Perfect Christmas Coffee Cake

Before I set out for the holidays and into the New Year on a short trip to see extended family and dear friends in Pennsylvania, I thought I would stop by with one more project in the Christmas Baking Extravaganza. It simply wouldn’t be a proper Christmas in my heart or belly without a small taste of this delicious, moist, sweet, and comforting loaf.

I am not sure the first time this treat made an appearance on our Christmas morning table but it has been long enough that I don’t have an adult memory without its sweet, soft, sour creamy presence in my mind. Our kitchen wasn’t a Christmas kitchen without cookies strewn across the table and counters being frosted – angels, trees, hearts, stars, and dreidels delicately painted in hues of yellow, blue, red, green, purple, and in many cases an abstract combination. The refrigerator was always overflowing with chocolate mousse. And there was always sour cream to make coffee cake.

Christmas may be many things to many people and it may change as we grow up and as our lives change – it was a miracle to me as a child, waking up to gifts from a mysterious and magical Saint Nicholas; it was a way to reconnect as a young adult; it was a sad reminder last year of all of the things it no longer could be. This year it is the realization that it could change a million different ways through the rest of my life. As I sat with Bari, Matthew, and precious and precocious Asher and trimmed their tree, I saw the way Christmas could appear a miracle in the eyes of a child again. I am looking forward this year to a Christmas morning with four young ones and sharing this Christmas Coffee Cake with them.

While I am reminded yet again that I may not be able to plan for an unforeseen future, holiday traditions and expectations are as elusive as the steam rising off of a cup of tea or the tree that is carefully and consciously decorated only to be dismantled, and hopefully responsibly recycled a week later. But I do know Christmas music always has an unknown way of lifting my spirits and in a small way reminds me of the surreal wonder of the season. As ephemeral as the holiday tree and the season may be, it still has a way to fill my eyes and heart with optimistic hope and serves as a reminder of the return of light. And no matter what tradition I may practice or where I will be year to year, I will not forget these things and I will always make this perfectly suited cake and remember all of the people I have spent this holiday with throughout my life.

Happy Holidays and peaceful baking into the New Year,

Ramona

SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE:

~ From our family’s well used Betty Crocker’s Cookbook © 1976

Cake:

¾ cup butter or margarine, softened

1 ¼ cups sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

3 cups all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoons salt

1 ¾ cups sour cream

Filling: Mix ½ cup brown sugar (packed); ½ cup finely chopped nuts (our family eliminated this as my sister is allergic to nuts), and 2 teaspoons cinnamon.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease tube pan, 10×4 inches, or 2 loaf pans, 9x5x3 inches.

Combine butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in large mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes or 300 vigorous strokes by hand.

In separate bowl mix together dry ingredients flour through salt.

Mix dry ingredients into butter/sugar/egg alternately with sour cream. (I do this in 3 stages – add 1 cup flour mix and then add ½ cup of sour cream mix, 1 cup flour mix, ½ cup of sour cream mix, final part cup of flour mix, and then last ½ cup of sour cream mix. This keeps the cake smooth and ohhh sooo soft!)

If using tube pan spread 1/3 of batter in the pan and sprinkle with 1/3 of filling; repeat 2 times. If using loaf pans spread 1/4 of the batter in each pan and sprinkle with ¼ of filling, repeat once so each loaf is two layers of batter and two layers of filling.

Bake about 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly in pan(s) before removing.

Serves 14 – 16

PS – A very special thank you to Jessica who came by today to help me bake these cakes and took a few of the lovely photos you are seeing including (Picture 1, 7, and 8).

And to nugget a warm and endless thank you for everything!

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12 2010

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