This breakfast treat has a sweet, crunchy topping that makes it so special.We called her Ammaw.
She took me as a newborn baby on an airplane across the country and cared for me for the first three weeks of my life.
I imagine being separated from your newborn for 3 weeks was difficult, but at the time, my parents didn’t have a choice since they were packing up our home for a huge move across many states while also juggling two other young children.
This was the beginning of my very special bond with Ammaw.Ammaw was my grandmother. Jude’s mom. The connection the two of us shared lasted until the end. My mom and I held her hand and comforted her when she passed away.
It is no wonder that my mom was so creative and imaginative herself. She learned from the best. Ammaw was a very talented folk art painter and she could needlepoint the most intricate designs. A visit to her home as a child often involved painting at her kitchen table or needlepointing together in the den.
I think of Ammaw so much this time of year because I have the sweetest collection of hand painted Valentines from her (the bunny and the pink heart box were some of my efforts as a young girl).
She was so classy…and sometimes sassy too. She wore a big smile on her face and had a huge sense of humor, which makes sense since my grandfather was a hysterically funny man. Her home was immaculate and styled to perfection. She was a skilled cook and many of the recipes my mom made through the years originated in my grandmother’s kitchen.
No doubt, in Ammaw’s recipe collection, the one I treasure the most is her Heath Bar Coffee Cake.No matter what time of year we visited my grandparents, she would always have this scrumptious coffee cake for breakfast. As kids, we would polish off one pan of the treat so quickly, that Ammaw would have to whip up another one before our visit ended.
I’m thrilled that I learned to make this cake when I was just a young teenager and have been baking it for my family for years. And for sure, this is about the only baked good I make from scratch and know by heart.You start with the white and brown sugar. How could this not be fabulous with all that brown sugar? To the sugar you add the butter or margarine and cream it together.Add the flour and vanilla and gently combine until you have a dry, crumbly mix. Reserve some of this to make a crispy topping on the cake.After the eggs are added, you pour in your creamy buttermilk.It is the buttermilk that makes this cake so tender and moist. The tangy buttermilk adds a depth of flavor that is so rich and decadent.
After pouring the batter into the greased pan, the crowning touch is added! Who wouldn’t love to indulge in and have an excuse to eat some candy bars for breakfast? The melted chocolate isn’t too powerful…you don’t feel like you are eating a rich chocolate treat. It is a perfect balance.And the reserved crumble that’s added next will get crisp when it’s baked. I can’t get enough of this. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet but is definitely a very special delight. And it takes me back to childhood and my Ammaw.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get the perfect bite, the one with the big chunk of chewy, sticky, crunchy toffee.
It has always been a staple at family brunches. Every time I make this, my MC squeals with excitement. I get it, Mags, I used to do the same thing when this Heath Bar Coffee Cake was served. It is the best!
Do you have a special recipe from your grandmother?
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 3/4 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks margarine or butter room temperature
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 bag of miniature Heath Bar candy bars or 6-8 large Heath Bar candy bars
Mix softened margarine or butter with brown sugar and white sugar.
Add flour and vanilla and gently combine.
Take out 3/4 cup of the dry mixture and set aside. This will be your dry crumble topping later.
To the dry ingredients, add 2 eggs, the baking soda and the buttermilk.
Stir until well combined.
Pour mixture in a greased 9x12 dark bottom pan.
Break up the candy bars with the back of a spoon or other hard object.
Scatter candy pieces onto wet mixture.
Top with the reserved dry mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until when inserted, a toothpick comes out clean.
Make sure to use softened butter or margarine, not melted.
Do not overbake or cake will be dry so adjust timing accordingly and start checking your cake with a toothpick at about 35 minutes.
Push some chunks of candy down into batter for a sweet surprise in your bite.
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I love your story and have also made this coffee cake for years. My mother made it for 20 years for all our neighbors for Christmas and we continue the tradition!
A few clarifications that have been critical for me over the years.
1. Use all purpose flour and buy new – flour that’s been in your pantry for months will not do well. Same with baking soda, buy a new box.
2. I’ve never used margarine, but the butter should be salted (or unsalted and then add a pinch of salt – this is necessary for the reaction with the baking soda).
3. It’s hard to find but get full fat buttermilk if you can. Makes it that much richer!
Thanks for sharing this recipe. It’s a keeper!
Nancy Bishop says
I loved the story of you and your grandmother. My husband went to a church attic sale and the ladies of the church had a table of baked goods. He came home wth a large piece of “Heath Brunch Coffee Cake.” It was amazingly delicious, but how can you find the recipe from an unknown person??? Checked Google and there you were! Looks exactly the same as the church cake…can’t wait to make it!! Thank you for sharing.
Olive Jude says
Nancy, I just love this story! I’m so happy you shared it with me. This is an all-time favorite treat in our house! Enjoy!
Nancy Bishop says
For various reasons, I’m just now getting around to making this cake. BUT……I can’t find Heath candy bars! Not even at Walmart….even though goggle search said they carried it! Any substitution? Could go to our local candy store and buy toffee…would it be the same?
Olive Jude says
Oh no! I’ve had some challenges finding the large candy bars so I’ve had to use the small bars in a bag. What about in your baking section? If I recall, there are Heath Bar “chips” of toffee and chocolate? If you can find a chocolate covered toffee imitation bar somewhere, that would work. Plain toffee just won’t be the same, but I imagine it will still be tasty. I’m so sorry. Are you an Amazon customer? They usually have everything. Please let me know how you make out…
I loved hearing the stories that bonded you to your grandmother. And I can vouch for this recipe – it’s soo good!
My grandmother kept a batch of brownies in the garage freezer at her ranch. It was common that family members and “ranch hands” would help themselves to the freezer before coming inside to say hello, brownie in hand. Or maybe even with the whole tupperware container in hand. It’s just a simple recipe but one we all associate with our Nanny. My mom, who lives in my grandmother’s home now, is carrying on the tradition.
Olive Jude says
Thank you. Something so simple can sometimes mean the world to us. I love your brownie story! How special that your mom is carrying on that tradition. Would love to taste those brownies sometime!
It’s a deal 🙂