Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has a Moravian community that goes back to the 1700s, when members of the church founded Old Salem. Moravian breads, which come from the German baking tradition, are wonderful, and this sweet yeasted coffee cake was a holiday favorite of mine growing up. Today, I follow the lead of my neighbor, Cathy Hedburg, who bakes and freezes sugar cakes in disposable foil pans for Christmas gifts. They’re great for breakfast on Christmas Day.
2 (¼-ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup plain, unseasoned mashed potatoes (See note.)
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
3½–4 cups flour
For the topping
¾ cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Butter 3 (9-inch) cake pans.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in ½ cup warm water. Set aside until it foams, about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the mashed potatoes, 1 cup hot tap water, and the butter, shortening, sugar, and salt. Mix on low until the ingredients look like watery scrambled eggs. Stir in the eggs and dissolved yeast. Gradually stir in the flour until the dough resembles a heavy but not too dry muffin batter. Cover the bowl with a lint-free tea towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.
Punch down the dough, then divide it evenly among the 3 prepared cake pans. Cover the pans with your trusty tea towel and let the dough in each pan rise in a warm place until it reaches the top of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the topping by stirring together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and melted butter until combined.
Use your thumb to make indentations all over the top of the dough in each pan, about 1 inch apart. Push all the way to the bottom of each pan. Drizzle the topping evenly over the 3 cakes.
Bake for 15–20 minutes or until light brown. Serve warm or cool completely, place in airtight plastic freezer bags, and freeze.
Note: If using leftover mashed potatoes, be sure they contain no butter, milk, or salt. You can use instant mashed potatoes, but be sure to buy the unseasoned variety.