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Though I’m known as something of a baker in my circle of friends, it wasn’t until very recently that I tried my hand at homemade coffee cake. You see, for most of my life, I didn’t really think it was something one could make at home. My experience had taught me that coffee cake was something you bought, packaged in a square white box that was emblazoned with the word “Entenmann’s.”
Part of the reason for this is that I didn’t grow up in a coffee cake household. On those rare occasions that we had a sweet morning baked good, it would be hearty, whole-wheat banana bread or a dense, barely sugared scone. My mother did not approve of cake for breakfast.
The only time I experienced this thing called coffee cake was when we’d visit my grandparents. They bought them regularly and kept them tucked into the space on top of the toaster oven. My grandfather’s habit was to have a small square around 10am, with a second cup of coffee and whatever scientific journal he was reading at the moment. As a perpetual dieter, my grandmother rarely sat down to a full slice, instead picking at the edges and crumbs each time she passed through the kitchen.
When we were in town, my sister and I would be allowed an after-dinner sliver. Standards were more lax during grandparent visits, but much as we pleaded, my mother never wavered on her no cake for breakfast rule.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve adopted many of my mother’s dietary rules. I try to always eat at a table and I do my best to ensure that there’s a green vegetable for dinner. But I’ve learned that sometimes, cake is exactly what you need for breakfast or a lazy weekend brunch with friends.
Currently, my very favorite coffee cake is Ina Garten’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake. It’s a pillowy cake made extra tender with 1 1/4 cups of sour cream. With a cinnamon streusel running through the middle and on top, you can’t help but want to cut a slice. It’s downright ideal for The Weekender.
Before you start preheating your oven, here are a few things you should know:
- Ina instructs you to bake this cake in a tube pan. If this isn’t a baking vessel currently in your kitchen, make sure to check your local thrift store before hitting the full-price store. I found mine for all of $2 many years back and it’s still going strong.
- This recipe calls for cake flour. All I had was unbleached all-purpose and my cake turned out just fine.
- Because this cake is so tender, it’s best to let it cool to room temperature before you slice it.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in spring 2012.