Although we always enjoy this yeasted coffee cake as a Christmas treat, Moravian sugar cake is also a popular Easter bread.
Find all my Sweet Yeast Bread recipes in one place.
I’m honored to again be partnering with the Idaho® Potato Commission to bring you this recipe.
I was spoiled by the sugar cake from Dewey’s. This is the 4th recipe I’ve tried since moving to NY. HOLY CATS! Not only lived up to, but absolutely surpassed my expectations, I dare say, better than Dewey’s! Thank you!
Who Are the Moravians?
Moravian Sugar Cake is the best, so as far as I’m concerned, the Moravians are the best, too.
But, unless you are from central North Carolina (or maybe from the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania area), you have probably never heard of the Moravians or of their magical sugar coffee cake.
The Moravians (or more correctly, the members of the Moravian Church) originally settled in central North Carolina from what is now The Czech Republic and Slovakia by way of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in the mid-ish 1700s.
Old Salem, the site of their original settlement in North Carolina, has been restored and is maintained as a living history museum and National Historic Site. According to our friends at Wikipedia, about 70% of the buildings are original. Which means they’re Old, at least by US standards.
You can think of Moravian sugar cake as a kind of sweet focaccia: a dimpled, potato dough doused in liberal amounts of melted butter and showered with sugar or cinnamon sugar.
What Is Moravian Sugar Cake?
Moravian sugar cake is a yeast-raised coffee cake that is dimpled like focaccia and then showered with melted butter, cinnamon and sugar before baking up to a beautiful golden brown.
Many recipes that I researched contain potato, although the bakery that made the version I grew up eating does not use potato in their dough.
Honestly, I think that is an anomaly (although it is tasty). Folks from Central and Eastern Europe like their potatoes, and they would certainly have used potatoes–or at least the water from cooking potatoes–in some of their breads.
I love the stuff so much I have 2 recipes for it on the site. This one, and one I call Authentic Moravian Sugar Cake that has a bit more potato, a bit less sugar, and more topping ingredients. Both are delicious.
Bake on a half sheet pan for thinner cakes or in a 9″x13″ pan for a thicker cake. This photo shows the thicker version.
How to Make Moravian Sugar Cake
This is not a hard recipe to make. Here’s what you’ll need for the dough:
water: I usually use the water I cook the potato in. Yeast loves potato water because it’s starchy
yeast: instant or active dry. If using instant, you can add it with the rest of the ingredients. If using active dry, dissolve and proof it in the potato water first
mashed potato: no butter or salt, just plain mashed potato
salt: I usually use kosher salt. If using fine salt or table salt, you can decrease the amount to 1 teaspoon
sugar: adds sweetness and tenderness
melted butter: enriches and tenderizes the dough
milk: I use whole milk. You can also use 2%
eggs: I use large eggs. Adds some additional protein, emulsifiers, and liquid to the dough
all-purpose flour: no need to use bread flour here, although you could if you want to. You will end up with a chewier final result and may need a touch of additional liquid
And here’s what you need for the topping:
melted butter: makes for a gooey topping. Use between 1 1/2 and 2 sticks of butter
brown sugar: you can use all granulated sugar rather than a mix of white and brown sugar. And if you use brown sugar, you can use either dark or light
nutmeg: nutmeg is optional. If you do use it, grate whole nutmeg rather than using ground nutmeg. The whole spice has more flavor
salt: tempers the sweetness a bit and brings out the butter flavor in the topping
What To Do
Here’s the rundown:
Make the very soft dough. I really recommend using a stand mixer for this step.
See how soft the potato dough is? It is gorgeous to work with!
Allow dough to rise once in the bowl.
Divide in half and “pour” each half onto a buttered half-sheet pan.
Spread out in a thin layer, trying to cover the entire pan. You may have to let the dough rest for a few minutes a few times so it will stretch out.
Dimple all over with your fingertips. It’s okay to poke holes completely through the dough, too.
Drizzle on melted butter and then sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar.
Let rise for another 30-45 minutes.
After you dimple the dough with your fingertips, drizzle melted butter all over the surface, allowing it to collect in the dimples. Then sprinkle on an even layer of cinnamon sugar.
Let cool as long as you can stand it.
If you do bake both trays at the same time, you will have to rotate the pans and switch racks halfway through so both cakes brown evenly. A small price to pay for yeasty, cinnamon sugary goodness!
Time to Break Out the Stretchy Pants!
I have made 4 trays of Moravian sugar cake at one time. Not that I necessarily recommend it. Because then you’ll have a ton of it in your house.
And the only way to get rid of it is to eat it. That’s my reasoning anyway. It is so easy to eat, too. Soft, sweet potato dough with ripples and hills and valleys filled with cinnamon sugar deliciousness.
Care to join me in Stretchy Pants Land? Make some yourself. And then call me when you find yourself eating it like pizza. I’ll be your support group. You’re welcome.
Q & A
Can I Buy this stuff instead of making it?
If you want to forgo the baking, both Dewey’s and Winkler’s in Winston-Salem/Old Salem ship, although expect them both to be sold out close to the holidays.
It’s fun to make your own, though, so I vote you go for it!.
What’s the best way to reheat this?
I learned this tip from a reader, actually. Here’s the “correct” way to reheat Moravian Sugar Cake:
*Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
*Add butter and let it melt.
*Put in a piece of leftover sugar cake and fry that bad boy up on both sides until caramelized and crispy.
What should I do with the leftovers?
If you ever happen to have leftover Moravian Sugar Cake, you must try my Moravian Sugar Cake Baked French Toast. It is incredibly good!
Can I freeze it?
Sure. Freeze individual slices once completely cool. Wrap them in a double layer of plastic wrap and then in foil or place slices in freezer bags, making sure to press out as much air as possible before sealing. They’ll keep well for up to 3 months. Thaw wrapped at room temperature and rewarm (or fry in butter as outlined above) to serve.
If you have any other questions about this recipe or any other, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
You can leave a comment here, and I will be back in touch in about 24 hours.
If your question in more urgent, you can email me and I answer within about 4 hours.
Either way, I promise to help!
More Old Fashioned, North Carolina Recipes
If you like this old-fashioned recipe, you may like my old-fashioned butterscotch cake recipe. And if you’re from North Carolina or are a Cheerwine fine, try my Cheerwine Layer Cake.
I am also a huge fan of lazy peach sonker, a North Carolina Specialty, and this Chocolate Glazed Doughnut Bread Pudding I made with Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I think you’ll like these recipes too.
Here’s a slice reheated in a frying pan with butter. Look how crisp and lovely!
I can tell you this the best yeast-raised coffee cake in all the land until I’m blue in the face, but it means more when a reader has made and loved the recipe.
I know this is a very old post, but I have to tell you how much I enjoyed your post and the sugar cake I made today! I went on a field trip to Old Salem with my son’s class last week and was scolded (lovingly, of course) by my husband for returning without a sugar cake. I didn’t want to stand in line at the bakery with my unruly group of fourth graders. So I told him I’d find a recipe and make one. I landed here. Absolutely fantastic and delicious. Thank you for a fun story and a delicious recipe. My kids and I are making quick work of one pan. My husband will probably eat half of the other when he gets home from work, leaving half for me for breakfast tomorrow!
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
This is the scale I use, love, and recommend.
I really hope you love this recipe, you guys!
If you make it, please share a photo with me before you devour them, either in the Pastry Chef Online Facebook Group or on instagram by tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe.
I’d also love to have you join my PCO newsletter, The Inbox Pastry Chef!
Thanks, and enjoy!
Moravian Sugar Cake
2 half-sheet trays, about 48 slices
2 hours 3 seconds
4 hours 15 minutes 3 seconds
This recipe for Moravian sugar cake makes about 60 ounces of dough, enough to make 2 jelly roll pans of cake. In other words, enough for you and one of your dearest friends.
For the Dough
1/2 cup warm water, (you can use the water from cooking the potatoes, if you want)
1 Tablespoon dried yeast
1 cup unseasoned mashed potatoes, (just potatoes--no milk or butter or anything)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
5 1/2 ounces melted butter
1 cup whole milk
2 whole eggs
32-35 ounces all-purpose flour, enough to make a soft, sticky dough
For the Topping
6-8 ounces melted butter (your call)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
several gratings of fresh nutmeg (optional)
heavy pinch of fine salt
For the Dough
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, pour in the warm water and yeast. Stir for a minute or so to dissolve the yeast.
Add the potatoes, salt, sugar, butter, milk eggs and about half of the flour. Mix on low until you have a smooth batter.
Change to the dough hook, and add most of the remaining flour. Mix on low speed until combined, and then knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. Test the dough by pulling some up with your fingers. It should be very sticky and stretchy and almost-but-not-quite flow-y. If the dough doesn't have enough body, knead in the rest of the flour. Keep in mind that wetter is better than drier when it comes to yeast dough.
Once you are happy with your dough, remove the bowl from the mixer and smooth the top of the dough with a pan-sprayed hand or spatula.
Cover and let rise in a warm-ish place for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until doubled in size.
Spray 2 jelly roll pans with pan spray (I made one batch with parchment-lined trays and one without. The parchment isn't necessary for this, so you can skip it if you want.
Divide the dough in half (I weigh mine) and plop half on each of the prepared sheets. Spray your hands and the top of the dough with pan spray to keep it from sticking, and start stretching/patting/pulling the dough to fit each pan. Alternate between pans to give the dough a chance to relax and make it easier to stretch.
Once the dough is shaped, spray it again with a little pan spray and cover with a lint-free towel or plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, about an hour.
For the Topping
Set your oven racks for the bottom third and top thirds of your oven. Preheat oven to 400F (204C).
Whisk the sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg (if using), and salt together very well.
Once the dough is puffy, dimple the dough all over with your fingers. You don't have to be gentle--it's okay if you break holes all the way through the dough, even. Just dimple it all over very, very well.
Liberally brush 3-4 ounces of melted butter over each cake. The butter should pool in the little dimples.
Sprinkle half the sugar mixture evenly over each cake. Be generous--you pretty much don't want to see any dough showing through the sugar.
Place the cakes on the racks and bake for 7 minutes.
Switch the cakes on the racks and bake for 7 more minutes.*
Remove to racks to cool for a few minutes.
With a large spatula and maybe some help, slide the cakes out onto cooling racks so the bottoms don't get soggy. Slice however you think appropriate.
Store at room temperature. If you're not going to eat all of this the same day, wrap the cakes well and freeze them.
*Ovens vary, so consider the baking time as a general guide. Yours may take a little longer. If you bake in 9"x13" pans, your sugar cake will also take longer to bake. Look for an internal temperature of 190-195F.
For a Thicker Cake, bake in a 9"x13" pan. For a thinner more traditional sugar cake, bake in a half-sheet pan or jelly roll pan.
You can freeze this whole cake cut in individual slices or cut into quarters. Cool completely, wrap in a double layer of plastic wrap and then in foil, and freeze for up to 3 months.
Allow to thaw on the counter, still wrapped.
The traditional way to reheat this cake is to melt some butter in a cast iron skillet and then "fry" slices until crisp on the outsides and heated through. This is more easily done if your slices are thinner (made in a larger pan).
If you prefer not to add extra butter, simply heat slices in the microwave for a few seconds, in your toaster oven, or in the oven. For oven heating, wrap in foil and bake at 350F for about 10 minutes until heated through.]
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
OXO 9" x 13" Non-Stick Pro Cake Pan
KitchenAid Stand Mixer
Escali Primo Kitchen Scale
Nordic Ware Half Sheet Pans (2 Pack)
Serving Size 1 piece
Amount Per Serving
Calories 178Total Fat 7.1gSaturated Fat 4.3gCholesterol 25mgSodium 137mgCarbohydrates 26.2gFiber .6gSugar 9.6gProtein 2.8g
Category: Sweet Yeast Breads
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And that does it. I do hope you make the sugar cake so I won’t be Alone in Shame.
Enjoy, and have a lovely day.
No Moravian Sugar Cake for you, foster cat Sam!
Thank you once again to the Idaho® Potato Commission for partnering with me on this post. I do love working with my friends at IPC.
The post Moravian Sugar Cake | The Best Yeasted Coffee Cake in the World appeared first on Pastry Chef Online.
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