Although I've eaten sour cream coffee cakes in the past and had enjoyed some of them, I had never made one myself until recently. I must have looked at dozens of recipes, with varying types and amounts of flour and leaveners and with different quantities of eggs, sugar, butter, and sour cream. Not to mention the topping, which could have flour and/or butter, along with sugar and nuts or chocolate. The recipes called for bundt pans, springform pans, or tube pans. How to know where to begin? I ended up baking three sour cream coffee cakes, using my own knowledge of ingredients, baking techniques, and personal preferences, adjusting each time. This is the recipe for the last and best cake I baked, which has received great reviews from my family and the parade of drop-ins at our home over the last few days. (The best, though silent, accolade was from my oldest son, who usually eats only chocolate cake or cake with chocolate frosting and stays away from sour cream like the plague, but devoured large slices of this cake without knowing what it's typically called. Knowing my customers, I called it a coffee cake with brown sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate!)
1 cup flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
All ingredients should be at room temperature – take the butter, eggs, and sour cream out of the refrigerator well in advance of baking.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the topping/filling by mixing the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl. Set aside. Lightly grease or spray a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. (I think the tube pan, with its opening in the center, was responsible for the noticeable improvement in cake texture over my previous attempts. It also was easier to remove than the one made in a bundt pan and baked higher than the one made in a springform pan.)
In a medium bowl, place the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together gently and set aside.
In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter with the sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream (about 1/3 of each at a time), mixing until combined.
Spread about half of the batter lightly into the bottom of the tube pan. Sprinkle with half of the topping/filling. Spread the remaining batter on top. Do this gently, as the batter will pick up some of the filling underneath as it's moved around. Sprinkle the top with the remaining topping/filling.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out dry.
Place the cake pan on a rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan. If necessary, loosen the outer edge with a narrow, sharp knife and remove the cake on the insert from the outer rim. Let cool a while longer, which will make the cake easier to remove totally from the pan and to cut. (When ready to serve, I cut a thick slice from the cake and then slid the rest of it around the inner core of the pan and right onto a serving platter.)
Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Slice very gently, as the cake is delicate and the topping can crumble a bit.
Jamie Stolper is the Food Editor of ShalomBoston.com.