Winkler’s Moravian Sugar Cake

Moravian Sugar Cake

Christmas is full of traditional sweets. My aunt Kakie’s peanut butter cookies and my cousin Clark’s fudge are beloved family recipes that will be passed down to the next generation. Some holiday sweets arrive at our doorstep as gifts from friends and quickly become family favorites. Other sweets have their roots in a country of origin or religious sect. Moravian sugar cake is one of those special treats.

Winkler Bakery located in the heart of Old Salem, NC opened its doors in 1800. Their recipes and cooking methods have not changed much since then. The bakery still bakes Moravian ginger cookies and sugar cakes in wood burning ovens. The Moravians immigrated from what is now the Czech republic, to Germany to Pennsylvania and then settled in the Winston Salem, NC area. Their rich cultural heritage and traditional recipes traveled with them and have become regional favorites in North Carolina. My favorite Moravian treat is the Sugar cake.

My family’s first introduction to sugar cake was from a bakery in Winston Salem, NC called Dewey’s. We were hooked after our first bite! No trip through North Carolina was complete unless we stopped by the bakery. At home I dreaded the day we were down to the last piece of sugar cake because everyone would fight over it. Finally I gave in and just bought everyone his or her own personal cake! The kids would write their names in permanent magic marker on their cake and add sayings like, “If you touch this I will kill you” and other sweet things siblings say to each other!

Sugar cake is really a coffee cake made with yeast as the leavening agent. It has a crunchy brown sugar topping. Because it is not bread it doesn’t require any kneading. My kids eat it anytime of day, sometimes ALL day! I hope your family enjoys Moravian Sugar Cake as much as our family does.

Winkler’s Moravian Sugar Cake

Yeast Bread
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, 110 degrees
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
3/4 cup warm water, 110 degrees
1/2 cup sugar, granulated
2 tablespoons powdered milk
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes, dry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Topping
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Prepare baking sheet: Line a rimmed baking sheet (around 17 inch by 12 inch by 1 inch) with parchment paper. Set aside. Sprinkle yeast and sugar on top of 1/2 cup water heated to 110 degrees. Set aside for 10 minutes until yeast bubbles and foams. Meanwhile, measure the next 7 ingredients (through eggs) plus one cup of flour into a large mixing bowl. Add yeast mixture. Using a mixer set on medium speed, beat ingredients for 2 minutes. Lower mixing speed to low and add remaining 2 cups of flour. Don’t be tempted to add any more flour! Spray a bowl with non-stick canola oil, add the dough, and then spray the top of the dough with non-stick canola oil.

Cover bowl with a clean tea towel and set in the microwave to rise until doubled in size, about one hour. Punch dough down and fold inward a couple of times. Place dough in the middle of the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Let rise 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, spray your fingertips with non-stick spray then gently pat dough (don’t stretch, just pat please), spreading dough evenly to the edges of the pan. For topping: Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle evenly on top of dough. Make shallow indentations with fingertips spacing at 2 inch intervals. Evenly drizzle 1/2 cup melted and cooled butter on top of cinnamon sugar mixture. Let dough rise 30 more minutes. While dough is rising preheat oven to 375F. Bake until golden brown about 12 to 15 minutes. Serve at hot or at room temperature. Store in plastic zip-top bags. Adapted from The Old Salem Museums & Gardens Cookbook.

Published in The News and Neighbor on December 10, 2014

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