Christmas Crumb Coffee Cake (gf)

Our six-year-old son, and his three-year-old little sister, were wide-eyed with anticipation of Santa coming to our house. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had assembled our obscenely huge tree, adorned our home’s exterior with lights, seen Santa at the local shopping center, purchased gifts, decorated cookies, and now the big day was upon us. Christmas Eve mid-day Mass led to a special meal with family, then finally, bedtime.

I had emotionally prepared myself for bedtime being filled with joyous anticipation. Mentally reminding myself to have more motherly patients than usual, and fondly remembering my youthful excitement at their age.  Bath time was my first clue that this evening was not shaping up like I had envisioned. For one, my daughter was so tired from the day’s activities; it seemed she likely forgot about the possibility of a fleeting overnight guest, and became a sleepy noodle right before my eyes. I think she was dreaming before the last words of bedtime prayers were muttered.

My son was warm. This wasn’t really out of the ordinary, because he is my warm kid. But… he also had that ‘look’ about him. I can’t explain the look, except to say every parent knows what their child looks like on the brink of a fever. Pushing some water his way and feeling his head, I determined, or perhaps it was wishful thinking, that he was tired like his sister and just needed to sleep.

Around midnight, just before heading to bed, I snuck into their rooms for one last check before I retired for good. (It’s a habit from the beginning of my motherhood journey.) The girl was snoring away. The boy was hot. Very hot. Looked like he just got out of the shower hot. His hair soaking the pillow, his Christmas flannel pajamas damp to the touch, I fetched a fever reducer and water and returned. I woke him up and he immediately started whining he was hot and I helped him out of his pj’s, down to his underwear. With the fever reducer on board along with a good amount of water, the fever came down rather quickly and I finally – utterly exhausted – fell into bed.

I heard my bedroom door creak first. I cracked my eyes open to determine the time. Morning already. I shut my eyes again, playing possum.  Soon, I felt the presence of a little body standing on my side of the bed. They never wake their Dad up. It’s always me. I waited for the eventual tap-tap-tap of tiny fingers to wake me, and little whispers of “mama?”



I groan, “uh huh?”

Six year old, “Santa came!”

… and just as I opened my mouth to reply “Oh really?!”

He continued, “…and I think he undressed me!”

My eyes flew open and I saw him standing there, in his underwear. No fever.

It’s not Christmas in our house without this crumb coffee cake, and a re-hash of this amusing story…

Christmas Crumb Coffee Cake (gf)

Serves 8-10

Topping Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 1/3 ounces sugar
  • 2 1/3 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces gluten free flour blend

Topping Method*

Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, or a medium bowl with a whisk, combine all topping ingredients except flour. Whisk until smooth. Fold in flour with rubber spatula until flour is no longer visible. Set aside.

*It’s important to make the topping first. The rest time allows the flour to absorb moisture, which prevents a grainy mouth-feel in the finished product. Topping can be made hours to 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate if making in advance.

Cake Ingredients                                                                         

  • 6 ounces gluten free flour blend                                                             
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Method

Adjust oven rack to one slot higher than the middle, and preheat to 325 degrees.

Prepare 8” or 9” square baking pan by lining with parchment paper, making a ‘sling’ with several inches of over-hang on two sides for easy removal later. Spray with vegetable oil. For more instruction on parchment slings, visit

(Pictured: crumb coffee cake made in mini loaf pans in lieu of 8” square baking dish.)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour blend, sugar, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum on low until well combined, about 30 seconds.

Adding butter about one tablespoon at a time, mix until this batter resembles crumbs, and chunks of butter are no longer visible. This will take 1-2 minutes on medium/low speed.

Add the remaining cake ingredients (sour cream, eggs + yolk, and vanilla) and adjust the mixer setting to medium/high. Blend for 30 seconds, scrape down the bowl, and blend for another 30 seconds.

Transfer the batter to prepared baking dish and smooth evenly. Crumble the topping in pea to marble size pieces over the top of the batter. This will be a thick layer of crumb.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Crumbs should turn golden brown and cake tester should come out clean.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove from pan using the parchment sling for assistance. Cut with serrated knife and (optional) dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Leftovers should be wrapped in air tight plastic. Remove plastic and warm each serving individually in microwave for 15-20 seconds.


Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes (Mystery Man Part 3)

Buttermilk PancakesThis week is Mystery Man’s birthday and one of the things he will be enjoying is pancakes for breakfast. Unlike most gluten free pancakes, these are light and airy, and there is not a hint of grit or heaviness. I took a page from my Best Buttermilk Waffle recipe and whipped the egg whites to add extra fluff. I dare you to compare these to ‘the real thing’.

Mystery Man Part 3

Ever since he showed up in my store on Valentines Day, Mystery Man never left my thoughts for long. I hated that I thought of him so often and tried to squelch these thoughts with futile rebuttals.

‘He is such a great friend, I don’t want to ruin it’.

‘I love being his dance partner. I can’t risk losing that for just a fling’.

The mental excuses ran on and on and on. For months, upon months, and we continued to dance together nearly five nights a week.

One of our favorite places was a club called El Diablo Lounge. The owner dabbled in Swing dancing himself, and the interior was a cross between a tiki lounge and swanky 1940s Rat Pack Swing club, with sidewalk seating out front and a billiards room in the back. The booths were red leather, lighting low, and in the center, a small but inviting dance floor. We met every Thursday around nine o’clock, and joined Spunky Girl among others to dance off some energy, socialize, and catch up.

It was the middle of summer and the humidity was high. There was a particular energy in the air and the DJ was hot, playing one favorite after another.

He dipped me at the end of the song, and as I went to walk away, the first few notes of a Rumba, and the hand of Mystery Man drew me back onto the floor. He pulled me slightly closer than usual, and I smelled his aftershave and could feel the heat coming from his body. I didn’t know much more than the Rumba basic, so we whispered to me now and then.

“Walk forward”   “Come back to me”   “Follow me around”   “Step back”

For more than five minutes I followed his every lead. Felt his every touch and heard his every whisper. All the other couples on the dance floor melted away from my vision and the only thing I saw was him.

At the end of the song, breathless, and fully aware, yet unaware of what just happened, he dipped me. Once on my feet again, I squeaked out a “thank you” and we headed opposite directions – me to the billiards room, him to the front sidewalk seating.

I entered the room with my head spinning, my body overheating, and my face flushed. Spunky Girl looked at me and asked if I was O.K. “yeah. I don’t know what just happened there…” I trailed off. It was then she knew exactly what had just happened.

Mystery Man walked out to the front sidewalk, took out his handkerchief and patted his brow. Spunky Girl’s partner was standing there taking in some cooler air. “I’m not quite sure what just happened there,” he said. 

It would take Mystery Man and I another six months to figure it out on our own.

Gluten Free Buttermilk Pancakes


10 1/2 ounces gluten free flour blend*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, separated
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

*Gluten Free Flour Blend

24 ounces white rice flour (4 ½ cups, pus 1/3 cup) (one bag of Bob’s Red Mill brand)
7 ½ ounces brown rice flour (1 2/3 cups)
7 ounces potato starch (not potato flour) (1 1/3 cup)
3 ounces tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour) (3/4 cup)


Mix flour blend, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a medium to large bowl. In a 2-3 cup liquid measuring cup, measure buttermilk. Add eggs and blend well with a fork. In a thin, steady stream, add melted butter while stirring. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and whisk very well until little to no lumps remain.

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites on low/medium for about one minute. Increase speed to medium high for an additional minute. Gradually add sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (about 3 additional minutes).

Gently fold egg whites into pancake batter until just a few white streaks remain.

Heat griddle to 350 degrees or a skillet on a medium/high burner. Brush with one teaspoon of vegetable oil. Once hot, add pancake batter 1/4 cup at a time – or make any size pancakes you wish. Wait until the pancakes have bubbles on top that have popped, and they look slightly dry around the edges. Flip to other side for about two more minutes, or until they are the desired color. Add vegetable oil to griddle or skillet as needed.

Serve with your favorite toppings!

Best Buttermilk Waffles


A long week exploring National Parks. Our packs were prepared and Mystery Man and I were on our way out for a day-hike along the Yosemite Valley. First, breakfast. We sat in a dining hall that would give Harry Potter’s Hogwart’s a run for its money. The windows looked out onto slabs of granite and pristine vistas. The weather was perfect.

Waffles, among other standard breakfast fair, where placed before us and we dug in. Loading up on calories for the hike was essential since we planned on a light lunch and late dinner back here, where we started. Barley speaking to one another because the views were too much to comprehend, we ate.

Tea at Yosemite

I always save the waffle for last, like a morning dessert. Pushing the edge of my fork through its surface, my attention snapped from the rocky beauty and brought to my plate. This waffle was not the standard hotel batter from a bag. It crunched with my fork, but the interior was light and fluffy. The bite was full of flavor, a tang of buttermilk, a crunch came from an unknown source, and it was far from heavy. There was nothing artificial about it and I was intrigued. These were the best waffles I had ever had. My eyes met Mystery Man’s and he was chewing and grinning at the same time, seemingly reading my mind.

We finished up and headed out. The hike was gorgeous, and after doing a little scrambling to get to the top of Nevada Falls we settled down to take in the view and crack our packs for lunch. With our breakfasts still sustaining us, we ate little, but stayed a while for the views that changed as the clouds moved across the sky and the light played on the valleys, trees and mountains.


The second half of our walk joined with the John Muir Trail and while we shared our morning hike with many others, this section of the trail we found pleasantly deserted. The only sounds were of our own breath, an occasional breeze through the trees and small, scattering wildlife. Our boots crunched with every step and my mind slowly let go of the things we left back home. Jobs, commitments, adult responsibilities, they all melted away. With the clearing of my head came an idea. Crunch. The crunch of my boots reminded me of the waffle and I put the recipe together. Corn meal. That had to be what they used to get the texture. Whipped egg whites. That is how the waffles stayed light and never settled into rocks in our stomachs.

Finally returning back home, I set to work right away recreating the taste of Yosemite. Once I got it right, there was the same chew and grin combination on Mystery Man’s face. I hope your crunch into this waffle will result in a moment of release, no matter where you might be.


Best Buttermilk Waffles

Yields about 10 waffles, this recipe can be halved.



2 large eggs

2 egg whites

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all purpose four

1/4 cup corn meal

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt



• You will need two medium bowls, plus a stand mixer/bowl (or hand mixer) for this preparation.

• In the first medium bowl beat together the two whole eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla, set aside.

• In the second medium bowl whisk together the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk these dry ingredients to the first bowl of wet ingredients, in small amounts at a time, until incorporated with few lumps remaining. Set aside.

• In the third bowl, preferably for an electric mixer, place the two egg whites. With the whisk attachment, beat until soft peaks form.

• Carefully fold the fluffy egg whites into the batter. Try to retain the air in the foam of the egg whites and stop folding once they are just barely incorporated.

• Use this batter in your waffle iron per the manufacturer’s instructions. My waffle iron time is five minutes, exactly. Yours may differ.