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The Famous LAUSD Coffee Cake Recipe [from 1954]

Updated for 2023

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!

a slice of the LAUSD coffee cake with a cup of coffee in the background
Even though the recipe dates back to 1954, the LAUSD Coffee Cake is still delicious today!

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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 mixture of first 6 ingredients
mixture of first 6 ingredients, mixed with a fork
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.

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

lausd coffee cake batter all mixed
batter all mixed

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

LAUSD Coffee Cake ready to bake
LAUSD Coffee Cake ready to bake in a 9 X 13 pan

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.

Coffee Cake fresh from the oven, showing the side of the pan
LAUSD Coffee Cake, fresh from the oven and ready to serve

Related: The Best Birthday Cake Shops in Los Angeles

the actual recipe from 1954
Yield: 12 servings

LAUSD Coffee Cake

LAUSD coffee cake close up

This is the original recipe for the coffee cake made at the Nation's 2nd largest School District: Los Angeles Unified School District. LAUSD has been making their famous Coffee Cake since 1954 and we know why: it's delicious! Did you ever eat it as a kid at LAUSD? Or as a staff member? Let us know in the comments! Try the recipe and let us know what you think.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 Cups Bakers 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 Canola Oil (recipe mentions "Salad Oil")
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 Cup Buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9" X 13" pan. (You can use parchment paper lining instead if you'd prefer.
  3. Combine the first 6 ingredients (flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg, and oil) in a large bowl, and mix with a fork until crumbly.
  4. Reserve 1/2 cup of this flour mixture for the topping in a separate bowl. Then add the cinnamon and set aside.
  5. Combine the last 4 ingredients (baking soda, baking powder, egg, and buttermilk) in a separate bowl and mix, being sure to thoroughly break up the egg.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture, and mix until just combined but not over-mixed.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and sprinkle the cinnamon topping evenly over the top.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  9. Can be served immediately or stored for several days in an airtight container.

Notes

This coffee cake is surprisingly light, and not overly sweet, even though it calls for over 1 1/2 cups of sugar! We think of that as a nice bonus. Oh - and we used freshly grated whole nutmeg; we think it makes it taste amazing!

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 292Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 371mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 1gSugar: 17gProtein: 4g

This nutrition information provided is only an estimate.


a slice of the LAUSD coffee cake recipe from 1954
We love this coffee cake plain, but some people want to have a slice of orange with it… Go figure.

LAUSD Coffee Cake FAQs

Q: What is coffee cake?
A: Coffee cake is a type of cake that is traditionally served with coffee or tea. It is usually a sweet, soft cake that may be flavored with cinnamon, nuts, fruit, or other ingredients.

Q: What are the ingredients of coffee cake?
A: The ingredients of coffee cake can vary, but typically include flour, sugar, eggs, butter or oil, baking powder, milk, and flavorings such as cinnamon, nuts, or fruit.

Q: Can coffee cake be made without coffee?
A: Yes, coffee cake does not actually contain coffee as an ingredient. The name “coffee cake” refers to the fact that it is a cake that is traditionally served with coffee.

Q: Can I freeze coffee cake?
A: Yes, coffee cake can be frozen. It is best to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil before freezing to prevent freezer burn.

Q: How long does coffee cake last?
A: Coffee cake can last for several days if stored in an airtight container at room temperature. It can also be stored in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

Q: Is coffee cake healthy?
A: Coffee cake is typically high in sugar and calories, so it is not considered a health food. However, some recipes may use healthier ingredients, such as whole wheat flour and reduced sugar, to make a healthier version.

Q: Is coffee cake a breakfast food or a dessert?
A: Coffee cake is often served as a breakfast or brunch food, but it can also be served as a dessert or snack.

Q: What are some variations of coffee cake?
A: There are many variations of coffee cake, including blueberry coffee cake, cinnamon streusel coffee cake, sour cream coffee cake, and pumpkin coffee cake.

Q: Do they really serve this coffee cake in Los Angeles schools?
A: Yes, they really do. And LAUSD has been serving it since 1954. But they don’t serve it all ALL LAUSD Schools, nor do they serve it every day at LAUSD schools.

Q: Did LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner really give out the original recipe in a Tweet?
A: Yes, he really did, which is how I found it.

Q: Did the LAUSD coffee cake really help convince your son which Middle School to choose – because they served it to him on a tour?
A: Yes, that’s really true. He came home from the 5th grade field trip to see the Middle School campus and said – Mom, I want to go there. They have this coffee cake that’s so good.

Q: What does LAUSD stand for?
A: Los Angeles Unified School District.

Q: Is LAUSD the biggest School District in the country?
A: It’s the 2nd largest school district in the United States, serving over 500,000 students from Transitional Kindergarten through High School, at over 700 campuses. New York City has the largest school district.

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

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

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