The first thing I ever picked out to bake with my mother was a lemon blueberry Bundt cake. I'd seen an ad for the cake — complete with lemon-yellow icing — and thought it was the most sophisticated, beautiful cake possible.
So my mother indulged me. We bought the mix, made the cake and it was beautiful. But as it was a mix, it tasted like a mix.
Even at 5, I was disappointed. But my mother had a happy solution. The very simple and very classic sour cream coffee cake. We made that coffee cake together for years, and then for at least a decade I made the same coffee cake myself every time I went to or hosted a brunch.
Over the years, I tweaked it, adding a double layer of streusel as a topping and as a filling, and adding more pecans. Baked in a Bundt pan and sliced just where the ridges fall, it was and remains a crowd pleaser. I also love baking it in mini Bundt pans so everyone gets an individual cake.
Predictably, I can't make a sour cream coffee cake without thinking of my mother which, in my mind, makes it the perfect Mother's Day treat.
You can substitute walnuts for the pecans if you like, and even add coconut or a bit of chocolate to the batter, which is rich and moist without being heavy. I'd bet that I could even add blueberries to the batter and glaze the coffee cake with a lemon icing to make the lemon blueberry Bundt cake of my childhood dreams!
The cake is even better baked the day before, eliminating the work in the morning. I like serving it with a savory sausage-egg strata that can be assembled the night before and baked just before you want to eat. Add fruit salad and you have a perfectly delicious and perfectly balanced brunch for Mom that anyone can make.
Classic Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
For the batter:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups sour cream (not light or non-fat)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted flour (sift before measuring)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
For the cinnamon-sugar filling:
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
Heat the oven to 325 F. Coat a 12-cup (large) Bundt pan with a bit of vegetable oil or cooking spray (do not use baking spray).
To make the batter, in a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar. Use an electric mixer to beat until light and fluffy. Add the sour cream, eggs and vanilla, then mix again until well incorporated.
Measure and sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture a little at a time, mixing between additions and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until well mixed. Set aside.
To make the filling, in a large bowl combine the pecans, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. Spoon a shallow layer of the filling mixture over the bottom of the Bundt pan. Spoon half the batter into the pan over the filling. Sprinkle all but 1/4 cup of the remaining filling evenly over the batter.
Pour the rest of the batter over the filling, smoothing it with a silicone spatula. Sprinkle with the remaining filling.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from sides and a toothpick inserted at the centre comes out clean. Start testing for doneness after the cake has baked for 40 minutes since ovens and pans vary in the way they bake. Remove from oven and transfer cake pan to a cooling rack. Let cool before slicing.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 460 calories; 250 calories from fat (54 per cent of total calories); 28 g fat (13 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 52 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber; 200 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling and Southern foods expert and executive chef at Hill Country Barbecue Market restaurants in New York and Washington, as well as Hill Country Chicken in New York. She is the author of three cookbooks, including "Soaked, Slathered and Seasoned."