I Predict Coffee Cake in Your Future

It’s 7:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Our first day of being empty nesters after a wonderful month of our kids being home. We’re driving back from the place we walk our dog—a rural park—about 10 minutes from home; we’re talking about going out for breakfast. But then, there’s a loud clunk from under the car and a lot of metal scraping on pavement. This is not good. We fear the worst for good reason: the new muffler just put on our car two days ago has fallen off.
Did I mention it’s raining? And MEH (My Engineer Husband) is now outside in the pouring rain, lying in the mud, under the car, trying to force the muffler joints to stay together, willing them to stay together. He’s yelling, and every other yelled word is a swear word. Effing this, S word that. MEH is a calm man by nature, but when he’s mad, he’s mad. I am dry in the car, feeling incredibly annoyed at the car repair place, but also unbelievably relieved and grateful….

Back up two days. We’re all getting ready for long trips. Our daughter off to Pennsylvania for a summer internship; our son to Massachusetts for another internship in a rural area. Our plan for a while has been for our son to take the “other car,” an older sedan—the one with the muffler. MEH and I would continue to use the nondescript white station wagon—and MEH would bike to work for the summer.

But then we took the “other car” to the shop for its yearly state inspection. Despite its clean bill of health, something didn’t sit right with me. They fixed some rust, they put on a new muffler; they said it was ready to go. But I wondered. There was the shimmy on the highway, and something wasn’t right with the way the new muffler looked from the back as I followed MEH (My Engineer Husband) home. I was concerned.

Here’s the thing. I have intuitions—I won’t go so far as to say I’m prophetic; I can’t see into the future. I prefer to think that I’m really in tune with my surroundings. I watch, I observe, I feel, and I pay attention to those feelings. Sometimes it seems like I can read minds. (Like right now, I know what you’re thinking….)

When we first picked up the “other car” with its new muffler, I told MEH I had a feeling, a bad feeling, that our son should not drive the “other car.” MEH has learned to listen. He (almost) always listens. (For the record, sometimes he doesn’t listen—like when I followed him home in the nondescript white station wagon, after we got the new muffler. I honked the horn and asked him to pull over into a parking lot; I told him something didn’t look right about the muffler. He looked at it and said it was fine. I wanted to turn around and go back to the mechanic. He wanted to go on. We went on.)

But this time, about the rental car, he listened. And on the big departure day we set off—MEH, our daughter and me to Pennsylvania in the rental car; our son in the nondescript white station wagon to western Massachusetts, where it will stay for the summer.

Back to Sunday morning, sitting on the quiet rural road in the disabled “other car,” listening to MEH swearing under the car, hearing the scraping metal as he tries to force the muffler together, waiting for the tow truck. But thinking about my son—safe and sound in western Massachusetts—how it could’ve been him on the highway driving at a high speed when the bolts came loose, the muffler dragging on the ground, maybe safe (but I’m thinking probably not), then stuck somewhere in the pouring rain by the side of a busy turnpike.

Sunday morning safe and sound at home, the car towed away—we are carless, no way to go anywhere or buy anything, no way to go out to breakfast. We could walk, but it’s still raining hard. I get out the binder where I keep tried and true recipes, and I turn to one given to me the day I got married by an old family friend. Coffee cake, an old-fashioned moist and delicious crunchy-topped cake—warm and comforting for MEH who’s still soaking wet and mad after lying in the cold rain trying to fix the muffler.

I pre-heat the oven, I blend the ingredients, fill the pan, and soon warm cinnamon scents fill the air. And I can predict coffee cake in our future.

Classic Coffee Cake

For the dough:


3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. butter or shortening

1 t. vanilla

Add one egg, then add and mix:

1-1/2 c. flour

dash of salt

1-1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 c. milk

For the topping:

1/2 c. brown sugar

2 T. flour

2 T. melted butter

1-1/2 t. cinnamon

1/2 c. chopped nuts

Combine topping and spread 2 alternate layers of dough and topping (end with topping) in 8×8 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden and a toothpick comes out clean.





  1. CMSmith says:

    Boy, I would love to have some of that too, but have started the South Beach diet and all that sugar and flour is a no-no.

    Sorry about your car. But I’m sure you will get it worked out all right.

    I too, think I sometimes have a strong intuition. Nobody listens to me. At least you’re being heard some of the time. 🙂

    Are there any “I told you so’s in your future?”

    • The car is now fixed…although I’ve yet to have seen it, so not sure what my intuition will tell me! As for the “told you so’s”? I left them out of the story! 🙂

  2. Probably my all-time favorite cake. Now I’m craving it. But since I’m on deadline, I’ll have to settle for the Drake’s kind. 🙂

    • Haven’t had the Drake’s, but maybe if you pop it in the microwave it will do for now? Good luck with the deadline, wish I could send you some cake with this comment 🙂

  3. YUM. Coffee cake can fix anything, can’t it? But -wow – so glad for your intuition and that your son wasn’t left stranded on the edge of a highway. What a miserable, muffler-less Sunday. Hope today is better!

    • Yes, now you read MY mind — exactly my thought yesterday morning: coffee cake can fix this, coffee cake can fix anything! Today’s much better. Still raining, but all’s well in car world!

  4. OMG!! As soon as I saw the title of your post in my email, I clicked and started reading ravenously. Not only because I adore coffee cake, but because it holds a special, comforting place in my heart, where I associate it with my mother and a good cup of coffee. And I wanted to find out what your associations with it are.

    Wow. What a story. I applaud you for being a good listener to your intuition. (And MEH, too, for listening most of the time.) I’m so glad everything turned out safely for all involved. Your choice of coffee cake as the soother for MEH was PERFECT. And what better than a rainy morning to first smell the divine aroma as it bakes and then eat it together? Even though your nest is empty again.

    Beautiful post, Julia. I’m even a little teary-eyed. Thank you.

    P.S. Almost forgot to say: thanks for the recipe! I’ve been collecting a few classic ones and I will try this out for my collection.

    • As I wrote this, I actually thought of you, not sure why, so maybe once again it was my intuition. I’m so glad you enjoyed it, I was hoping. If you make the recipe, you may want to almost-double the topping/middle layer as I do, it makes it all the more fragrant and moist! This one has never disappointed. (p.s. the car’s back and everyone’s safe and sound, thank goodness! And I was a little teary eyed, too 🙂

    • Thanks! I will take your advice and double the topping/middle layer. Sounds exactly like the way I modify certain recipes for more of the yummiest part. :~)

      Glad you got your vehicle back! And thanks for thinking of me. Your post was definitely a thrilling part of my Monday morning.

  5. That looks great. I will have to try it. Sorry about your muffler.

  6. This is one of my favorite essays you’ve ever written, Julia. Funny, wise, descriptive, entertaining. If that wasn’t enough, you topped it off with a yummy recipe! Thanks for sharing it all, and I hope MEH is now feeling better.

    • Thank you so much, Jolina — I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I don’t think the recipe will disappoint, and yes, MEH is feeling much better now that the muffler has been fixed and he’s had his recovery coffee cake 🙂

  7. Barb Riley says:

    Yum… I’ll have to tuck this recipe away for my winter hibernation months, when I can hide under a pair of jeans and a heavy sweatshirt. LOL

    Intuition fascinates me. Seriously. I love hearing about incidents like yours, where you just have this sixth sense that something is off. I think it’s a huge gift when you do have it. As for me, I often experience the close cousin of intuition: discernment. I seem to have a ‘knowing’ feeling when I meet people, whether or not they are authentic and/or safe. My husband used to ignore my bad feelings when I expressed them, but after years and years of marriage, he’s finally come to trust my gut instincts on people.

    Do you ever incorporate intuition into any of your WIPs?

    • Yeah… the coffee cake is definitely a hide under a pair of jeans kind of recipe… I love that you have a similar type sense; I also have the discernment ability. It’s a blessing and a curse, but I’m rarely wrong. And my husband too has come to trust my instincts (usually). As for incorporating the intuition into a WIP? Funny you should ask because the main character in my current WIP: Maggie, is considered by many she meets as not only intuitive but mildly clairvoyant — and she is also very discerning. She uses her senses and skills to help her solve a mystery — although she’s quick to tell people she’s not actually psychic or clairvoyant… I think you just used your discernment to intuit that about my character!! 🙂

  8. Erika Marks says:

    Oh Julia, I read this with my heart in my throat. To know that your kids were safe, that the timing had worked (and your intuition) the way it did (sorry of course for poor MEH! What a good man!)–and I was relieved to hear you were tucking in with a warm coffee cake, safe and sound yourselves.

    Blasted cars. I suspect that mechanic got an earful. And I don’t mean of coffee cake 😉

    • You know me so well… your description of “tucking in with a warm coffee cake, safe and sound..” is EXACTLY why I made it. We got home and I just headed for the pantry. Yes, blasted cars. It is now fixed and home, and… no… he didn’t get an earful because he preemptively apologized and explained that “business has not been good, family problems, etc.” Ugh. Trouble all around.

  9. I’ve been trying to cultivate my intuition more. I tend to ignore it so many times I don’t even realize when I’m getting that sixth sense feeling. So after years of not paying attention, I’ve decided to listen to my gut a bit more. I think it takes practice.

    I hope your car gets fixed soon!

    PS – I’m coming over for some coffee cake. I hope there’s some left.

    • I think you’re right, Jackie, it does take practice. When times get busy or I get stressed out, I’ll often ignore the little voice or the nagging doubt, and after a while it’s hard to trust it again. Feels a little unnatural, unrealistic. But these days, like you, I’m playing close attention and heeding the sixth sense as much as possible. Car’s all fixed now. (fingers crossed of course) But, sadly can’t offer you any coffee cake, it’s all gone. Next time, hurry on over! 🙂

  10. Thanks for the laugh Julia…though I know it wasn’t funny at the time. You are right. So glad that happened to you and not your son somewhere on the road to Pennsylvania. And I’m going to make the coffee cake next weekend we’re in town. Sounds ymmy.

    • I’m glad you laughed! Believe it or not, though it wasn’t funny at the time, both MEH and I were laughing by the time I wrote this. What else can you do? Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you enjoy the coffee cake!

  11. Great story! I say never mess with a mother’s intuition. And now… I must go bake something! =)

  12. Chris Fries says:

    I try to never go against my wife’s intuition, but being a male I sometimes miss the elusive signs of her expressing her intuition. Like her plainly and clearly telling me something three or four times. It can be hard for me to pick up on subtle clues like that…


    The coffee cake sounds wonderful!!!

  13. This just proves a woman’s intuition is a force to reckon with. I’m glad everyone is safe and that you were able to enjoy some “kid time” for a little bit this summer. Quiet never seemed so quiet, right?

    That coffee cake sounds delicious! Have a piece for me, will ya?

    • It was wonderful to enjoy the “kid time,” the best, even though my schedule, my house, and my cars may take a while to recover 🙂 As for the quiet? You are so right… today, sitting alone, dog in the next room as my sole companion… SO quiet!

  14. I totally think you’re a prophet.

    You should pin that recipe now!

    • Well, *I* wasn’t going to say it, but I think it’s okay to agree with someone else! 🙂 I’ve never pinned a recipe before, but I’ll try! Thanks for the suggestion.

  15. I’m with you on the intuitions Julia. I have learned to listen to mine now when for many years I completely ignored them! They are always right and are such a good guide – the angel on our shoulder I think. So glad your son took the other car! Hope you are mobile soon x

    • Try as I might, I can’t ever ignore the intuitions (like the story ideas, they drive me crazy if I try!). Glad you tune in now, such a good guide, I agree. The good thing about no car is fewer distractions, therefore more writing time…but we are mobile again!

  16. And I bet you didn’t even have to say, “I told you so!” did you? Glad you had that month with the kids before they took off. Enjoy your and hubby’s time together, just the two of you. It has its benefits. Thanks for the coffee cake recipe. I can smell it in my kitchen already!

    • The time alone is wonderful, no question! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the coffee cake, but you may be disappointed in me when you find out that I did indeed say “I told you so…” (Although you’re right, I didn’t need to so I did feel guilty after. He felt terrible and miserably cold and wet, poor guy!)

  17. Great post! And you had me with “coffee cake.” I am such a sucker for the stuff. Especially hot from the oven cinnamon and brown sugar goodness. Maybe I’ll start baking now …

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Leah! We share that in common — being a sucker for coffee cake! (Oh, I love other desserts too — and you’ve had some great ones on your blog!) No question that hot from the oven is THE BEST! Hope you baked and enjoyed!

  18. Wow, Julia, I’m so glad you listened to your intuition! I know MEH had a rough time that day, but reading about your house smelling of cinnamon on a day when you had no place to go…sounds heavenly to me.

    And I LOVE a good coffee crumb cake. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I’ll have to try it sometime soon! 🙂

    • Yes, the cinnamon warmth really helped with the bad day… and luckily since it was a weekend there was nowhere we really had to be. Hope you enjoy your own cinnamony-crumb day soon! 🙂

  19. That recipe looks delicious. Cinnamon is one of my favorite comfort flavors.

    I rarely tune in to my “gut feelings” but I think I should practice that skill. More than once I’ve wanted to do something and let myself be talked out of it, much to my regret. Time to start focusing!

    • Glad you like the recipe! Cinnamon really is such a comforting scent, isn’t it? I know what you mean about letting yourself be talked out of something — I also have those times then later wish I’d paid more attention. It’s so easy to lose the confidence sometimes — as you say, then I know it’s time for me to focus.

  20. Ann says:

    The coffee cake sounds terrific and I think you are well in tune with your surroundings…and MEH is in tune with you. It’s a rare guy that’ll listen like that – he’s a keeper!