sour cream coffee cake

I’m pretty sure by now that if I halve the amount of sugar, no wait, use only a quarter of the sugar in Ina Garten’s recipes, the cake will still turn out perfectly fine (and possibly still too sweet). It’s mind boggling the amount of sugar we go through each year without even considering baking. Even though everyone says that baking is a science, I’ve found that I can get away with cutting out some of the sugar and butter. You don’t always have to follow recipes to the letter.

My favorite days are those filled with snow, and last night I kept on waking up every other hour to check the morning commute. Of course, it would have made sense to wake up at 5am and decide right then and there, but even while sleeping, I like to plan ahead. It turned out that the forecast shifted from massive snow today to massive snow tomorrow. So, I made the trek to work.

sour cream coffee cake

By 11am, we all received an email telling us to leave by mid-day (man, it feels great not to work for a company that has cots lined up all ready for you on a snowday- ahem, JP Morgan). I left before noon to find the roads slushy but still manageable with cars driving by as if it were 70 degrees and sunny. But all along, I kept on thinking… What should I bake?

What I love about baking is that contrary to what most people think, it doesn’t take that long. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare (even without modern machinery like mixers) and then you throw it into the oven. So while I was reading on how to dissect the income statement of a life insurance company, this sweet, wonderful smell of brown sugar and butter came wafting out. Man, I love the smell of butter. Coupled with the fury of the pelting white snow outside, it was my favorite moment of the day.

I made this cake thinking that I didn’t want to consume a full stick of butter. So instead of halving the original recipe, I took a quarter of most the “unhealthy” ingredients while keeping the half proportions of the dry ingredients and sour cream. The cake may have turned out a bit short (about 2 inches tall) due to me cutting back so much, but it contained the same amount of moistness and lightness that I had expected from the original recipe. Plus, I figured that instead of forcing myself to practice portion control, I’d have no choice now. Definitely a win-win situation.

Ina Garten’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake
(Heavily) Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients for the Cake:

  • 1/3 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4  cups sour cream
  • 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients for the Streusel:

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Note: The measured ingredients for the cake will make half a loaf. Double the quantity if you want full slices. The measurements given for the streusel will be enough for a full cake though. However, check out Ina’s original recipe if you want a mindblowing experience.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using the wrappers from the butter, grease your tub (or bunt) pan.

Cream the butter and sugar real well for 5 minutes until it becomes light.

sour cream coffee cake

sour cream coffee cake

Add the egg, vanilla and sour cream. Mix until there are no lumps. It’ll look really thick, but don’t worry, we’ll add in the dry ingredients soon.


In a separate bowl, sift in all of the dry ingredients. If you don’t have cake flour, you can use all purpose flour, adding 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for every cup of all purpose. Technically, you’re also supposed to also take out 2 tablespoons of all purpose. But, the important part is that you sift the cornstarch/all purpose flour mixture 4-5 times!! The cornstarch needs to be well incorporated.

Then, add the dry ingredients into the wet mixture in two batches. Use a spatula to fold in with care. Do not over mix. Just fold until the dry ingredients disappear and stop.

Time to work on the streusel. This is very straight forward. Make sure your butter is straight from the refrigerator because it will start melting when your hands touch it if it’s at room temperature. Toss all of the ingredients into a bowl and using your fingers, pinch everything together until it forms a crumble. By the time you’re done, your hands should no longer be greasy from the butter. Note that if you don’t like streusel- as in the crumbly texture- you can use less flour. If the ratio of brown sugar is greater than flour, the brown sugar will actually melt, forming a wet dense layer of sweetness which is equally as good. Personally, I like this denser version between the cake and the streusel mixture on top.

sour cream coffee cake
When you’ve finished the streusel, pour half the batter into your pan. Using 3/4 of the streusel, top it onto the first layer of cake batter. Then pour in the rest of the batter. Add in the rest of the streusel.

sour cream coffee cake
Ina’s recipe says to bake for 50-60 minutes, but I got away with 30 minutes probably because my cake was half the size. Either way, you should always keep a close watch on your cake when it’s in the oven. Usually, I can tell when it’s done by shaking the pan and if the center doesn’t jiggle, it’s done. Then I insert in a toothpick and if it pulls out clean without a crumb, it’s definitely done.  Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. It actually tastes better as it gets cooler!

sour cream coffee cake
So this cake has 1/3 stick of butter, 3/4 cup of sour cream, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Even at that, I sliced it into 8 pieces, which will last me for a very happy week and a half at work.