavy cream to make 1 cup
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream (approximate—see note above)
  • Topping
  • 8 tablespoons brown sugar, not packed
  • 5 tablespoons very soft butter
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease or line one 8-inch square pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add egg and cream mixture, plus vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour it all in pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix together sugar, butter, and cream until smooth. Add nuts, and combine.
  4. When cake is golden and springy to the touch, remove from oven. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, until it stops being too hot, but warm enough to spread a topping over without it breaking. Using an offset spatula, gently dollop topping evenly over cake. It’s important to make sure these dollops are evenly spread out, so you can cover the cake more evenly with the spatula / it can melt enough to cover the whole cake. Try to leave as little space as possible between the blobs.
  5. Put under broiler until it is melted and gorgeous, about 30 seconds!
  6. Cool in pan on a rack, then cut in squares and serve warm, preferably atop a china plate spray-painted in gold (that's how Grandma Piggyback did it). Adding a touch more cream on top completes this surprisingly elegant dish.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • stevemr
  • Cindy
  • Jenny Klion
    Jenny Klion
  • Hayleilei

15 Reviews

Hayleilei December 11, 2022
SO GOOD! perfect chilly morning weekend breakfast. I was craving pecan buns but didn’t have the energy or time and these hit the spot.
stevemr December 11, 2018
Easy and delicious. When eating a piece while still warm, the flavor was a little reminiscent of a pancake --- that's not a negative, just a comment. But when you look at the ingredients, that's really no surprise. I suspect the broiled butter-brown sugar-pecan topping is what did it.
Jenny K. December 12, 2018
Sounds so good! May have to make the cake...right now! Thanks!
Betsy H. October 22, 2018
Used the icing recipe today. Added cinnamon because it feels like fall. Very good!
Jenny K. October 22, 2018
That's great! I actually made this yesterday! Just as good as I remember. Thanks!
beejay45 April 15, 2018
Wow! Aside from the nostalgia quotient, which was huge, I've been looking for this recipe! Well, maybe not this exact, word-for-word recipe, but for one like the coffee cakes the ladies in my family all made when I was little. This is so close! Thanks! I miss baking with my grandmother so much. Memories...
Jenny K. April 15, 2018
That is great! Enjoy! Thanks.
Kay April 15, 2018
I love your ode to your Granmdmother. I use my Grandma ther's timer, mixing bowls and stainless steel dry ingredient containers while I practice baking. It is science and art!
Jenny K. April 15, 2018
Awesome, thanks!
Sue April 13, 2018
My father used to make this roughly every other week when I was a kid (although he used walnuts instead of pecans). I'd forgotten about this cake, which brings back such happy memories.
Jenny K. April 13, 2018
That's great! Thanks!
Cindy April 11, 2018
Sweet story. This recipe reminds me of my mother's yellow cake with broiled icing which was always a family favorite.
Cindy April 11, 2018
Sweet story. This recipe reminds me of my mother's yellow cake with broiled icing which was always a family favorite.
Lynn D. April 10, 2018
Lovely story. Brings back memories of cooking with my Grandmas.
Jenny K. April 10, 2018