My sister used to make the world’s best coffee cakes. They managed to be moist without being cloying, and to have just the right sweetness without being cake. A breakfast treat for weekends, with the sour cream lending a tang.
I don’t know what her knack is but I don’t have it. This is a family recipe and it’s easy but time-consuming – if you want this fresh and hot for breakfast, at least give yourself a jumpstart by laying out the ingredients the night before and starting what you can. Maybe soften the butter, or even mix the butter and sugar, and crack the eggs into a separate bowl to avoid those pesky shell bits and not have to take the time in the morning.
Even so, it takes a while and inexplicably doesn’t seem to know how long it bakes. Whoever it was who recorded it in the family indicated 350 for the oven and must have had high altitude amounts in place, because there was no problem with that – the cakes rose just fine and didn’t fall. But the directions say to bake for 30 to 60 minutes – that’s a very broad difference in time. Kind of like someone took a guess.
I think this recipe could benefit from some experimentation. It’s lightly sweet, which I suppose coffee cake is meant to be, and it has a nice open crumb. It just needs something to go with – hot chocolate, maybe. Or strawberries gently steeped in powdered sugar and poured over. Or blackberries. Or maybe I just don’t quite get coffee cake.
It makes two loaves, and goes stale quickly, despite the moist interior (or maybe because of it). I’m planning to wrap the second loaf in freezer or parchment paper and a thick zipper-close plastic freezer bag and freeze it until the day comes I need bread pudding. That day will more likely be deep winter than deep summer.
Serve this with thick, dark coffee or clean, sweet breakfast tea, dress it up with fruit or drown it under cream – and let me know what works for you if you try it.
Makes 2 loaves
Need 2 loaf pans, greased and floured (I greased and floured my nonstick as well as my old metal pan)
This is a super thick batter, because the liquid all comes from the eggs and the sour cream.
¾ cup of salted butter (1 ½ sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt (preferably sea salt)
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups sour cream
The Crumb Topping and Middle
1 cup brown sugar, packed
4 teaspoons cinnamon
½ cup flour
Preheat oven to 350.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until blended.
Mix together the dry ingredients and add alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry. This is a thick, creamy batter that comes out of the mixer bowl in thick spoonsful.
Grease and flour 2 regular size loaf pans. Spoon ¼ of the batter into each pan, then sprinkle ¼ of the crumb topping over the batter. Top with the remainder of the batter. You’ll have to gentle it over the crumb mixture, and if rubber spatulas work for you, that’s your best bet. For me, a wooden spoon, as rubber spatulas seem more trouble than they’re worth. Divide the remaining crumb topping between the two loaves and sprinkle evenly over.
Bake in 350 oven for 30 to 60 minutes, my instructions say. At 30 minutes batter still clung uncooked on the toothpick. At 45 minutes they were abruptly and perfectly done.
Best eaten once cooled. Place the hot pans on a wire rack but it may not work to remove the coffee cakes – mine just bent and tried to dissolve into crumbs. The first piece, warm, was good, but nothing to get ecstatic about. The second piece, now, when it’s two hours out of the oven, is heavenly. So maybe best served cooled.