Julia Lipman’s Cinnamon Tea Cake

Posted on 24 April 2011

A best-selling novelist who serves up social comedies with affection and wit, Elinor Lipman has a talent for observing and carving up our culture — which of course includes food. Most notably, she can remember every meal she ever ate.

While critics have praised her pitch-perfect ear for dialogue, I would also like to extol her taste buds. Everything she cooks and bakes and every restaurant dish she recommends is a winner.

So I am overjoyed she has let me feature her mother’s recipe for Cinnamon Tea Cake. It’s a Drake’s crumb cake in Blu-ray, delightfully light and luscious with cinnamon. It also performs a brilliant trick of self-streuseling. That is, the crumbly topping (streusel) comes from the same dry ingredients you mix for the batter. You just set some aside and sprinkle it on at the end.

The Cake at Lake Devine

Elinor grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts, and her family vacationed at Lake Dunmore in Vermont in the ‘60s. Her mother, Julia, selected this lake from a Chamber of Commerce brochure, and sent inquiries to several hotels and lodges. The family ended up at a cottage, not the grand inn on the lake, due to a letter her mother received from the inn’s proprietors. This letter, displaying what Elinor calls a fascinating “marriage of good manners and anti-Semitism,” became the inspiration for her novel, The Inn at Lake Devine, hailed as “a tale of delicious revenge” by USA Today.

Elinor, her sister, and her father would swim while her mother and her friends sat at the shore within sight of the restricted Inn, shmoozing and exchanging recipes. This gem came from one of these friends, Sib Rosen.

Cinnamon Tea Cake

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I double to 2 teaspoons)
  1. Preheat oven to 350º.
  2. Mix the sugar, margarine, flour sifted with salt, baking powder and cinnamon until crumbly. Reserve 1/3 cup for topping.
  3. Add vanilla to milk and milk to beaten egg.
  4. Add liquids to first mixture and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour into 8” greased pan (can be round or square. I line it with wax paper bottom so it can be taken out of the pan. If you want to leave it in the pan, just grease as usual.)
  6. Sprinkle with reserved topping.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes or until done.
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4 responses to Julia Lipman’s Cinnamon Tea Cake

  • Ariel says:

    Well, I just popped this in the oven and it already smells great!
    I’m making this for Friday night dinner (more like, Friday night dessert) with the family.
    Shabat Shalom :)

  • Diane Brody says:

    Hope you all enjoy it! You’re such a great baker, I am so pleased you’re trying it. Love to everyone!

  • Raegan says:

    Made this the other night and we LOVED it! Thanks to its simplicity, it will likely soon become a go-to sweet. (By the way, I made it vegan by substituting Earth Balance for butter and using a flax egg – no complaints and Andrew was surprised by how much the batter resembled a non-vegan cake batter.)

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