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Try the Famous LAUSD Coffee Cake Recipe from 1954

LAUSD, our public school district in Los Angeles, the 2nd largest one in the US, has a recipe for Coffee Cake that is legendary, it’s so delicious. It’s from 1954, and has been served in Los Angeles schools ever since that day.

Los Angeles Unified School District is responsible for feeding hundreds of thousands of children each day, and this Coffee Cake recipe has been one of their staples for over 60 years. Want to delight your family and friends? Give it a try!

lausd coffee cake slice on a plate with coffee and orange slices
The famous LAUSD coffee cake

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I don’t want to overstate how delicious this Coffee Cake is, but let me just say this: My then-10-year-old son decided what Middle School he wanted to attend because they served him this Coffee Cake when he visited as a 5th grader. (Middle School Administrators and Food Service workers, please take note.)

The LAUSD 1954 “Old Fashioned” Coffee Cake Recipe

One day, as I was scrolling on Twitter, I saw that Austin Buetner, the Superintendent of LAUSD, had tweeted out the original 1954 recipe. Someday it would be awesome to see how they’ve adapted it to make enough to serve 350,000 at a time, but for now, we have this.

The original, likely mimeographed*, version of the recipe is attached below. (*Look it up.)

The ingredients are simple, although not all of us may have nutmeg or buttermilk on hand. But they are worth getting! Delicious.

lausd coffee cake ingredients
the assembled ingredients (you’ll notice many products from Trader Joe’s)

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups Baker’s Flour (we used all-purpose flour)
1 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Nutmeg
3/4 cup Salad Oil (we used Canola Oil)
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Large Egg
1 cup Buttermilk

Steps

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ X 13″ pan.

2. Combine first 6 ingredients, meaning: flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg and salad oil – and mix with a fork or spatula until crumbly.

lausd coffee cake mixture of first 6 ingredients
mixture of first 6 ingredients, mixed with a fork

2A. Reserve 1/2 cup of this mixture for the topping, and add the cinnamon to it. Mix with a fork and set aside.

cinnamon crumb topping for lausd coffee cake
cinnamon crumb topping

3. Combine the last 4 ingredients, meaning baking soda, baking powder, egg and buttermilk and mix, using a fork to break up the egg.

4. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and blend until well combined, but not over-mixed, using a spatula.

lausd coffee cake batter all mixed
batter all mixed

5. Pour into the prepared 9″ x 13″ pan and smooth out to make it even. Sprinkle the cinnamon mixture by hand evenly over the top of the batter.

LAUSD Coffee Cake ready to bake
LAUSD Coffee Cake ready to bake

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven. Look for a golden brown color and for a toothpick to come out clean from the center.

LAUSD Coffee Cake fresh from the oven
Coffee Cake fresh from the oven
Coffee Cake fresh from the oven, showing the side of the pan

7. Serve immediately for best enjoyment, but can last several days.

close up slice of LAUSD coffee cake
close up shot of the famous coffee cake

Our notes about this recipe:

The Coffee Cake is really good! It’s got a little bit of a salty taste in the crumble on top, and of course it’s sweet, so the two things help to balance it. It’s not too “cakey,” either – it’s got a lightness in texture. Can we ascribe that to the oil? Maybe.

whole nutmeg with microplane grater
whole nutmeg with microplane grater

We used whole nutmeg and we think it makes a big difference in the flavor. You’ll need a grater like this microplane one. (Affiliate link)

We don’t have any idea what they mean by the terms “Baker’s Flour” or “Salad Oil”, but we used All-Purpose Flour and Canola Oil and they worked fine. We have used Canola oil for other baking, so it was what we chose. We are certain you could use some other oil – and you may want to try other oils. Or even Butter as an alternative. Let us know what worked for you in the comments.

Also, we love the word “crumbly” and hope to use it again some day.

We’d like express our gratitude to the LAUSD food service team from 1954 that came up with this recipe – and to the Superintendent for sharing it.

If you make it, let us know how it goes and how you like it.

Related: The Best Birthday Cake Shops in Los Angeles

The LAUSD coffee cake recipe from 1954
the actual recipe from 1954

Sarah Auerswald is the co-Founder and Managing Editor of MomsLA.com.

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