Food Fashion and Flow: LAUSD Old School Coffee Cake   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

LAUSD Old School Coffee Cake

I am a product of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Cafeteria food is not usually something to be celebrated, in fact of, most of us crack jokes about the food we ate in the school cafeteria or the foods we didn’t eat in the school cafeteria, but among the heckles and catcalls of cafeteria food, there is one that deserves a standing ovation and an encore.   

The LAUSD coffee cake. 

My fondest memory of attending elementary, middle school and high school in the LAUSD is the coffee cake! Apparently, I am not the only one.  Lots of taste buds all over Los Angeles and even those who have relocated to other parts of the country have starry eyed memories of slightly warm, brown sugary, crumb topped nutmeg and cinnamon laced coffee cake. I remember many mornings munching on this coffee cake and trying to shove the last bit of sweetness in my mouth before the bell rang for class. 

In elementary school, I had the art of scoring a piece of coffee cake down to a science. Get to school early to buy a slice before it sold out!  I soon discovered that the genius way to make sure I always had a coffee cake hook up, was to volunteer to work the window at the school cafeteria during the nutrition break. Decades later the memory of this coffee cake makes me smile:-)

A few years back the popularity of this iconic LA sweet treat proved to be such a tasty memory to thousands of now adult LAUSD alumni, that the original recipe nearly 60 years old was printed in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles  Daily Newspaper and The Daily Breeze. Now we could all once again sink our now grown up teeth and taste buds into that delicious old school LAUSD coffee cake. The Los Angeles Times has received so many letters asking for the recipe for this treat, that now LAUSD has shared their secret with us.

There are nearly a million slices served each year.

When I saw the recipe, there was no doubt in my mind that this would be a mainstay in my kitchen.  For those of you that reside in other states and countries, this is the mother ship of coffee cake recipes.

When  I made this recipe, the smell coming from my kitchen was so sweet and inviting, that I was expecting the neighbors to ring my doorbell and ask what I was cooking.  This is not just coffee cake, this is comfort cake. Have a piece, I promise it’ll make you feel better.

L.A. Schools School District Coffee Cake

From the Los Angeles Unified School District Food Service kitchen.

For the Cake:

3 3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. plus 2 Tbs. Non-fat dry milk, or 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbs. vinegar
1 1/2 C. water
1 C. plus 2 Tbs. oil
1 C. sugar
1 1/4 C. brown sugar
2 eggs

For the Topping:

3/4 C. plus 3 Tbs. All-purpose flour
1/4 C. plus 1 Tbs. brown sugar, packed
1/4 C. sugar
dash of salt
1/4 plus 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 plus 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 C. salad oil

For the cake :

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. In a bowl, combine flour, dry milk, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

3. Combine vinegar and water in a measuring cup, Set aside.

4. In mixer bowl, blend together the oil, brown sugar and granulated sugar on low speed for 1 minute.

5. Add eggs and continue to blend on low speed for 1 minute.

6. While mixer is on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the water/vinegar mixture tot he oil/sugar mixture. Scrape down the bowl and blend on medium speed for 1 additional minute.

7. Evenly divide batter between two greased 9x9 pans. Sprinkle 3/4 Cup topping evenly over the batter in each pan. (See directions below for topping.)

8. Bake until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center of cake. Approximately, 45-55 minutes.

Directions for topping:
1. In mixer bowl, combine all ingredients except oil. Blend on low speed for 1 minute.

2. Add oil gradually and continue to blend until topping is crumbly.

Source: Los Angeles Unified School District Kitchen


This coffee cake was so insanely delicious,that some of us bought two or three slices at a time. If you didn't attend an LAUSD school and have this coffee cake, I feel so sorry for you... and if you did attend LAUSD and you didn't experience this coffee cake, I feel even more sorry for you

 This coffee cake is as familiar to those of us that went to school in Los Angeles as Pimples, braces, and algebra. The funny math and metal mouth we willingly forget, but this coffee cake, we remember:-)

So now that you have the recipe, why don't you make some and invite me over for a slice and we can discuss the good old days over coffee:-) And since we are getting to know each other, why don't you tell me what your favorite stuff from the cafeteria was?

Were you a coffee cake fanatic like me?


Sing said...

This looks super moist. I've never seen vinegar in a cake recipe before, that's so interesting to me.

Anonymous said...

mmm looks delicious! :)


~Jeimy~ said...

looks amazing I bet is as yummy as it looks!!!


Cakes for me, is really hard to make.
HAHA I'm not that good at cooking, sometimes I think I'll ruin my kitchen if I'm at home alone, (at the time I need to cook for myself) LOL
Amy x

Randy said...

This took me back some years. Some of the good years that I had at Mann Junior High School!

Paris said...

Sounds like I know what I am making this weekend! This cake looks divine!!
Thanks for the sweet comment on G&G; you're blog is adorbs and I'm following you now via GFC and would love if you followed me as well :)


Paris said...

Sounds like I know what I am making this weekend! This cake looks divine!!
Thanks for the sweet comment on G&G; you're blog is adorbs and I'm following you now via GFC and would love if you followed me as well :)


Paris said...

Sounds like I know what I am making this weekend! This cake looks divine!!
Thanks for the sweet comment on G&G; you're blog is adorbs and I'm following you now via GFC and would love if you followed me as well :)


Buggy Whipped said...

LV, you have struck a chord with this one! I always had to have my coffee cake with chocolate milk. The best piece was the corner piece which always had a lil crunch to it. My days at gang ridden Clay Jr Hi were eased knowing that my tasty treat around be there at nutrition. Great article. Keep them coming. Please do a tribute to the now defunct Buggy Whip eating establishment.

Savvy Sexy Mama said...

I loved this cake me and my sister would work in the cafeteria so we could get extra coffee cake. We would also try to get the homemade biscuit made daily with the little orange juice cartons. Those were the best times at West Vermont elementary school. Wow or seems like only yesterday

Dr. Reginia said...

LOL @ this post. I have memories of scoring another piece of chocolate cake. This is too funny.

We never had coffee cake though, I am not sure if our cafeteria ladies were hip to anything other than chocolate cake, brownies, or the unknown flavored cookie.

Jasmine of ❤AdamAlexMommy❤ said...

love all the yummy food posts. i love coffee cake... would love to bake it for the first time. :)

have a great weekend!!!

Anonymous said...

What delicious looking cake!

Oh to Be a Muse said...

So I just finished eating lunch, but your coffee cake is so tempting (and I'm still hungry) so I think I'm going to have a snack.

I wanna be fierce said...

That looks beyond good.


Kat said...

Thanks for sharing! What a great story behind the recipe. If a million slices are sold a year, they've got to be doing something I've pinned it for future reference. I must say I'm intrigued by the vinegar in the cake and the oil in the topping. Can't wait to try it sometime.

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have been looking for this for so long.

Jr. High in the Valley and High School. I used to volunteer too just to make sure I had a slice.

Thank you so much, now I can share this with my kids and a little piece of home with them.
Lots of thanks from
Texas. =D

Erika said...

This is making me want to have been at your school just for the coffee cake!! I love the story behind this. Sounds like a must make!

Just found your blog through Choc Chip Uru and love it :)

Crystal C. said...

Oh, this made me smile. If there was anything good to say about the cafeteria food in LAUSD, it would definitely be about the coffee cake. I think I'm going to make this for my two boys.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful memories. I also volunteered in the cafeteria to ensure a slice. Going to drive my neighbors crazy with the scent. I have a church pot luck coming up, I'm making dessert. There are going to be a lot of happy people.

Anonymous said...

My Mother actually worked in the cafeteria's at LAUSD my sister's & I were able to go the cafeteria and get cookie dough from her. Through the years there were many great recipes she cooked at school & then made at home but none more delicious than the crumb cake.. Great Memories & great crumb cake gonna have to make some.

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Maggie said...

I made this coffee cake, but it sure isnt the one I remember my scnool having. Maybe the recipe changed over the years. The coffee cake we had was in the late 60's. I really was hoping this was the same one. Also, I think you should start checking for doneness at about 30 mins.

LV said...

I am sure the recipe has probably changed over the years, but this is without question, the one I had in the 80s. I hope you still found it delicious even though you might have had a different coffee cake during your time with LAUSD.

Anonymous said...

Having made this numerous times, it's the cake we craved from school days in the LAUSD.

Certainly, there were other cakes and desserts available (The brownies! The brownies!), but before school and recess weren't the same without this yummy cake square.

Karen said...

I loved the grilled cheese sandwiches. I'd have one at nutrition break. One slice wheat & one slice white bread. They were the best!

Anonymous said...

I woke up this AM hungry and thots of the delicious coffee cake from my days at south gate high crept in...since moved away from California and have made it a hobby to look up old recipes for dishes @favorite restaurants indigenous to the west coast (such as a numero uno deep dish pizza)so on a whim I google the coffee cake this morning to see if anyone has posted a recipe and !shock surprise and elation!a link to the site came up !! I too, worked in the cafeteria early AM...preparing sheets of the half white half wheat bread grilled cheese sandwiches for baking and working at the window at nutrition was my job...and I always set aside 2 slices of coffee cake 2 grilled cheese sandwiches and to mini sausages with orange juice for my sister and I ...I've been looking for this recipe for years and I thank you thank you thank you for posting it from the bottom of my belly lol ! may the old school coffee cake gods bless you abundantly!
Alisa class of 84

Anonymous said...

I made it but it was a bit dry, did you use buttermilk or the powdered milk?

Anonymous said...

Making it for the second time. First time was a huge hit with kids so im making more. Another favorite for me was the chalupa...mmmm...recipe anyone?

Michelle Jones said...

OMG I have been missing this cake since the 8th grade!!! You have no idea how many memories this brings back. Reminds me of when my dad would walk us to school. I can remember the smell of this coffee cake in the air as I ran to the cafeteria. I am ready to use this recipe to create memories and my children. It will be interesting to see the look on my husbands face when I bake this for him tonight. He is a true L.A baby and I'm sure he will be able to reminisce with me.. Thank you for this recipe.

Amber said...

This was the best stuff ever!!! I always wanted to bring some home to share but it never made it past the end of nutrition! I'll will definitely be making some this weekend!

MsVChen said...

As an LAUSD teacher, I too have loved this cake for over 20 years. This year I learned from my middle schoolers that the way to eat it is to pour milk over it and mush it together! Thanks for sharing. =)

IMDark2 said...

Strange thing! At this age of 54 I woke up thinking about this coffee cake today. So, I thought everything else is on the internet .. Let me see if I can find that recipe. BOOM! There it is!!! Oh boy! This is gonna take me back to some fond memories!! I can TRULLY say this Coffee Cake was the best part of going to school everyday!!! Well, I'm off to the grocery store to get my ingredients!! Stop by on your next nutrition break! I'll save you a piece!! LOL.

Rebecca Black said...

For the toping, do you put it all on and bake it or put the toping on after it's done baking?

LV said...

Rebecca, you put the topping on and bake it. The topping bakes right along with the coffee cake.

TrackMom said...



Kels said...

What type of salad oil

kOOKie Lady said...


t anderson said...

Yum yum yum yum my son and I just finished baking this wonderful coffee cake..... I was right back in school...but this time i got the end piece I wanted...Thank you for sharing

Cecilia Yrigollen said...

My friend and I have spoken of this coffee cake for about 5 yrs can't wait till it cools down around here to bake it. Thanks for the post.

Tania Siu said...

I want to make this using the dry milk, but do I use 1/2 cup of the powder? or 1/2 of the milk already prepared?

Brenda Peoples said...

OMG, is truly all I can say. I have wondered for years why no one knew how to get a hold of this recipe!!! I had all but given up on trying to find it and then tonight I tried Pinterest. Low and behold there it was "LAUSD Coffee Cake Recipe". I literally screamed and almost fell off my bed. I attended John Muir Jr. High and Manual Arts High Schools in the 70's. Those mornings were the best because off this little slice of heaven. Can't wait til morning to try this recipe. Thank you sooooo much for sharing.

From Alabama byway of South Central L.A.

Roxy Rose said...

I'm SOOO happy to have found this! Will be making this on Saturday! So many good memories of this coffee cake. Fleming Junior High and President Ave Elementary :-)

Lisa Moody said...

Same question any reply ?

Unknown said...

So the buttery flavor was salad oil and not butter? Man fooled me. from 1971-76 South Gate Jr High to Gage Jr High to Nimitz Jr High to Bell High I never had a bad Coffee Cake. Coming to think of it the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Sweet Rolls were pretty good also. I better go check my glucose level.

Bdawg said...

This took me way back, I loved those coffee cakes, and man when they came out with the peanut butter version it was all over. I also liked the burgers and the deep fried burritos lol. Don't forget the icees lol. And the orange sherbert cups.

esha doll said...

thank you so much... i sure do miss this coffee cake i hadf to get 2 slices fav from cafeteria was this coffee cake and the pizza..omg the memories

jaydotthomas said...

You're a saint for this. I was just thinking about this this morning and was bummed there'd be no way to ever have it again. Those of us that grew up on this coffee cake remember being so mad they would only give you 1 piece, or if it was too small. Lol. My best friend hated it all through elementary, so I was ALL THE WAY UP on coffee cake day. I'm baking this for my girls this weekend. I'm about to become SUPER DAD!!! Lol. Thanks for this!!!

jaydotthomas said...

They don't know nothing bout Fleming Jr High!!! Best Jr high in the state. And that coffee cake line was always SUPER LONG!!! Lol. Well worth it! Salute!

LV said...

Hi! I used buttermilk

LV said...

You are welcome! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:-)

LV said...

You are welcome! Enjoy baking it:-)

LV said...

I am so sorry for late response. I hadn't checked this page in a long time. It works with either one

LV said...

Salad oil is just another name for cooking oil. Wesson or Crisco work very well

LV said...

Crisco or Wesson

Shunti Brown said...

Yes God, this coffee cake was the best. I hv been making it now for the last five years. I also loved the burritos.

Shunti Brown said...

Yes God, this coffee cake was the best. I hv been making it now for the last five years. I also loved the burritos.

Bernadette Rodriguez said...

Hi i went to south gate in the late 70s and there was another coffee cake sold also. It had alot of glaze over it and under it. Do u know the recipe for that one

Bernadette Rodriguez said...

Hi i went to south gate in the late 70s and there was another coffee cake sold also. It had alot of glaze over it and under it. Do u know the recipe for that one

Rubisela Salinas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rubisela Salinas said...

Finally. It's great to here that other people felt the same way I did about this cake. I have ever been talking about it for years. I used to buy it every day.

Unknown said...

Coffee cake was the BEST in junior high and high school. You haven't eaten coffee cake until you get coffee cake from LAUSD. I even went back to my old high school, Manual Arts, and bought some from the cafeteria. Gotta try it!

beadsbrat said...

Can you tell me if this is the same recipe in the 70's?

LV said...

@beadsbrat yes! This is the recipe! Try it out:-)

beadsbrat said...

I tried it last night. It wasn't it. The nutmeg was really strong in it. I don't remember nutmeg being used at all. I know they used 3 different recipes. Kind of bummed lol. There's still hope :-)

Unknown said...

I made this coffee cake and it turned out pretty good. I did not have powdered milk so I used 1/4 cup of condensed milk. It came out very moist and my friends loved it. I think it needs more sugar, at least 1/2 cup more of brown sugar and white. I will definitely make this again but with the added sugar.

Lisa Lumpkin said...

I wholeheartedly agree. My fondest school memories was the Coffee Cake. I am 52 now and every cake I have ever eaten has been compared to the LAUSD Coffee Cake. I STILL have not found one that stands up to this cake. Last night I made one that I THOUGHT was the correct LAUSD recipe and it WAS indeed delicious. I'll have to try this recipe and see if it compares. Thanks for sharing. I can smell the aroma now.

Lisa Lumpkin said...

For those that felt this was NOT the recipe. I found one that sure tastes like it's the correct one. Here you go:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, nutmeg and oil. Remove 1/2 cup of mixture from bowl, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon and set aside for topping. Combine remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, baking soda, egg and buttermilk and blend well. Add to flour mixture. Do not over-mix. Spoon batter into greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup reserved topping. Bake at 375 degrees 30 to 40 minutes.

8 to 10 servings. Each of 10 servings: 398 calories; 273 mg sodium; 22 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.08 gram fiber.

Maciel said...

Its sounds good but i remember that coffee cake had pieces of pnuts on top of the coffee cake in los feliz

LV said...

It might be the time period you were in school because the one I had definitely did not have peanuts. Perhaps they used a different recipe at your school in Los Feliz.

Unknown said...

I graduated in 1987 from Westchester High and I still dream about this coffee cake!! I am going to try out both recipes and see which one comes closer. No coffee cake I have eaten since has tasted as good, including Starbucks!

Pee Bee said...

John Muir Middle School/ I absolutely remember this coffee cake and it was to die for. They also made a peanut butter variation to this recipe which was equally tasty. If this recipe turns out to be the one from LAUSD, then I will gain 10lbs eating this for the whole week.

The Swenssons said...

I remember this coffee cake from Palms Jr. High (late 70s). I've made this recipe for my private school child and LAUSD husband each year for the past 10 years as a New Years Day treat.

Michael Shead said...

I did like the Coffee Cake, but I think the Sweet Rolls were the star of the of the morning recess/breaks. I went to John Muir Jr. High and Fremont High School. You could smell those Rolls all over the school just before recess and I got one or two with milk every morning they were served. I've seen the recipe for the sweet rolls, and I'm no match for it, you have to know what you're doing! What I wouldn't give for one (or two) right now!!

Melissa Macillus said...

I cannot wait to make this!!! Any chance you know the recipe for the peanut butter bread????

Unknown said...

Worked in banking in the 70's when the school cafeteria management (still wearing the old white uniforms at that time), deposited cash and coin daily. I asked about the recipe so many times she finally agreed to look for it. She said they were using pre-mixed by that time. She said she would look for the original recipe in storage but would have to break it down because it would be a very large amount. She did find it and gave it to me and I made it for friends a family whom all said it was exactly as they remembered. I also saw the exact recipe on Valley Relics Facebook recently.
The recipe shown here is not the recipe I was given so long ago. I will have to make both to compare.

Unknown said...

Wow I too had this almost daily, have fond memories of this and the cafeteria and workers, Berendo Jr. High class of 79, but the cinnamon bread not rolls was what I was searching for as others commented as well, it was baked on the large silver trays and they were not rolled and had the glaze poured over it fresh out of the oven then it was sliced into squares with a pizza cutter, the corner pieces were amazing. If anyone has that recipe would love to have it.

Thanks for this recipe will definitely make it.

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