Coffee Coffee Cake


When I saw his name, I thought to myself, What if he’s my next person.

My next thought was, Don’t be silly. Then, Don’t not be silly. Setting his order down before his arrival, I recognized he could be any number of unfitting things, really. It was my first day at my new store since I’d moved back to Minneapolis. My soft heart was hurting, and all of it was pretty irrelevant, really.

He came in to pick up his mobile order after about ten minutes, or so. I know now that he likes his coffee lukewarm, anyway.

At first, I noticed how stylishly he dressed. I liked his shoes. It occurred to me that he seemed like he didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I respected that.

For a year and a half, we never spoke. Every day, he placed that same order, and I would be making drinks by the handoff plane when he would arrive to pick up his coffee and walk away.

I had a dream once that he was my boyfriend, and we all laughed very heartily at my retelling of it, during which, he arrived, grabbed his drink, and left. When I got promoted to open my own location, I left without ever having talked to him. And to be clear, I didn’t really think about it.

But then, he walked into my new store. My store. And I hadn’t seen his name print out for pickup. In fact, no orders had printed out. For a very long time. Four letters crossed through my mind as I saw him walk past the handoff area to get in line: Fuck, I thought. My mobile order is broken.

The longer he waited, the more I panicked. I told everyone I was stepping off the floor, and I went around the counter and said, “Were you not able to place your order ahead this morning?”

I introduced myself, and he recognized me, and he informed me that my mobile order system was fine; he had simply decided to start switching things up.

We became friendly after that. He would come in every morning and order at the register and we would talk. When he remembered a concert I had told him about, I turned to one of my employees and asked, “Does he like me?”

I just want to point out that I genuinely did not mean to ask him out. Like, at all. When the time came, months later, the words flew out of my mouth sooner than I could even think about them. And I still have the piece of paper he used to write down his phone number. When, later that evening, he sent me an essay on the poetic genius of 80s movies, I thought to myself, What if he’s perfect.

Newsflash: he isn’t. Nobody is. But I’m happy. And I have been afraid to be honest about all of this, because my heart has been fucking crushed before.

We have played over 800 games of Yahtzee. On the weekend, he buys a loaf of brioche and he toasts thick slices of it for me with jam. He makes me belly laugh. We have Mission Impossible marathons. He loves me even more for being grumpy. I once caught him bragging about how smart he thinks I am. I wake up once a week happier than all the other days because I know we are having taco night. Even the way he grabs paper towels is hilarious to me. And best of all, we go get our cups of coffee together now. Except, I drink mine right away.

I really hope my flavor choice for this tender, aromatic coffee cake, ripe with espresso-cardamom crumbs, is making sense to you now. Sending love (and the courage to share it) to all of you soft hearts out there.

Happy Valentine’s.

❤ kc

One Year: Chocolate Truffle Cookies
Two Years: Raspberry Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies
Three Years: Toasted Almond Chocolate Cornflake Clusters
Four Years: Smoothie Bowls
Five Years: Cherry Almond Granola
Six Years: Lavender Brownie Bites

Coffee Coffee Cake
Makes one 8x8x2 square cake

CRUMBS:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp espresso powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

CAKE:
1 tbsp white vinegar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp espresso powder
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp molasses
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup strong brewed coffee, lukewarm

CRUMBS:
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, espresso, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and cardamom. In a medium bowl, beat together butter and molasses. Beat in sugar. Pour in dry ingredients, mixing in with your fingers until large crumbs form. Mix in pecans and set aside.

CAKE:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8x8x2-inch square pan. Add vinegar to heavy cream and set aside. Whisk together flour, espresso, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cardamom. In a large bowl, beat together butter, molasses, and sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the cream and the brewed coffee. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Divide crumbles evenly on top of the batter, then bake for 30-35 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, with moist crumbs attached. Let cool completely before slicing and serving. Cake will last up to two days, wrapped and at room temperature.

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