Yeah, I know. Christmas is made of yummy things. Too many yummy things. But those are some of the memorable things of which Christmas (and other holidays) are made. It’s just not Christmas if we don’t have: Mimi’s cornbread dressing/decorated sugar cookies/homemade cranberry sauce/pecan pie/mashed potatoes with peas/pumpkin pie/sweet potato pie/____(add your own family’s favorite here)___. And, to be honest, nobody in our family really loves those vegetable-based pies; but I know some folks do.
Years ago, at some point after I was married, my mother tasted a really delicious coffee cake. She got the recipe and began to make it each year for Christmas morning. We’d have our own family Christmas celebration, gift-opening at our house, then go on to Mother and Daddy’s house for coffeecake and gifts over there. Sometimes the Moores, my sister’s family, would be there, and sometimes it would just be the four of us with my parents. The coffee cake was so delicious. But, in all those years, Kevin and Jeremy weren’t interested in it. They might have had something to eat at our house (not caring to “save room” for the yummy coffee cake), or they might pour themselves bowls of cereal for their breakfast, while the rest of us had coffee cake.
No amount of coaxing could persuade them to try even a bite. It was y-e-a-r-s before I figured out what the problem was. “You know,” I said, one Christmas morning, “it’s not made from coffee. You’re just supposed to eat it while you’re drinking your breakfast coffee.” As “coffee abhorers” (the antithesis of “coffee adorers”), they ran, pretend screaming, from anything coffee. If it’s called COFFEE CAKE, why would anyone imagine that it wasn’t full of coffee. So, after clearing up that misconception, (and assuring them they would not have to actually drink any coffee), they gave it a try and found it to be pretty good, after all. They don’t love it, the way I do, but, at least they will eat it.
As time passed, and Mother became more frail, I took over the coffee cake preparation. It’s not that hard to make.
In July, 1996, the Moores moved to Seattle. JoAnne was a little startled when her kids began, early in December, to ask when they would be going to Texas for Christmas (Their other grandparents lived in Tyler, Texas.) “We can’t go to Texas,” she explained. “Remember how many days it took us to drive here?” They didn’t care how many days it had taken. They were grief-stricken. “But we always go to visit Mimi and Grandad and Meemaw and Papaw!” they wailed. “Well,” she said, “we’re not going. We’re celebrating Christmas here.”
They were most unhappy about not being with their cousins and what sorts of gifts might be under the tree and what might be in their stockings. She had to have Mother mail the kids’ stockings to her so they could have, according to 8-year-old Patrick, “some fruit, some candy, and, (insert sobs here), a little toy.” I don’t think they were all that unhappy about the absent coffeecake, but JoAnne liked it. However, busy as she was, there was a limit to how much cooking-from-scratch she was willing to do. She found a coffee cake mix at the local grocery store, bought it, and made it up for their first Northwestern Christmas celebration. She called me later. “I have found the EXACT boxed mix version of Mother’s coffee cake!”
When they came to visit the next time, she brought me a couple of boxes. She was right. It tastes exactly the same. And, it makes enough for an 8×8 inch square baking pan, which is a much more manageable size for us.
At the time, Krusteaz brand mixes weren’t available here, and she had to supply me with them. Not now. There’s Krusteaz brand everything at the local stores. Well, at least at the H.E.B. stores. I picked up mine week before last, so I could bake the best-ever coffee cake for our Christmas-morning breakfast. (Actually, Kevin and April arrive at our house each year on Christmas night, after Fort Worth celebrations. So, we do our own Christmas morning thing on the 26th, when that coffee cake is just as tasty.)
When I was shopping, for coffeecake mix, as well as other festive foods and ingredients, I thought about what Peter might think/expect from something called “coffee cake.” I wondered if we need to start calling it “Christmas morning breakfast cake.” And, I thought, if I baked it in a tree-shaped pan, it might seem more interesting, too. And, in an fortuitous coincidence, I was, at that very moment, walking right by a display of Christmas-shaped dishes. I checked the back, “dishwasher safe and microwave safe.” I kept reading and searching the label on the back; AHA! “Oven safe.” Yeah!!
I prepared it on Christmas afternoon. I would love to get up early, early on Christmas morning to bake it, so that it would be nice and hot and fresh for Christmas breakfast, but, I’m not all that great at rising-and-shining these days. And given the beeps that the oven makes when I punch it on and set the temperature and the timer and when the timer goes off, not to mention the noise of Christmas Morning Breakfast Cake preparation, most sleeping guests get woken up, some before they’re quite ready.
Success!! A new name for our holiday tradition-Christmas Morning Breakfast Cake!! A great way to begin our day of celebration.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2:8-14 (King James Version)
These verses comprise one of my favorite sections from Handel’s oratorio Messiah. You can listen to it online at this website. It’s selection #13. I know; Christmas is officially over. But, really. Is it ever over?