How to Speak Southern

Make New Family, But Keep the Old Coffee Cake

December 24, 2013

Well friends, the time has finally come. It’s Christmas Eve, and I am going to spend my first Christmas away from my family and share it with Wilson’s family. We’ve got a lot of emotions going on here. Of course I’m sad to be away from my family — MOMMY!!! DADDY!!! LAURIE!!!!!!!!!! — but I’m also excited to share Christmas with Wilson’s mammoth family. Apparently they average about 60 visitors on Christmas Day, with tons of kids running around and a few adults drinking too much. My kind of people.

One of my favorite traditions with my family — and one that I will miss the most — is after we open gifts on Christmas morning, we all sit by the fire and eat a coffee cake that my parent’s best friend Lilly makes. Lilly is an excellent baker and I have been devouring her delicious treats for almost my whole life. Her most famous treat, however, is this fan-freaking-tastic coffee cake she makes for everyone and gives it to them for Christmas. This thing is truly unbelievable. Every year as the Boyds scromp down piece after piece of this cake, we have the same conversation — “It is just so light!” “How does she make it so buttery without being greasy?!” “This is the best coffee cake!” “How much left do we have??” It’s ridiculous. You’d think after 20 years of eating this cake we could come up with some more creative descriptions, but no, we stick with the same lines. Again and again. Year after year.

In an effort to bring this treasured tradition to my new Christmas this year, I took a stab at making Lilly’s coffee cake on my own and have documented it for you to give you some laughs. Baking is so not my thing. Really the only thing I enjoy about baking is the thought of using my KitchenAid mixer, Betty. It’s the thought that counts.

After calling everyone in my family and then Lilly too to see what “flouring the pan” meant — thanks for answering Lilly, none of the other buttheads did — I completed my first coffee cakes. I made two in case one didn’t work out. And also because that’s what the recipe calls for.

IMG_2555Betty the Mixer, hard at work.

IMG_2554I don’t own two cake pans, so a bread pan had to suffice.


IMG_2556Yes, that’s the spatula I used. It was tied to one of our wedding presents and most likely is just for looks. A spatula’s a spatula, no matter how small. 


Lots of swirling going on here.


Out of the oven…


Making the glaze. My mixing bowls are a little lackluster — this is an old Cool Whip container. Plastic fork budget. 



I read a great article a few weeks ago that said mentally strong people accept and embrace change, and I think that is very true. I’m not a little girl anymore, waking the whole house up at the crack of dawn to open presents, hardly sleeping the night before from all of the excitement of Christmas. My life is changing, and I am happy to make new memories with new people. But the coffee cake is coming with me.

Lilly’s Famous Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake

1 PKG. yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. butter flavoring
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup water
Combine above ingredients and beat for 8 minutes

Mix together:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 TBSP. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts ( optional-she never uses nuts)

Grease and flour 2 cake pans or 1 bundt pan. Sprinkle sugar mixture over bottoms of pans and pour small amount of batter over then sprinkle more sugar mixture, then remaining batter. Top with rest of sugar mixture, then swirl excessively with a knife. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes with 2 cake pans or 50-60 minutes for 1 bundt pan. Cool 10 minutes. Top with glaze.

1 cup powdered sugar
1tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. butter flavoring
4 tsp. milk or enough to make spreadable

Serve warm or reheat at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Can be frozen.

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