Happy Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ve got just the thing for you. A Sweetheart Coffee Cake for your sweetheart.
This recipe is chock full of nostalgia. When I was growing up, there was a magical DRIVE IN bakery called Roselyn’s Bakery. And this wasn’t just a neighborhood spot where you could grab your favorite donuts or order your favorite cakes– no. Roselyn’s was a veritable symbol of Indianapolis, a local chain with over 40 outposts in central Indiana. Founded in the 1940s, Roselyn’s prided itself on consistent, delicious treats. They had iconic signs, a loyal following, and anyone who grew up in central Indiana and ate sweets before the late 90s could recall their favorite. Was it the smiley face cookies? The Zebra Brownies? The Alligator Coffee Cake? No matter what location you stopped into, you got the same delicious treats (because it was all baked in the same central facility), and everyone had a favorite.
Our family’s favorite? The Sweetheart Coffee Cake. A sweet buttery laminated dough filled with toffee and streusel and coated in a butterscotch glaze, it was our Christmas and Valentine’s morning treat. Obviously the gimmick was that it was in the shape of a heart, but it was truly a special-occasions-only breakfast (probably because regular consumption of this treat would definitely lead you to a life with Type 2 Diabetes….) that my sisters and I looked forward to every year.
Unfortunately, Roselyn’s was closed in the late 90s for health code violations including things I would rather not discuss on a food blog (you can read more here if you like to learn about gross reasons restaurants close), but the bakery lived on far after its demise! A separate bakery bought and published the recipes to Roselyn’s favorite treats in a cookbook my mom bought in an attempt to keep the Sweetheart Coffee Cake alive! Unfortunately, while the intentions of the cookbook were good– the recipes seriously lacked. Cutting down giant commercial recipes into…less giant recipes with strange measurements meant that the recipes were hard to follow, you needed a football field of a work surface to get anything done, and you would end up making four coffee cakes instead of 1. You can tell the recipe was put together by a lot of division and zero testing. A last ditch effort by the company to make money after their business collapsed.
After one failed attempt at making a coffee cake, my mom stuck the book on the shelf to gather dust, and luckily for us– a local grocery chain had partnered with a bakery who had purchased the beloved Roselyn’s Recipes and started churning them out and selling them to local Kroger and Marsh grocery stores. The sweetheart coffee cake lived on!
Cut to this Christmas. As mentioned before, Sweetheart coffee cake is a TRADITION. Every single Christmas morning my entire life has been accompanied by a slice of Sweetheart coffee cake, eggs, and bacon. A few months before Christmas, our local grocery chain– who championed the Roselyn’s Recipes and where we purchased our coffee cakes– had shuttered, leaving us wondering where would we buy the coffee cakes?*
*Turns out, Kroger (which at the time was not in my town) also stocks the sweetheart coffee cakes among other Roselyn’s recipes but we only looked at one store one time and they weren’t there which is annoying in retrospect but hey I figured out this recipe.
I decided to tackle the recipe. I WOULD MAKE THE COFFEE CAKE AND SAVE CHRISTMAS!! I figured the best way to start would be to make it as written, which was…interesting. The book reeks of early 1950s recipes, and not in a charming way. Margarine is called for in almost every recipe instead of butter, and my favorite addition would have to be the recipe for the coffee cake dough calls for “seven drops of yellow food coloring” which is not only completely unnecessary, but also hilarious. Did they think it would look butterier? The measurements included such gems as “half a tablespoon” (not a measurement). I worked my way through it, measuring and note taking and writing out the weights of each ingredient so it would be easier to break down. Somehow….after some real trial and error including using my entire kitchen island to roll out the dough, on Christmas morning we had success! THREE giant sweetheart coffee cakes graced our breakfast table, but I knew I would never go through it again unless I figured out how to break down the recipe and modernize it for the home cook. Out with the margarine, the food coloring, and the weird half measurements. In with real ingredients, and normal sizes. Nobody needs “3-4 coffee cakes,” as the recipe described. Are you making three or four?!
Obviously the best time to try this recipe was around Valentines day, and guys– I did a LOT of math for this one. Turns out my gals Siri and Alexa are great helpers in the kitchen when it comes to dividing everything by thirds.
The result is exactly what I wanted. A project for sure (there are tons of components), but for twice a year? No longer crossing my fingers that the grocery store has one in stock? Totally worth it.
Sweetheart Coffee Cake
Makes 1 Coffee cake | Adapted from the Roselyn’s Recipe Cookbook
Note: This recipe needs to be spread out over 2 days, however the toffee, streusel and filling can be made ahead of time on day 1. You will also need a candy or digital thermometer, and a scale!
1 egg, lightly beaten
132g bread flour
65g all purpose flour
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp milk powder
3 Tbsp crisco vegetable shortening
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1/2 C butter
1 C butter
1 C sugar
1.5 tsp kosher salt
(you’ll need a candy or food thermometer)
2 Tbsp butter (chilled and cut into 4 pieces)
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1/3 C All Purpose Flour
Heaping 1/3 C crushed toffee
1/3 C Sweetheart Streusel
166g powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 C water
1/4 tsp cornstarch
1 Tb plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Note: This recipe (as stated at the beginning) is best spread out over two days. Read through the whole dang thing before starting. When I was actually making the coffee cake, lighting was not optimal (because it’s February and the sun no longer shines) and so you’ll just have to deal with some shoddy pictures/gifs but I hope it helps!
Make the Dough: In stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine water, egg, bread flour, all purpose flour, kosher salt, milk powder, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar and yeast. Mix on low speed until a rough dough ball forms. Do not over-mix (we are just combining ingredients here, no kneading).
Place plastic wrap over bowl and let rest for 30 minutes. Transfer dough to parchment lined quarter sheet pan and spread evenly with lightly floured fingertips. Cover with plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Make the butter packet: While chilling, fold a piece of parchment to create an 4x5inch rectangle (An easy way to do this is to trace a 4×5 inch rectangle in pencil in the middle of your sheet of parchment, flip it over, and then fold around that square. Unfold and place a cold stick of butter in the middle of the rectangle. Fold/overlap parchment over the butter and give it a good whack with a rolling pin across the stick to flatten it a bit. Readjust the parchment to lay flatter over the smashed sticks and flip the packet over seam-side-down. Using the rolling pin, roll the cold butter into an even layer, pushing into the corners of the packet to create a nice and tidy 4×5 inch rectangle of butter. Chill in the fridge.
Make the Toffee: This toffee is easy to make and will be used later in the filling PLUS it makes a few cups worth so you’ll have a sugary snack to follow your sugary coffee cake! Set a piece of parchment in a sheet pan and set aside. In a medium saucepan, add two sticks of butter, one cup of sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine and set over medium/high heat. Allow to come to a boil, and cook until the mixture becomes a dark amber color, and the temperature has reached 285 degrees F, stirring occasionally. When mixture reaches 285F, pour onto prepared sheet pan and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stick in the fridge (or outside because the weather is terrible and the outside is colder than your refrigerator) and allow to harden. Break into pieces and store in zipper top bag in the fridge until ready to use.
Laminate the dough! Take the chilled dough out of the freezer. Dust your work surface with flour and roll to a 12in by 6in rectangle (short side facing you). Place the butter packet in the middle and fold the dough over the butter like you’re folding a business letter. pinch the edges closed, rotate 180 degrees, and carefully roll out to a 12in by 6 in rectangle once again. Repeat the folding and turning and stick in the fridge for another 30 minutes. Repeat this two more times, adding flour to your work surface as needed. Refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 24 hours.
Assemble the Coffeecake! After the dough has properly chilled, prepare the Sweetheart Streusel. In a small bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt and all purpose flour. Using your fingers, pinch and mix the streusel until the butter is evenly incorporated and if you squeeze a small amount of the streusel, it keeps its shape. Measure out 1/3 of the mixture and set aside. Place remaining streusel in the fridge.
For the filling, take the toffee out of the fridge and measure out roughly 1/2 C of the broken pieces and place in a zip top bag. Crush it either with a rolling pin, meat pounder, or maybe a large book! You want to crush it so the largest pieces are about 1/4 inch. Combine 1/3 C of the sweetheart streusel with 1/3 C crushed toffee in a bowl. Set aside.
Now that your fillings are ready, lets turn this coffee cake into a heart! Take the chilled dough out of the fridge (it will have risen slightly, just punch it down while you roll) and roll out on a floured work surface to a 10×12 in rectangle. Sprinkle the sweetheart filling across the surface, leaving a 1/4in border around the edges. Roll the dough rectangle into a log, brushing excess flour off while you roll (if you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls, you’ll recognize this step). Pinch the seams to seal and turn 180 degrees so the end of the roll is facing you.
Fold the dough in half on top of itself, spin it around so the fold is facing you, and cut through the top and bottom logs in half about 3 inches from the cut ends.
Give the log another spin so the cut side is facing away from you, and pull the top portion forward and allow the side of the log to fall straddling the bottom log. VOILA! Heart shaped coffee cake!
Press out the heart shape with your hands to the thickness of 1 inch. Place sweetheart streusel on top. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 350F. Let rise at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Transfer baking sheet to oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown, rotating baking sheet halfway. The cake will puff up like crazy, but don’t worry– it will settle down when it’s done. Let cool on the pan, and transfer to wire rack set in foil lined baking sheet.
Make the frosting! In a small bowl, measure out and sift powdered sugar and set aside. Combine water and corn starch in small saucepan and mix until well incorporated. Add granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt to the saucepan and boil for 1 minute. Add vegetable oil and stir well. Add brown sugar and return to a boil. Add hot sugar mixture to powdered sugar and whisk to combine. While still warm– pour over coffee cake getting into all the nooks and crannies. Spread with an offset spatula to evenly coat.
A note on the frosting: Of all the recipes in the book, this one was maybe the weirdest, with the boiled sugar, the vegetable oil and the corn starch (in addition to the corn starch already in the powdered sugar)….but it’s true to the original and it just WORKS. So I kept it.
Allow frosting to cool slightly and cut into slivers for serving. Serve with black coffee, and of course– your sweetheart!