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One Master Recipe, Three Irresistible Coffee Cakes

Fine Cooking Issue 96
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Every cook needs to know how to make a killer sour cream coffee cake, and this is that one recipe. It bakes up moist and buttery and looks impressive to boot. I have yet to serve this cake and be greeted with anything but raves—and crumb-filled plates thrust my way, with requests for another wedge. As delectable as it is, this cake is not difficult. It hinges on three important techniques (see below), and it needs no icing. It also lends itself to variation, which means you get the bonus of adding three cakes to your repertoire with this one classic recipe.

The sugar secret

It may seem silly that I call for three types of sugar in this recipe (superfine, granulated, and light brown), but there is a reason for each. Superfine is used in the batter, which is dense and doesn’t get hot enough in the center during baking to dissolve the larger crystals in granulated sugar. Superfine ensures a fine crumb and lighter texture. You don’t have to buy a special package of it, though—make your own by spinning granulated sugar in a food processor until it is as fine as sand. Granulated sugar adds a nice texture to the topping and filling, and the molasses in the brown sugar adds depth of flavor.




The right pan

Key to this cake’s success is the pan it’s baked in. You need a shiny aluminum tube pan (also known as an angel food cake pan). Don’t use a Bundt or a fluted pan, because they have rounded bottoms and are meant for cakes that will be served inverted. Dark nonstick tube pans are not a good choice for a cake like this; because it bakes for more than an hour, overbrowning or burning may result. If that is all you have, reduce the oven temperature by 25ºF.

Master these three key techniques, and impressive results are guaranteed.


Leave a Comment


  • AccountingProfessor | 12/21/2021

    This link is to the article on general tips on making this coffee cake. The three related spinoff recipes are in the box to the right of the main photo of the first of the three coffee cakes.

  • MZLBRG | 05/03/2020

    I am new to your site and have located a recipe that Inwould like tomSave to my Recipe Box but could you direct me where to get the recipe....I can only find a photo of it and some tips for making it but not the actual recipe? The recipe is for ‘One Master Recipe, Three Irresistable Coffee Cakes.’
    Thank You!

  • NickBrookline | 04/11/2020

    Where the heck is the recipe???

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