simple pleasure – sour cream coffee cake

simple pleasure – sour cream coffee cake

While M and I were traveling in Asia, food was my priority and tea and photos were M’s. While he searched for tea with calmer enthusiasm than I did for food, we came upon a few lovely tea shops that offered a sampling of even their best offerings.

For visitors to Hong Kong, you can start with a visit to the Museum of Tea Ware at Flagstaff House (the oldest colonial building in Hong Kong) to learn the history and understand the importance of tea in China and the world. Next door is the Lock Cha Tea House, a peaceful oasis in hyper HK. It has a good variety of excellent teas and offers free classes in the art of tea (preparation/drinking). The prices are a bit high, but so is the quality.

To get tea at a better price, we went to Lam Kie Yuen Tea Co. Here, the tea master is also the proprietor and buyer. He holds court as he prepares tea for customers to sample, chatting away about harvests, differences in quality grades, brewing techniques, etc. Do not fear if you have no idea what you want to buy-just tell him what variety you prefer (black, green, white tea, etc.), and he will prepare tea according to your preference and guide you on an aromatic journey. M had a specific Fujian Oolong in mind, but after an hour of tea drinking and conversation with the master and another patron, he came out with new discoveries.

So after we came back to New York, M made a small pot of Oolong for us. It not only reawakened us from a long, drowsy plane ride, but also brought back memories of the trip. While the aroma perfumed my senses, I can’t help but think what pleasure a simple cup of tea can bring and so could a dessert.

After weeks of traveling and enjoying Asian desserts from various cuisines, I longed for a simple Western sweet that could hold up to that full-bodied cup of tea. Sour Cream Coffee Cake came to mind- a moist cake swirled with cinnamon sugar. Just like that cup of tea, it suggests several notes of flavors. The pecan streusel adds a contrasting texture to the cake and further solidifies the simple comfort element of this cake. Just like a good cup of tea, this cake can should be enjoyed at all times of the day.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake w Brown Butter Streusel


Brown Butter Streusel

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3-3/4 ounces)

3/4 cup granulated sugar (5-1/4 ounces)

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (3-1/2 ounces)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 2 pieces

1 cup pecans, chopped


12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 ounces/1-1/2 sticks), softened but still cool, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus 2 tablespoons softened butter for greasing pan

4 large eggs

1-1/2 cups sour cream

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2-1/4 cups (11-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1-1/4 cups (8-3/4 ounces) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon table salt


Brown Butter Streusel

1. In food processor, process flour, granulated sugar, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, and cinnamon until combined, about 15 seconds. Transfer 1-1/4 cups of flour/sugar mixture to small bowl; stir in remaining ¼ cup brown sugar and set aside to use for streusel filling. Add butter and pecans to mixture in food processor; pulse until nuts and butter resemble small pebbly pieces, about ten 1-second pulses. Set aside.

2. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350℉. Grease 10-inch fixed-bottom tube pan with 2 tablespoons softened butter. Whisk eggs, 1 cup sour cream, and vanilla in medium bowl until combined.


1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl of standing mixer; mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add butter and remaining 1/2 cup sour cream; mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened and mixture resembles wet sand, about 1-1/2 minutes. Increase to medium speed and beat until batter comes together, about 10 seconds. Lower speed to medium-low and gradually add egg mixture in 3 additions, beating for 20 seconds after each and scraping down sides of bowl. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until batter is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.

2. Using rubber spatula, spread 2 cups batter in bottom of prepared pan, smoothing surface. Sprinkle evenly with 1/2 of streusel filling (without butter or nuts). Repeat with another 2 cups batter and remaining streusel filling (without butter or nuts). Spread remaining batter over, then sprinkle with streusel topping (with butter and nuts).

3. Bake until cake feels firm to touch and long toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean (bits of sugar from streusel may cling to tester), 55 to 60 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack 30 minutes. Invert cake onto rimmed baking sheet (cake will be streusel-side down); remove tube pan, place wire rack on top of cake, and reinvert cake streusel-side up. Cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cut into wedges and serve.

1. A fixed-bottom, 10-inch tube pan (with 10-cup capacity) is best for this recipe. Note that the streusel is divided into two parts—one for the inner swirls, one for the topping.

2. Cake can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days.