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Aunt Norma’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake for the Holidays

sour cream coffee cake

Aunt Norma's sour cream coffee cake at Birchwood Inn. Credit: David Latt

Some holidays have specific associations. Thanksgiving has turkey and stuffing. New Year’s Eve and eggnog go hand in hand. Chanukah isn’t Chanukah without potato latkes and, in our house, you can’t eat latkes without applesauce and sour cream. But as with everything we cherish, there are downsides. What to do with the turkey liver that comes so nicely packed inside the bird, why, make turkey liver pâté. And what to do with left over sour cream? Bake a delicious sour cream coffee cake, of course.

Once the menorah candles are lit, the latkes eaten and the kitchen cleaned, there is one lingering issue still to be addressed: What to do with the leftover sour cream?

Day after day, the sour cream container is pushed farther and farther to the back of the refrigerator, until months later the sorry container is discovered long past its expiration date.

Hating waste, for years I searched for a post-latke use for sour cream. On a summer visit to the Berkshires, innkeeper Ellen Chenaux at the Birchwood Inn in Lenox, Mass., presented the perfect solution.

What to do with post-latke sour cream

When she opened the Birchwood Inn as a second career, Chenaux knew she would need a good supply of recipes. Operating a bed and breakfast inn, Chenaux explained, is one part entertaining, one part cleaning up and one part cooking.

Traditionally, guests at B&Bs are served breakfast and afternoon tea, wine and cheese. Chenaux wanted to put a special stamp of her afternoon repast. For that she pulled out a collection of recipes she had started as a young girl and continued as she traveled in and out of the country.

One source stood out: Aunt Norma. Because her mother didn’t much care for cooking, Aunt Norma was Chenaux’s go-to source for reliable recipes. When she was putting together her menu for the Birchwood Inn, she definitely had to include her aunt’s sour cream coffee cake, a family favorite.

Sitting on the porch of her inn, happily eating forkfuls of the sour cream cake and sipping iced tea, my search was over. Now I knew exactly what to do with the leftover latke sour cream. Thank you Ellen Chenaux, and thank you Aunt Norma.

Aunt Norma’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Having eaten many coffee cakes in my time, what sets Chenaux’s version of her aunt’s cake apart is the moistness. Too often coffee cakes are unpleasantly dry. Aunt Norma’s coffee cake was light, flaky and moist with flavor added by vanilla and the brown sugar, walnut and cinnamon streusel topping.


¾ pound unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups white sugar

3 eggs

1½ teaspoon vanilla (preferably, alcohol free)

1⅞ cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1⅛ teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon sour cream

½ cup walnuts, raw, chopped

½ packed cup brown sugar

1½ teaspoon cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 375 F.

2. Grease and flour a 10-inch spring form pan.

3. Beat the butter and white sugar together. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

5. Add half the flour mixture and half the sour cream to the batter. Combine well.

6. Add the rest of the flour mixture and the remaining sour cream to the batter. Stir well.

7. Mix together the walnuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to create a streusel topping.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan.

9. Sprinkle the streusel topping on top of the batter.

10. Bake 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.

11. Let cool on a wire rack.

12. Open the spring form pan and slide the cake onto a serving platter.

Photo: Aunt Norma’s sour cream coffee cake at Birchwood Inn, Lenox, Mass. Credit: David Latt

Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. Putting his television experience to good use, he created Secrets of Restaurant Chefs, a YouTube Channel, with lively videos by well-known chefs sharing their favorite recipes. In addition to writing about food for Zester Daily and his own sites, Men Who Like to Cook and Men Who Like to Travelhe has contributed to Mark Bittman's New York Times food blog, BittenOne for the Table and Traveling Mom.  His helpful guide to holiday entertaining, "10 Delicious Holiday Recipes,"  is available on Amazon eCookbooks. He still develops for television but finds time to take his passion for food on the road as a contributor to Peter Greenberg's travel siteNew York Daily NewsHuffington Post/Travel and Luxury Travel Magazine.