coffee cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

When you try a new recipe and it flubs, do you assume you did something wrong? Or, do you consider the possibility the mistake is in the recipe?

That was my dilemma recently when I unsuccessfully tested and retested a so-called “easy” recipe for a coffee cake with a pecan streusel from award-winning blogger Susie Norris’ latest cookbook, “A Baker’s Passport: Recipes for Breads, Savory Pies, Vegetarian Dishes, Tarts, Cakes and Cookie Classics.” I had decided to try that particular recipe after promising to take a coffee cake to an under-the-weather friend.

After mixing the ingredients, I dubiously looked back and forth from the copious amounts of batter and streusel to the called-for 9-by-2-inch cake pan. Was that pan really a good idea? I had my answer about five minutes after it went into the oven.

The smell of burning sugar filled the kitchen as streusel topping and cake batter overflowed the pan and hit the bottom of the hot oven. Smoke billowed out as I pulled the pan from the oven. With the kitchen vent now roaring full blast, I tried to salvage what remained of the batter-streusel mixture. I put it into two cake pans and popped them into the other oven. Big mistake.

Within about 10 minutes, batter overflowed and smoke filled the oven again as sugar burned once more. When I opened the oven, smoke poured into the kitchen and set off the smoke alarm. I threw open the back and side doors, hoping no stray cats or raccoons took that as an invitation to wander in.

When things settled down, I contacted the cookbook author. Norris assured me her recipe was correct as written and she made it in a standard 9-inch cake pan, but a deeper springform pan could be used if I preferred. I decided to try again with the deeper pan. This time the top of the cake baked, but the middle still jiggled after an hour in the oven.

The cookbook’s recipe reminded me of a gussied-up version of the Texas coffee cakes and sour cream coffee cakes popular in the 1970s — and usually baked in a tube pan or a 9-by-13-inch pan.

The takeaways from my kitchen misadventure?

The smoke alarm works.

My ovens got an overdue cleaning.

My friend got her promised coffee cake, made from the trusty recipe I acquired from a Houston resident years ago. No flubs with it.

Cheramie Sonnier is a food writer and columnist. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter, @CheramieSonnier.

Email Judy Bergeron at