Now that we know what teacake is, can we figure out coffee cake? As in what makes the two so different? Now don’t give me the rote answer of you serve teacake with tea and coffee cake with coffee. We don’t like simple here, we have to go deep! So begins the battle of coffee cake versus teacake!
#1 Coffee cake is one kind fits all.
As we learned last week, a teacake can actually be one of three or four different foodstuffs: a cookie, a spice or sponge cake, a yeast bread, or a soda bread. But a coffee cake is always a cake. Sure it might have a crumble topping or a cinnamon swirl (drooling yet?) or added flavorings but it is always in cake form.
#2 Shape matters.
Even when a teacake is a cake, it usually is in a circular shape unless it was baked as a loaf cake. Coffee cakes come in squares, rectangles, bundts, circles, basically whatever shape pan the baker had available.
#3 Coffee has coffee but tea has no tea.
Coffee cakes can also get their name from being made with coffee, but teacakes aren’t made with tea (though you can make a teacake that is tea flavored, it is not a common thing). Coffee isn’t in the batter of every coffee cake, however it is common enough that it might be worth asking the baker if they use coffee in their recipe. I know I’ve made a coffee cake with coffee granules in the cocoa cinnamon streusel.
#4 One is served at Starbucks and other coffee/tea shops. One is served at tearooms and teahouses.
Guess which is which? Coffee cakes are more likely to be sold in local or chain coffee shops, the kind you swing by for that convenient breakfast. I order tea at Starbucks (their Earl Grey is surprisingly good) but even if they serve tea I have never seen a teacake at a coffee shop. Now on the flip side, I have only ever seen any of the forms of teacakes at tearooms and teahouses. I’ve never seen a coffee cake at one of those, so maybe the makers of teacakes and coffeecakes agreed to keep some distance between them.
#5 Teacakes are world travelers.
Teacakes—in any of the forms we learned about—are seen in the UK, North America, Latin America, India, Australia, Sweden…basically they are well traveled and well known. Coffee cake seems to be a purely American baked good, only really seen outside the US in American style bakeries that happen to have made their way abroad.
Believe it or not, I’m not going to give an answer to which is better than the other, because I love both coffee cakes and teacakes of all sorts. But I definitely don’t believe that you can only have coffee cake when drinking coffee and teacakes when you are drinking tea. You can have anything when you’re drinking tea. Why should we neglect the poor yet delicious coffee cake?