Ellen’s Buttermilk-Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Mother’s day is a big deal around here. Not just around my house but around my whole neighborhood. It started 20-years ago when Alex was 2.. We had moved into this great little craftsman bungalow on a Venice walkstreet just before he turned 2-years old and the next Mother’s day I started having my girlfriends come by for brunch and a snooze on the lawn. My walk street neighbors joined us. Then they started inviting their friends. As entertainment we had a water balloon fight in our alley with the parents and kids and then a year or so later I added in a cherry-pit spitting contest. The popularity grew and grew and grew with more and more people coming each year.

I don’t even know most of the people who come now – friends of neighbor’s friends – last year I counted over 100 people. Like that. It’s a big deal and tons of fun. Check out the video that my step-son made of the water balloon fight. Go to You Tube and search “water balloon fight Jared Seltzer”. It’s impressive – the actual fight lasts for about 20-minutes.

Initially Alex and his friends made all of the water balloons but he gave up the job towards the end of High School and for the last five-years Eva who lives across the street and her friends have taken the helm and raised the bar. There are now hundreds and hundreds of water balloons made on site, plus whatever balloons the guests bring with them. A total wet blast.

The food is also important – everyone is asked to contribute something – so much delicious food. Lisa’s Strawberry-Rhubarb pie, homemade cookies, tarts, cakes, fresh fruit, frittatas, salads of every kind, a ham, pies, fruit, yogurt, granola, mimosas flow. I used to make tons of food to feed my friends and family but now that it’s turned into this huge beast and many people who come bring food I do less and less each year and enjoy myself more and more but I always do bagels and cream cheese and smoked salmon, tomatoes, capers, avocado, onion, sprouts, etc.

I think the most coveted desserts are Lisa’s strawberry-rhubarb pie and my mother’s highly addictive coffee cake (we always secret away a couple pieces before we put it out for the guests so that we can eat it at the end of the day when everything else is gone). I think that this cake and her apple pie are two of her finest features. Here’s the recipe and here’s photos.

Buttermilk-Cinnamon Coffee Cake (addictive) (courtesy of Ellen Neiman – from the book Morning Food – Café Beaujolais by Margaret Fox) Pre-heat over to 350 degrees


2 ½ cups white flour

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ginger

1 cup brown sugar

¾ cup white sugar

¾ cup corn oil (I used canola and it seemed fine)

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (we leave this off sometimes for the kids)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1 cup buttermilk

½ cup + 2 Tbps mini-chocolate chips (optional addition by my mom)

Directions: In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, 1 tsp of the cinnamon, ginger, both sugars, and oil. Set aside ¾ cup of this mixture for the topping. To the batter add the baking soda, baking powder, egg and buttermilk. Mix to combine ingredients. A few lumps are fine. Pour the batter into a well greased 9”x13”x2” baking pan (I use the glass kind but it doesn’t matter). Make the topping by using what you set aside and add the last 1 tsp of cinnamon and the nuts if you’re going to use them and/or the mini-chocolate chips. Mix well. Then sprinkle this over the top of the coffee cake. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

Ellen in Hammock

This is my mom on vacation on Kauai. This is her highly addictive coffee cake!

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