Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Alyse Myers:
Sour Cream Coffee Cake

A recipe for a riich. moist coffee cake topped with a
crunchy topping — perfect for coffee or tea. 


My mother wasn’t a cook. As you’ll read in my book, after my father died when I was 11 and my sisters were 9 and 8, my mother had to go to work full-time to support us. When she came home, she was rarely in the mood to prepare dinner. So my sisters and I grew up on TV dinners and hamburgers – without complaint, by the way. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing better than a Swanson’s Fried Chicken dinner (especially when the brownie didn’t burn or dribble into the corn niblets). Or the hamburger patties my mother made by mixing Lipton’s Onion Soup into the ground meat and then wrapping the patties in waxed paper before stacking them in the freezer. (See pages 88-90 to see what happened when I tried to cook one of those patties in the toaster.) When my mother was in the mood to use the oven, she would make either a baked canned ham she topped with Dole pineapple slices and cloves – or a simple pot roast with potatoes and carrots.

For dessert, ours was a family that lived on anything Entenmann’s or Sara Lee. But every so often, my mother would surprise us with a homemade coffee cake – a moist and delicious cake topped with cinnamon and nuts that she told us had a secret ingredient. An ingredient I later found out was sour cream.

I loved when my mother made that cake, and I loved how our small apartment would smell for hours of cinnamon. My mother would cut square after square to eat with her endless cups of coffee; I preferred mine with a cold glass of milk when the cake came out of the oven. If there was any cake left in the Pyrex baking pan before she went to sleep, she would cover the top with Saran Wrap and leave it on the counter. I would wait until I knew she was out for the night – and then get up and finish off the cake. And every single cinnamon crumb.

After my mother died in 1993, I misplaced the recipe that I had saved for years. Searching the web recently, I was thrilled to finally find one on that reminded me of my mother’s original. The recipe is just as easy and delicious. The first time I made it, I left out the sour cream – the secret ingredient. I’ve never tasted sour cream but I have a thing about the name. The recipe called for such a small amount, so I figured it wouldn’t make a difference in the cake’s taste and texture. Big mistake. So now when I make this recipe, I put it in, telling myself it’s vanilla ice cream. Like my mother, I’m not a cook, either.

Sour Cream Coffee CakeCoffeeCake

Prep time: 1 hour 

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream

For the topping:

2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons chopped walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 7 1/2” x 3 3/4” loaf pan with wax or parchment paper. Make sure paper covers the sides of the pan.
  2. To make the cake: Sift flour with salt and baking soda. Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl. Add sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg. Beat until mixture has an airy texture.
  3. Stir in half of the flour mixture until moistened. Beat until smooth. Add half of the sour cream. Beat until smooth. Add remaining sour cream. Beat until smooth. Add remaining flour mixture, and beat approximately 30 seconds until smooth. Do not overbeat.
  4. To make the topping: Combine sugar, cinnamon and walnuts and stir together well.
  5. Spread half of the batter evenly over bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle with half of the topping. Cover with remaining batter. Sprinkle remaining topping evenly over surface.
  6. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake pulls away from edges of pan and springs back when lightly touched in the center. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting edges of wax paper liner.

Yield: 7 1/2 x 3 3/4 inch cake, 8 servings