This is a family heritage recipe and it’s been on my list of things to make for the blog for a while. I’ve actually kind of been saving it because I knew it would be an easy one to write about since there history in it. Well, my history at least. Actually, my grandma Meme said her mom (Lil) got this recipe from a magazine so it’s not all that historic but the fact that it has made it through 4 generations seems enough to talk about.
I never had the privilege of getting to know my great grandmother Lilian but I’ve grown up hearing only wonderful things about her. I only have memory of visiting her home in California once before she died and I was really too young to remember much of it. I don’t even think I had turned 3 yet. What I do remember is the feelings and the smells and her sweet and loving spirit.
It seems really silly now, but the movies Mulan and Bug’s Life came out right around the time we were visiting and they will forever remind me of being in Grandma Lil’s house. I actually have an old picture somewhere of me falling asleep on her lap while watching Bug’s Life. Like I said, it’s silly but I really love those movies because of the memories. Warm fuzzies, you know?
So you may be wondering what exactly is Bishop’s Bread. Well it’s really just a fancy name for coffee cake, but it’s a really good coffee cake. I wanted to keep the recipe as close to the original a possible but you know I can’t help tweaking things just a bit. I’ve made it a few times before and I grew up eating it when Meme made it but there were 4 little things that I thought could be improved on.
Firstly, there is this issue of the center sometimes being stubborn to finish baking before the edges burned. We never minded eating it a bit gooey but for serving to guests you probably want a perfect cake every time so I tweaked this by baking it in sections. I also used a 10 inch round springform instead of the 9 x 9 inch pan that the recipe calls for. Although the 9 x 9 will still work.
Secondly, the recipe uses shortening as the fat but I prefer to mix butter and shortening in most of my recipe because it give it richer flavor. Oh, and I recommend using organic shortening, but you can also sub palm oil, or coconut oil and I’ve even used lard. Just please don’t use Crisco because that stuff will kill you, yuck.
The third thing was not really a necessary change (even though it I think it was). My favorite part was always the crumb topping and the that is the part of the recipe that I’ve always found so clever. The recipe short-cuts things by having you mix the first half of ingredients and then just take out part for the crumb topping. Brilliant right? So I decided to double this and do a layer of crumb in the middle as well. Can you say win win!
The fourth and last little tweak is hardly enough to mention. I just bumped up the flavor a little by adding vanilla, because I’m a fanatic, and some extra salt and cinnamon.
I really hope you try this because there is something so poetic about sharing a recipe of my grandmother’s. I love imagining people out there trying it and I’d love to know if you do!
- 3 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/4 (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- 1/3 cup organic vegetable shortening
- 2 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3/4 cup milk + 4 teaspoons vinegar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C) then grease and flour a 10-inch round spring-form pan (or a 9x9 inch will also work).
- Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed and crumbly. Remove 1 1/3 cups of mixture and set aside. Mix milk and vinegar and allow it to sour for about 5 minutes. Add milk and remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well.
- Pour half of the batter into prepared pan and top with half of crumb mixture. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes then remove and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Carefully spoon the remaining batter over the top as evenly as possible. The first layer should still be very soft so try not to spread the new layer to much or it will break into the bottom layer and create a swirly cake (which is no big deal if that is what you're going for).
- Top with the rest of the crumbs and return to oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until done. Remove it and cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.