“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”
― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
I admit that I haven’t read much Walt Whitman. I don’t own a copy of Leaves of Grass and I certainly can’t recite any of his poetry by heart. But when researching famous writers and their dessert preferences (one of my favourite topics), I came across this post on Paper and Salt about Whitman’s love of coffee cake and suddenly found myself more interested in getting to know him a bit better.
Walt Whitman liked baking coffee cakes giving them away as gifts. I don’t know about you, but if someone baked me some coffee cake, or any cake for that matter, and gave it to me as a gift, I’d sure like that person a whole lot. I love giving food as a gift so I can appreciate where Walt was coming from. There isn’t an occasion I can think of that isn’t made better with some baked goods.
Since I had an office bake sale coming up, I thought baking up a coffee cake in honour of Whitman would be a great idea. While most coffee cake doesn’t have actual coffee in it (it just tastes good with a cup of coffee, hence the name), Walt’s version did (view the recipe here). His coffee cake had one cup of boiling hot strong coffee, in addition to one cup of lard or pork fat and one cup of molasses. Doesn’t sound all that appealing, Walt.
For my contribution to the bake sale, I went with the East Coast Coffee Cake from the cookbook Vegan Brunch and was pretty impressed considering there is no sour cream or butter, two ingredients that play a pretty integral role in my mother’s version. I adjusted the Vegan Brunch recipe a little and used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil in the topping. Pretty sure that made it even more delicious. Walt Whitman’s favourite coffee cake was completely different from mine, but when it comes to coffee cake the recipe doesn’t really matter. Just make a batch, pour yourself a cup of something hot, and enjoy.