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In the United States, we are just three days from Mother’s Day. There are many traditions to follow on that day. One of those is to provide breakfast in bed. For fathers, husbands, and children who do not often cook, this can be a challenge. What can you defrost that is special? That Mom doesn’t already know is in the freezer?

It’s time to change tactics. It’s time to cook.

Breakfast is easy: fresh fruit in a bowl — I suggest mixed berries, a glass of sparkling wine — perhaps adorned with a blackberry or turned into a mimosa with a lovely splash of orange juice, and a slice of rich coffee cake.

No, don’t turn back to the freezer for that coffee cake. Here is the recipe for the best, I assure you, the best coffee cake. It’s a classic recipe featuring sour cream, nuts, and cinnamon. But, this is a Carol Walter recipe, from her Great Coffee Cakes book, and Carol has perfected this recipe. It is dense, yet soft. The right proportion of nuts and cinnamon mean you get a dose of crunchy spice in each bite of the rich, buttery, eggy cake.

This cake is absolutely fulfilling and will thrill anyone you prepare it for. Actually, you don’t need to wait for Mother’s Day. You can even just make it for yourself. I did and I made myself very happy.

Here are some considerations for this cake you should know about. First, it’s a Carol Walter recipe so you need to follow the timings she suggests. When she wants the sugar added over 6 to 8 minutes, she means it and you’ll want to follow her guidelines to ensure success.

Second, a starting step is to let the sour cream and baking soda sit for an hour. The baking time is over an hour, and the cooling time is an hour. Once you begin, you are a minimum of 3 ½ hours from being able to begin eating the cake. So, if you are going to serve this for breakfast in bed you have two choices: get up very, very early, or prepare it the day before and hide it from everyone. This cake tastes every bit as wonderful on Day 2 as on Day 1. Put the alarm clock aside.

Third, the recipe calls for toasted pecans. Set the oven to the 300° F, lower than what you need later to bake the cake, and spread the nuts on a baking sheet lined with foil. When the oven has fully heated, place the nuts in the oven and monitor carefully. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. You should sample after 5 minutes. You want some crunchiness and enhanced flavor. You do not want them burnt. If you can smell them intensely with the oven door shut, pull them. It’s better to be under than over, just like Blackjack.

Classic Sour Cream Cinnamon and Nut Coffee Cake


For the Sour Cream:

1 ½ cups sour cream
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the nut mixture:

1 ¼ cups toasted pecans
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the batter:

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, and in and out and leveled
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, slightly for
1 ¾ cups superfine sugar [just process regular sugar in a food processor for 2 -3 minutes!]
3 large eggs [the fresher the better]
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Sour Cream and Pan:

In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream and baking soda. Set aside and let stand at room temperature for one hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 10 inch angel food cake pan, line the bottom with baking parchment, then butter the parchment and set aside.

The Nut Mixture:

Place the pecans, granulated and dark brown sugars, and cinnamon in the work bowl of food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 5 to 6 times, or until the nuts are chopped medium. Set aside.

The Cake Batter:

In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.

Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until smooth and lightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the superfine sugar, 1 to 2 tablespoons of time, taking 6 to 8 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low.

Add the flour mixture, alternating with the sour cream by dividing the flour into four parts and the sour cream into three parts. Begin and end with the flour. Mix until just blended after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.

Spoon two thirds of the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle one half of that mixture evenly over the batter. Cover the mixture with remaining batter, distributing it evenly over the nuts. Smooth the batter with the back of large soupspoon or small offset spatula. Spread it the side of the pan first, before spreading toward the center. (To prevent the nut mixture from being disturbed, do not pick up the spoon as the batter is spread.) Sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture, pressing it gently into the batter with a clean soupspoon.

Finish the Cake:

Bake for one hour and 10 to 15 minutes. The cake is done the top is golden brown and springy to the touch, and a wooden skewer toothpick inserted deeply comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack for 25 to 30 minutes. Holding the top, lift the cake from the outer ring and place it on a cooling rack. Let stand for another 20 to 30 minutes. To remove the cake from the tube section, cut a 2-inch hole in the center of a 12-inch piece aluminum foil and place it directly over the top of the cake, cupping the foil around the side to hold the topping in place. Cover with a cooling rack, invert the cake, and carefully lift off the tube section and the parchment paper. Cover with another rack, and invert again. Remove the aluminum foil and cool right side up.


Store under a glass cake dome or tightly covered with plastic wrap for up to five days. This cake may be frozen.

Source: Great Coffee Cakes by Carole Walter