Recipe quick takes: Sour Cream Coffeecake from the King Arthur Flour cookbook

I’m about to leave on vacation, and there’s always a bit of concern to use up perishable items that might not still be edible by the time I get back home and am ready to cook again. In this case, because I made that tasty vegetarian chili last week, I had most of a tub of sour cream left over, and experience has taught me that — despite what you’d think — sour cream actually has a tendency to go off before I manage to use it. This is perhaps because, other than chili, there aren’t a whole lot of recipes that use small — or even moderate — quantities of the stuff. I have plenty of recipes that call for a quarter cup, say, and a few that call for multiple cups, but I only found one in my cookbook library that would use almost exactly what I had.

The cookbook in question is The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook — for a long time, simply the King Arthur Flour cookbook. Now it has been superseded to a great degree by newer cookbooks, both three thick volumes from the company and numerous other bakery cookbooks, not to mention Web sites too numerous to mention. But it’s occasionally still good for something, in this case a coffee cake recipe that can use sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk depending on what you have on hand and how much fat you want in the end product. Apparently it was in the company’s files for a long time and later reformulated to allow this flexibility; in any case, it calls for nearly a pound of flour and quite a lot of baking powder in addition to three eggs, but not so much butter as I would have expected. There’s a “topping” — almost but not quite a streusel — made from nuts, brown sugar, and spices. I put “topping” in quotation marks because two thirds of it actually goes into the cake itself, as a thin layer in the middle and also on the top of the cake (which becomes the bottom when inverted, although perhaps I misunderstood the directions).

In the spirit of getting rid of things before they spoil, I used all India Tree dark muscovado in this recipe where brown sugar is called for; I had to heat it up in the microwave to loosen the nearly solid block of sugar. I found the batter to be quite stiff — often an issue when I use the Wallaby brand sour cream I usually prefer as a condiment, as it has less water than other supermarket sour creams — and it was very difficult to get it into the tube pan in even layers to allow the insertion of the “topping”, and I made no effort to swirl them together. The recipe calls for adding the remaining third of the “topping” after turning the baked cake out of the pan; I put it on the “top” — which was the bottom during baking — but in retrospect think I should either have re-inverted the cake, or else baked it with the “topping” on the bottom of the pan.

Overall I’d rate this coffee cake as a “meh”. While everyone at work seemed to like it, I didn’t think particularly highly of it, and it has a very high calorie load (nearly 400 kcal when sliced in 16 pieces). I might try it again with fat-free buttermilk to see if that makes it any better, but I have a feeling the issues with it are more than just the dairy ingredients — and there are plenty of other coffee cakes and tea breads to try first. The obligatory photo:
Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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