Cowboy Coffeecake is a recipe adapted from my Mom’s Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (circa 1957). The cookbook was already very well thumbed by the time I became fascinated with it as a child nearly twenty years later, perusing the pages and dreaming of the days when I too could set a table that was “an invitation to pleasant eating”, “make the best pies” and “entertain buffet style”.
I was intrigued by recipes with names like Cheesette Cubes, Coconut Kisses and Pressed Chicken, and I loved Cowboy Coffeecake. My Mom was one of the first university educated Home Economists in Canada so a lot of the recipes in the book got makeovers to make them healthier, and Cowboy Coffeecake was no exception. Mom reduced the sugar and always used nuts in the topping “so that at least there is some nutrition in it ”. Poor Mom was always trying to find ways to make our diet healthier, which was challenging in the mid-seventies when processed food was positively fashionable. While I never learned why the recipe was called Cowboy Coffeecake, it remains to this day one of my favourite breakfast treats.
This is not a beautiful cake by any stretch of the imagination, but it is incredibly delicious. You can make it in a 13 x 9 inch pan, or in two 8 x 8 inch square pans. To keep things interesting, I vary the type of chopped nuts I use throughout the year. A mixture of nuts also works well. Of course, if nut allergies are a concern, you can just leave them out.
Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
2½ cups sifted flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups brown sugar
⅔ cup shortening
(I use Trex, a vegetable shortening with no hydrogenated fats.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup buttermilk
2 well-beaten eggs
½ cup chopped nuts
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). I set my fan oven to 170ºC. Grease and flour one 13 x 9 inch pan or two 8 x 8 inch square pans.
In an electric mixer or food processor, combine the flour, salt, sugar, shortening and cinnamon until crumbly. Take half a cup of this mixture out of the bowl and set aside.
To the remaining crumbs, add the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and cloves. Mix together well.
Combine the buttermilk and beaten eggs and add to the crumb mixture. Mix well. Pour into prepared pan(s) and sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes (the larger pan may take 35 to 40 minutes depending on your oven). Allow to cool at least a half hour before slicing. This is lovely served warm, but will keep covered at room temperature for 2 to 3 days.