I love baking cake; in fact, it might be one of my favorite treats to make. I was looking through my "Recipes to Test" file and saw that nearly all of them were cake recipes. That just goes to show where my tastes lie! But really, cake is very difficult to hate--there are so many flavors to choose from, and the (ideal) texture is just so lovely.
Enter the Sour Cream Coffee Cake from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2008, of which I have posted a review. Would you believe that, before this experience, I had never used sour cream in baking? Ever? I know, it's shameful but true; I just never had occasion to. Well, this was as good a time as any to try my hand at baking with sour cream, and it really does add a lot to the texture of a cake, although I must say that non-sour-cream cakes can be just as nice.
So I have good news and bad news about this recipe. The good news is that the cake tastes delicious, and it is so light and fluffy. I cut the cake recipe in half and baked it in an 8x8-inch pan; the streusel topping I reduced to a quarter of the original recipe, and it was enough. Believe it or not, I do care just a bit about calories, and I thought it wise to reduce the streusel topping a little. Oh, and the finished topping? It was wonderful, with an excellent cinnamon flavor and a good crunch from the almonds I used.
Now the bad news. My "oh damn" moment... Due to the different pan size, I was unsure of baking time (I usually estimate correctly but was a bit off this time), and I tested the cake too early. Thus, I had the pleasure of watching the middle of the cake sink right before my eyes, as if I were deflating a balloon. Whoops. I'm going to blame that little blunder on the oven's less-than-well-behaved antics as of late. But the texture in the middle did not suffer terribly, so the consequences were mostly aesthetic. Even then, no one really noticed, so I didn't worry about it too much, and neither should you (if that happens)! Coffee cake, I have found, is quite a bit sturdier and therefore more forgiving than your standard, delicate, birthday-cake creation.
You may have noticed that, throughout this post, I have refrained from using the word... moist. I really hate it when people use that word because, in my opinion, that's what a cake should be. It is the normative, so to speak, and I think that saying a cake is moist or should be moist is a bit redundant. Besides, the term is overused. I prefer less tired words like velvety, silky, soft, and fluffy. And they all describe this cake, so make it! Right now! Here's the recipe!
Adapted from The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2008.
Makes two 8-inch square or 9-inch round cakes.
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
45 grams (1/3 cup) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, almonds, or walnuts, chopped
420 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sour cream [a 16-ounce tub should be just enough]
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
7 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
** Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. **
1. Make Streusel: Combine sugars, flour, butter, and cinnamon in medium bowl, and rub with fingers until mixture is no longer powdery. Stir in nuts and set aside.
2. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.
3. In medium bowl, whisk sour cream, sugars, eggs, and butter until thoroughly combine.
4. Gradually whisk sour cream mixture into dry ingredients until just blended.
5. Pour into greased pans and sprinkle topping evenly over batter.
6. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached.
7. Let cool in pan on wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving.