Sunday, March 30, 2014

Also Not My Mom's Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Today my dear friend Kelly Z came over for lunch. Kelly and I met in 1994 in Montreal when I first moved into the area known as the Plateau (also known as Mile End - I don't really know where the Plateau stops and Mile End ends, but I digress).

Kelly and I weathered snowy and cold Montreal winters together, stomping up and down St Laurent in our Doc Martens, waiting for that slow, slow bus to crawl up the street from the station south of Sherbrooke, to come and save us from runny noses and salty streets, sometimes a hot bagel would be the reward. There were the sticky hot Montreal summers too - going to see plays at the Fringe Festival to support our friends who were aspiring actors writers and directors, eating dry and salty popcorn at Biftek St Laurent while waiting for a turn at the pool table, doing shots at the Double Deuce while listening to my brother DJ. Shopping at Warshaw for bargains and plants, eating cheese pies at Euro Deli, and dancing to the Tam Tams on Sundays at the base of Mont Royal. There is nowhere better than Montreal in the summer, by the way. As intolerable as the heat and humidity can get, there's always a patio chair available for you to kick back and soak up the rays. As long as you don't mind a cloud of cigarette smoke hanging over your head.

Our friendship persevered through all seasons - Kelly always had a seat at the Passover table when we celebrated with 20 to 30 of our closest friends. I even dragged her to Newfoundland a couple of times, where you can have all four seasons in a single day. She loved it, of course.

Kelly now lives in Toronto and as is the case with most of my friends in Toronto, we don't get to see each other enough. Now, when we plan our get togethers, they always involve food - eating it and talking about it. This date today started as brunch and then morphed into something more lunch-like, because of timing and other things we both had to do in the morning. We had planned a date a few weeks ago but then she got sick and Sam got sick and we decided not to gratuitously spread more germs so we rebooked. On the original date I was planning to serve vegetable soup, Danish rye bread, and something sweet to follow. For today, the menu was black bean soup with avocado and sour cream, corn bread, a nice salad with asparagus, toasted almonds and strong cheddar, and coffee cake to follow.

When I decided to make corn bread to go with the black bean soup, I picked up a really old cookbook my Mom had given to me a long time ago. It's called A Taste of Georgia. We have family on my Dad's side who used to live in Savannah, Georgia and I think my Mom bought this book when we took a family vacation there in the 70s. I have not tried very many recipes from it yet, but it is my reliable book for anything having to with corn bread, and it has some very excellent dip recipes in it.

As I was flipping through it today for a new corn bread recipe to try, I came across a recipe for "quick" coffee cake. What the heck - it looked like it would be a fast mix up so I went for it. I did make a couple of adjustments (as usual). One of them was to add sour cream to the mix instead of just using milk. The recipe follows with my adjustments in brackets.

The reason I titled this post "Also Not My Mom's Coffee Cake..." is that I previously posted a recipe for coffee cake (you can find it here:, and that recipe was NOT my Mom's recipe because I could not find it at the time. After making this cake today, I have to say, this one turned out even better than that one (but it's still not my Mom's - one day I will post that one, I promise).

Quick Coffee Cake - Adapted from A Taste of Georgia, recipe contributed by Mrs. Benny N. Grant (Diane)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8"x 12" or  a 9.5" x 9.5" pan. You can use cooking spray if you prefer.

Filling/Topping Ingredients:

*I made this recipe in the quantities as directed, and found that there wasn't enough topping since I left the nuts out. If you are leaving the nuts out, you need to make this recipe larger by 1.5 times. For example, instead of 4 tbsp butter, use 6.

4 tbsp butter, melted
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I left these out so the kids could take the cake to school)
1 cup light brown sugar
4 tbsp flour (I totally forgot this ingredient!!!)
1 tsp cinnamon

Cake Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I cut this back to 1/2 cup)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup milk (I used half milk and half sour cream)


Cream together the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition.

Measure the flour, then remove 1/4 of it. Add the baking powder to the 1/4 cup. Set it aside.

Add the pinch of salt to the larger portion of flour. Mix the sour cream and milk together. 

You are going to add the dry and wet mixes into the butter-sugar-egg mixture alternately, beating between each addition. Start with some flour.

Then add some milk/sour cream.

Carry on until you have emptied the flour and the milk/sour cream mix. Then add the 1/4 cup of flour + baking powder that you put aside earlier and beat that in very quickly. Don't over mix. 

Plop some spoonfuls of batter into the prepared pan.

Use a butter knife to spread it around.

Now you need to mix up your filling/topping. This is what it will look like without the nuts (and without the flour - oops!).

Now take some of the filling mixture and crumble it with your fingers onto this first layer of batter.

Don't bother spreading it around because it will be stuck to the first layer of batter and will make a mess (trust me, I tried). It's also unnecessary because during baking it all kind of melts together in a big pan of awesomeness.

Now spoon the next layer of batter on top of the filling mix.

Use your knife to spread it around like you did for round 1 of the batter.

Now add the final crumble of filling/topping. Again, don't try to spread it around as you will end up with a big mess. The oven will take care of it during baking.

Put your lovely pan of delicious goodness into the oven and bake for 25 - 30 minutes. The recipe said 30, I checked at 25 because I have a hot oven. It was ready. Test for doneness by using a wooden skewer - you want it to come out with a few crumbs on it but no wetness.

It looks kind of weird with pits and dents galore. The beautiful thing is that these pits and dents are usually filled with the topping/filling mixture. I call them sugar tunnels. See photo below.

So I recommend you serve this with a nice cup of strong tea, or coffee. You don't need anything else. It's DELICIOUS, moist, sugary, amazing. And it tastes like home.

P.S. The entire cake was eaten by Kelly Z, me, The King of Soup, and our children in about an hour. So I made another one. And this time I remembered to add the flour to the filling/topping mix. In my opinion, it didn't really make much of a difference.

The recipe for the black bean soup mentioned in the story can be found here:

The recipe for the corn bread will be posted today. For your interest, the minestrone recipe is here:

... and the Danish rye bread recipe is here:


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