Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake.

 I have never known a Christmas morning without this coffee cake.  In one way or another, made by my mother, myself, or a combination of the both of us, it's probably the only Christmas tradition we've stuck by year after year and I love it.  The tradition AND the coffee cake :)  They're sweet yeasted rolls in the shape of a Christmas tree with a delicious nutmeg-spiced cream cheese and pineapple filling, drizzled with a confectioner's sugar glaze and sprinkled with red and green sugar and finally topped with maraschino or candied cherries to look like ornaments.

This recipe makes enough for two tree-shaped coffee cakes, but we usually put the second batch in a 9-inch cake pan and freeze it, then pull it out in warmer months, let it defrost and rise when we want the comforting taste of Christmas.

Christmas Tree Coffee Cake
Adapted from Ladies' Home Journal, December 1982

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 packages (I just used 5 teaspoons, although 1 packet contains 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 large egg

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cans (8 ounces each) crushed pineapple, drained

11 glace or maraschino cherries, halved
2 cups confectioner's sugar
3 tablespoons milk
Red and green decorating sugar or sprinkles

To make the dough, combine 2 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, nutmeg, and yeast in a large mixing bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat until the mixture registers about 110 to 120 degrees F.  Gradually add the warm milk mixture to the dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes at medium speed.  Add egg and another cup of flour, and beat for another 2 minutes.  Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff but still sticky dough, about 1 more cup.  Transfer this dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

When you're ready to shape the trees, combine the ingredients for the filling except the pineapple in a mixing bowl until everything is very well mixed.  Stir in the pineapple.

Grease 2 large baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.  Divide the dough in half and roll one half out to an 11x10-inch rectangle.  Spread with half of the filling and roll up, starting from the 11-inch side, pinching the seam to seal the roll.  Cut into 1-inch pieces and place each piece cut side down on the baking sheet - a picture of this helps - 1 roll is the tree stump, 1 is the top of the tree, then from the bottom make a row of 4, 3, and then 2.  Don't let the rolls touch each other or they'll be too squished after baking.

You can put this in the refrigerator overnight and then let it rise or just keep it out at room temperature and let rise until doubled, the rolls should be almost touching each other and fluffy.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, then cover the edges with foil to prevent burning and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the center is nice and lightly browned.

For the topping, whisk together the sugar and milk until you have a drizzling consistency.  Drizzle over the coffee cakes and then sprinkle with the sugars.  Dot each roll with half of a cherry and dig in :)

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas filled with family and friends!


  1. Sounds like a yummy, gooey treat for Christmas morning. Pretty display also.

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