Sunday, January 13

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Coffee cake reminds me of my great Aunt Esther.  She and I often baked when I went to visit her at her home on Long Island and later at her home in Michigan.  Cookies, cakes, jelly rolls, bars, we baked it all.  But my favorite treat was always the coffee cake.  I remember the cake as buttery and densely moist with that chunky and rich cinnamon crumb topping.  We would cut ourselves generous slices each morning and sit down with orange juice at her sunny breakfast table.  When Aunt Esther died, I acquired her tube pan.  The same tube pan we baked angel food cakes in, always allowing the light cake to cool upside down by inverting the pan to fit through the neck of an empty wine bottle.  The same pan I burnt myself on as a young girl, imprinting my wrist with a scar that I am proud to still have.  I pulled out Esther's pan a few weeks ago and decided to make a coffee cake.  Sour cream makes this cake unbelievably rich and moist.  A bit of cardamom mixed in with the cinnamon adds incredible flavor.  Generous, buttery crumbs on top and a ribbon of spiced brown sugar in the middle.  A simple milk and sugar glaze, dripping down the sides.  Just like Aunt Esther and I used to make.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
adapted from this recipe
Serves 8-10

for the streusel topping:
2 cups flour
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp kosher salt
6 oz (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into chunks

for the brown sugar center:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom

for the cake:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature

for the milk glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp whole milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack to the middle position.

Next prepare the streusel topping.  In a medium bowl, combine all of the streusel ingredients except for the butter.  Whisk to combine.  Add in the cold butter chunks and work into the dry ingredients with your fingers until totally combined, sandy and without large chunks of butter.  Transfer bowl to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To prepare the brown sugar center, combine the sugar with the cinnamon and cardamom in a small bowl.  Set aside until ready to use.

Generously grease a tube pan with a few tablespoons of butter.  To prepare the cake batter, whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Mix the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer) on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the butter is light in color and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to mix until just combined.  Add the vanilla and mix until combined.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Add the sour cream and mix until just combined.  Finish with the remainder of the flour mixture and mix until just combined.  

Place half of the batter into the prepared tube pan and spread out to an even layer.  Sprinkle the brown sugar center mixture evenly over this batter layer.  Top with the remaining batter and again spread out until even.  Top evenly with the cold streusel topping.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan set on a baking rack until completely cool.  Mix the powdered sugar and milk together to make your glaze.  Remove the cooled cake to a serving platter and drizzle with the milk glaze.  Allow glaze to set a few minutes before slicing and serving.

Sour cream makes the breakfast cake dense and moist.  Brown sugar gives it a warm caramel depth.
A generous amount of buttery streusel sets this cake apart.
A classic cake, still as irresistible as ever.


  1. I want some.. but my wife won't make it for me. Love Dad

  2. It appears you forgot to list the amount of butter that goes into the cake. It's mentioned in the directions but not the ingredient list . . . .

    1. I noticed this too, and used one stick of butter and one cup of sugar. Turned out beautifully!

  3. Tony and Melissa,

    My apologies for not responding to your comments sooner! I've updated the recipe to include 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of sugar in the cake batter.


  4. The strusel topping was hard and dry. Should it have read one cup of flour instead of two?