The Cake Is Not A Lie

Granny's coffee cake

Have a slice?

For some reason there have been a bunch of cake-requiring occasions lately. I pulled out my grandmother’s classic recipe for sour cream coffee cake, a trusty standby. I promised a few people I’d share the recipe, so here goes.

(Side note: apparently I meant to blog this recipe once before — I now have TWO sets of photo tutorials/recipe how-tos on Flickr. These photos are a combination of both sets, so forgive any jogs in continuity!)


The recipe

Full ingredient list:


1 cup sugar
1/4 cup margarine (original recipe calls for margarine and shortening mixture)
2 eggs
1 1/3 to 2 cups light sour cream (original recipe calls for 10-ounce carton [approx. 1 1/3 cups]– I sometimes use a whole 500 mL tub [2 cups])
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt


1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Step 1

Liquid ingredients first

Cream the sugar and margarine, then add in the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla, and beat well.

Step 3

Mix in the dry ingredients

Mix in the dry ingredients. Sometimes I do this with my fancypants garage-sale mixer, as in the photo above; sometimes I just do with with a good old wooden spoon. Honestly, I’d have to compare two cakes side by side to tell the difference between the results. I love that this recipe is foolproof enough that I can mess with quantities AND techniques and still get a reliably delicious result.

Granny's coffee cake

Batter, meet pan

The batter is THICK, so don’t be alarmed. Partly, that’s because the main ‘wet ingredients’ (sour cream and margarine) really aren’t all that liquid — and partly, it’s because you actually want a thick batter in order to get the right marbling effect.

Put about half of the batter into a greased angel-food-cake or bundt pan. Gob it in there in blobs, then smooth it out as well as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect — just make sure that you get the batter to touch the sides and centre of the pan, so there’s a solid layer across the bottom.

Granny's coffee cake

Spread out the batter

Now, mix the cinnamon and brown sugar in a separate bowl.

Step 5

Cinnamon and brown sugar

Sprinkle half the topping mixture on the cake batter in the pan.

Granny's coffee cake

Mmm, cinnamon...

Add the rest of the batter, smooth it out again, and add the rest of the topping. Then, using a knife or a skewer, swirl through the cake to make it all marble-y. I usually draw a sort of flower-ish shape, and wiggle the implement up and down a bit as I go, to mix things up that little bit more.

Granny's coffee cake

Can you spy the flower shape?

Now, pop that baby in the oven (preheated to 350F, please and thank you) for about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the top comes out clean.

My grandmother would tell you to allow the cake to cool (at least most of the way) before transferring it to a plate. Then, cut yourself a slice, and enjoy!

Granny's coffee cake

Bon appétit!

On the other hand, the aroma of the cinnamon and sugar baking is pretty intoxicating, so I won’t blame ANYONE for trying to eat this right out of the oven. Watch, though; hot sugar burns!

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