When I was growing up, my grandmother was a big proponent of coffee cake. There almost always was a homemade, single-layer cake sitting on the counter, ready and waiting for anyone who happened to stop by for coffee.

To her, there was no such thing as coffee without cake. In fact, if you tried to pass on eating cake because you were watching your calories, she would say: “But it’s just coffee.”

My grandmother would have loved Ruby Woodward.

Since 2018, Woodward has been serving the 5 Corners Improvement District area at her shop named Coffee and Cake Café. The enterprise recently moved to a new location.

Woodward said a rent increase would have made it nearly impossible to continue. So, she put out the word — and lots of prayers — asking for a new space.

To her delight, the perfect spot was offered — a “tea room” at the Mevist Cultural Center, an event center at 14710 Hiram Clarke Rd. next to the Stuffed Baked Potato Factory restaurant.

It didn’t take much to remake the tea room into a quaint coffee shop featuring various seating areas flanked by African decor and bible verses — mixed in with sayings about drinking coffee.

God is the owner of her business, Woodward said, and she has no doubt the new location was divine intervention: “I remain grateful for God opening another door,” Woodward said.

Rev. Ruby won a grant

Woodward said the location has attracted new customers while also providing easy access for her long-time customers.

On the first day at the new address, Woodward posted online: “Ms. Lorraine came by for her usual, tea cakes and Italian cream cake. My #1 customer Jason made it over as well.”

She has been able to facilitate several meetings and bible studies thanks to a larger seating area.

“Rev. Ruby,” a retired parole officer who volunteered for 10 years in prison ministry, founded Coffee and Cake Café as a way to employ formerly incarcerated people. She plans to return her focus to that mission, particularly helping women.

Woodward founded Renew All Ministries in 2002 to “encourage formerly incarcerated adults and at-risk teens through programming and support to overcome barriers that lead to criminal behavior and incarceration.”

Coffee and Cake Café started as a pop-up at Brentwood Baptist Church.

Later, Woodward began holding pop-ups at New Faith Church, practically next door to what became her storefront, aided by a Project Flourish grant, awarded by First Presbyterian Church to businesses that seek to make a difference in the community.

More recently, Renew All Ministries was awarded a grant from Target through the Houston Fund for Social Justice & Economic Equity.

You might come to Coffee and Cake Café to support Woodward’s mission, but you’ll return led by your taste buds.

Specifically, may I suggest the tea cakes spiced with nutmeg.

“It’s my mom’s recipe with my tweaking,” Woodward said.

The iced lemon pound cake also is not to be missed.

If you’re looking for something savory, there are sandwiches and quiches.
On the day I visited, Woodward had made some chicken soup. And, of course, there’s a variety of coffees and teas.

Your visit isn’t complete without a chat with Woodward, who welcomes each customer as if they were walking into her home.

“It is my prayer that customers experience the love of Jesus Christ through our customer service and peaceful atmosphere, as well as a satisfied sweet tooth and coffee cravings and a desire to return,” she said.

Woodward invites the community to the Mevist Cultural Center for a Black History Expo on Sunday, Feb. 25, from 2-6 p.m. There will be food, an African attire show, poetry, art exhibits and, of course, coffee and cake.

Coffee and Cake Café
14710 Hiram Clarke Rd.

— by Dorothy Puch Lillig