I found the recipe in a box last time I visited my mom. I found this “sour cream coffee cake” on a small piece of notebook paper which was hand written in my Mamaw’s slanted cursive and had her name scrawled across the top corner of the page.
This recipe makes only slight changes from that paper: I scaled it down, used an 8×8 square cake pan instead of a bundt pan, reduced the sugar and butter a bit, but the heart of the recipe remains the same. It’s perfectly moist, not overly sweet and filled with a layer of cinnamon pecan goodness.
During this last trip to visit my mom, I sat for hours, delicately handling dozens of recipes written on these fragile pieces of paper. Many were yellowed and splattered; the creases where they’d been folded over and over again for decades were almost worn through. These were well-loved recipes. Recipes that were made many times over the years for both special occasions and on plain old regular days.
Some were clipped from magazines or the newspaper, and others were jotted down on recipe cards or scrap paper by family or friends. Some recipes I knew well. I could probably recite by memory the newspaper clipping for overnight sticky buns that I helped my Mamaw make every Thanksgiving or my Mom’s sherry and mushroom chicken dish that I loved as a kid. Other recipes were my family’s famous dishes that I’d heard the stories about but have never had–the oyster stew that sat on my grandparents’ stove at their famous Christmas Eve parties years ago, or the sour cream coffee cake this recipe is based on. Each piece felt like a little piece of my family, a little connection to the past.
Over the years, I’ve gone through this collection of recipes many times with my mom. Sorting and reading and listening to the story behind each one. She told me how she had the best gumbo of her life and somehow convinced the chef to give her the recipe. The old family recipes stir memories of her grandparents and the huge breakfasts they would make when she visited them in their little country town.
I love these stories. I love that recipes can be windows into the life and experiences of people.
This sour cream coffee cake is great. And you should make it, but it probably won’t ever be as special to you as it is to me. But each recipe we make has the potential to stir memories later on. The food acts as a little prompt, reminding you of people, places, experiences. This cake reminds me of my Mamaw (Kay)–of her love for recipes, her sweet tooth, and her penchant for throwing pecans into baked goods. If you make it, I hope it brings you good memories of time with people you love.
If you like this recipe for Kay’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake, you might also like:
Kay's Sour Cream Coffee Cake
This coffee cake was adapted from my Mamaw (Kay's) recipe. It's perfectly moist and not overly sweet as coffee cake should be. The sour cream gives it the slightest tang and the middle layer is brown sugar cinnamon pecan goodness. It's perfect as a simple dessert or with your coffee at brunch.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 cup pecans, toasted & roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup sour cream, whole fat
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9"x9" metal cake pan and line with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the cinnamon and brown sugar. Reserve 1 tablespoon of this mixture in another small bowl. Toss the toasted, chopped pecans into the first bowl of cinnamon sugar. Set aside
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer on medium high speed until lighter in color and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating the first completely into the sugar & butter mixture before adding the second. After the eggs are incorporated, beat in the sour cream and vanilla on medium speed until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on medium low until just combined.
Spoon half the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread it around evenly with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar, and pecan mixture evenly over the batter. Spoon the rest of the batter on top and spread evenly.* Sprinkle the remaining sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the top.
Bake for 27-32 minutes (rotating once about half way through) until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
*I find that spooning the remaining batter in say, 8 big dollops evenly over the top of the the pecan mixture and then gently spreading them together with a spoon or offset spatula is the easiest way to to get a nice even covering of cake batter without disturbing the yummy middle layer too much!