Sunday, December 26, 2010

An Illustrated View of Home: Sour Cream Coffee Cake

snow storm, fixed

minot  beach, new year's eve


We'ree nestled in for a giant winter storm compounded with an astronomical high tide on the coast of Massachusetts. This is my home. The home away from Portland. Ah, and how could I forget my other home? Here she is:

sour cream coffee cake

I can't even look at a coffee cake without thinking of my mother. Her recipe's origin, passed down to her from my grandmother, is a mystery. It may come from the scribbling written on the back of a sour cream carton, it may have come from her mother. With that end of the story in flux, the one thing that isn't up for grabs are the ingredients: real sour cream, vanilla, walnuts, and lots and lots of butter. She bakes it every Christmas morning, and it just doesn't feel like a holiday without it.
Once the cake leaves the oven we eschew the niceties of letting it cool. The walnuts are picked off the top out of a collective impatience, the cake is haphazzardly sliced and slathered with more butter and maybe even a little salt, and the entire cake disappears within the first 48 hours. Eating any other coffee cake feels almost adulterous. There just isn't anything more satisfying for me than this, as simple as it is. Try as I might, my heart is with this cake. Always has been, always will be.

coffee cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

By folding sour cream into the batter the cake gains a tanginess that plays against the vanilla and walnuts, keeping it from tasting too sweet. I like to sprinkle a little grey sea salt in the top of the cake, so you get a little bit of flaky zing in the mix. When I get restless, I might add a tiny bit of lemon zest. I view an extra pat of butter on my slice as obligatory, but you may omit it.

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus 1 Tbs. extra for greasing
1 cup fine granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup whole walnuts

1. Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F. Grease a bundt or angel-food cake pan with a Tbs. of butter.
2. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar at medium-low speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
4. In three batches, add the dry ingredients to the wet batter, incorporating fully each time. Once done, fold the sour cream into the batter. I fold about 6 times, then stop. You should see a swirl of sour cream still. You just want it to lace the batter with that tangy flavor. Be sure not to overmix!
5. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon, brown sugar and walnuts. I prefer to do this with my hands. Sprinkle half of the mixture into the bottom of the bundt pan.
6. Add half of the batter to the pan, spreading it over the bottom. Sprinkle the remaining half of the walnut mixture on top, then cover again with the remaining batter, smoothing the top.
7. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, until the exterior is golden and a tester comes out clean.

Yield: 8-12 servings.


G00blar said...

When do you add the sour cream?

Hungry Oyster said...

forgive me for being so foolish! i have edited it above.

you fold the sour cream at the end, once you've finished mixing the dry into the wet. you just want a swirl of sour-cream, not full incorporation.

G00blar said...

Ah, thanks. This looks great, though I'm going to need my courage when measuring out all that butter.