Sour Cream Coffee Cake, Two Ways

Jordan: I always want to make coffee cake. Well, actually, I always want to eat coffee cake, but that often requires first making coffee cake, especially nowadays.

Kitra: And I always want to eat coffee cake batter, which always requires making it. Ugh. (Not that it’s hard. It was just 77° in my kitchen today.)

I’ve been pushing for us to make a sour cream coffee cake for probably a month now, but it hasn’t quite happened. It turns out making cake is more complicated when it requires both of us to do this wild and complicated thing called “going to the store in advance.”

Especially since we’re going to different stores, and tend to have different ideas of basics. (Sure, there’s always eggs, but I always grab salt and vinegar chips and only grab something like sour cream if I know I’ll need it.)

You may recall that Kitra has strong feelings about sour cream.

I would like to be clear that I think it’s a valuable component of other things, but I just don’t want to eat it straight. I put it on chili, in baked goods, and plenty of other things, but I don’t lick the spoon like Jordan does.

Fortunately for Kitra, sour cream coffee cake doesn’t taste like sour cream; it’s just there to… Actually, I don’t know what it does for the cake. I’m not a scientist. All I know is that it’s delicious.

“Sour cream coffee cake” is basically just classic coffee cake. Streusel inside or out, it’s pretty much the one most of us grew up with.

And for the record, this is cake that goes alongside coffee, not cake made with coffee. I’m given to understand that this is a point of confusion on many food blogs, and also once with Kitra’s former roommate. (Who, to be fair, was also confused about literally everything.)

I mean, Jordan said it not me. (RT=endorsement)

We actually made two different coffee cakes today. I’ve been cooking from the newish Tartine cookbook this month, and it includes a recipe for a sour cream coffee cake that is also gluten-free, which is how I’ve been more or less eating for a while. It’s a delicious coffee cake, and though it doesn’t taste exactly like a regular one, I don’t know that I could put my finger on what was different if I didn’t know it was made with almond flour.

I made a regular one. Complete with assessments of which coffee cake pages in the heavy-rotation cookbooks from our childhood seemed the most well worn, and texts to our dad.

Honestly, while I will probably make the Tartine one again in the future, if you eat gluten you should absolutely make the traditional one. It’s basically the Platonic ideal of a sour cream coffee cake. Even if it doesn’t taste like childhood to you like it does to us, you’ll still love it.

Classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Adapted from the 1996 edition of Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

Kitra mismeasured her brown sugar and nuts, so the filling in her picture above (the one on the green plate) is quite thin. The amounts listed below will make a much more standard and enjoyable cake-to-filling ratio, with some left over to go on top. You can use any variety of dried fruit and/or nuts in the filling. Kitra used a mix of walnuts, slivered almonds, and raisins.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks, 8oz) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups (240g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240g) sour cream
  • ½ cup (100g) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (60g) chopped nuts, preferably toasted, and/or dried fruit (see note)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan. You could also use a 9″x5″ loaf pan for a thicker cake.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted, or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and mix until lightly fluffy, about one minute. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until well-combined.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Add half of the sour cream and mix until just combined. Repeat with the remaining halves of the dry ingredients and the sour cream.

In the same medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon.

Pour one-third of the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with one-third of the brown sugar mixture. Repeat, smoothing each batter layer as much as possible before adding the filling/topping.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown and set in the middle, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Gluten-Free Coffee Cake

Adapted from Tartine

The almond flavor isn’t particularly pronounced here, but if you’re familiar with baked goods made of almond flour you’ll recognize the texture. Sweet rice flour is also known as glutinous rice flour and has a higher starch content than regular white rice flour. Substitute at your own risk, but if you give it a shot please report back and let us know how it goes. The recipe uses tapioca starch in the cake and potato starch in the topping, but you could use probably use whatever starch you have on hand—corn, tapioca, or potato—in both places. Finally, you can use whatever nuts you like here; Jordan used a mix of walnuts and pecans.

Ingredients: Cake

  • 2 eggs
  • 7 tablespoons (85g) sugar
  • ¾ cup (180g) sour cream
  • 2½ cups (240g) almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) sweet rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons (16g) tapioca starch (see note)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Ingredients: Streusel topping/filling

  • ¼ cup (35g) brown rice flour
  • 1½ tablespoons (14g) sweet rice flour
  • 2 tablespoons (20g) potato starch (see note)
  • ¼ cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅔ cup (80g) chopped nuts, preferably toasted
  • ¼ cup (½ stick, 60g) butter, melted

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350° and grease an 8-inch square or 9-inch round pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a handheld electric mixer, combine the eggs and sugar. Beat on high speed for about 3 minutes, until very thick and pulling the whisk out leaves a smooth ribbon of egg/sugar mixture. Add the sour cream and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients for the cake: almond flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca/corn starch, baking powder, and salt. Add to the wet ingredients and mix until smooth, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom with a spatula to get any pockets of liquid.

In the same medium bowl, combine all of the streusel ingredients except for the butter (brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, potato starch, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and nuts). Add the butter and mix until there are no dry spots remaining and the mixture clumps up nicely.

Scrape about two-thirds of the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle two-thirds of the streusel mixture more or less evenly on top. Dollop the rest of your batter on top of the streusel, doing your best to smooth it out. (No worries if there are some gaps where the streusel peeks through.) Sprinkle the remaining streusel on top, squeezing it together into big clumps as you do so.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is no longer soft and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean of batter. Let cool at least 10-15 minutes before serving.

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