Everyone who tries this cake loves it. I found the recipe in Gourmet magazine’s first issue after 9/11, included in Ruth Reichl’s Letter from the Editor.
…Like just about everything else in this new life we’re all leading, it happened in the aftermath of the Twin Towers attack. After the first rush of trying to be of some use to the survivors and the rescuers, after the professionals had come in to do their job and we amateurs had been sent back home, I was in the same stunned state as the rest of the country. Attempting to deal with the new reality of living in America, I found myself standing at the stove.
I had plenty of excuses—in times of trouble, I tend to fill my house with friends, and they of course need to be fed. I roasted meat, made pasta sauces, experimented with complicated duck recipes. I filled up the freezer with soup. And almost every day I baked the same cake, making it so often that I began to keep two sticks of butter softening on the counter at all times. By now, I can throw it into a preheated (350-degree) oven in under five minutes.
This particular coffee cake, from Marion Cunningham’s The Breakfast Book, is the most rewarding recipe I know. You start by creaming 2 sticks of butter in a standing mixer with 1 cup of sugar. Then you add 3 eggs, one by one. In a separate bowl, mix 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add this to the butter mixture. Stir in 1 cup of sour cream and 5 teaspoons of vanilla. Spoon the thick batter into a nonstick 10-inch bundt pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Before long, a rich, warm aroma will be wafting through the house like a promise that things will soon be fine.
It’s a cake that lifts your spirits. Our houseful of people devoured it for breakfast, ate it for snacks, topped it with fruit and ice cream for dessert. But I can’t fool myself—in a terrible time the kitchen was my refuge and my solace, and I would have found reasons to bake even if I’d been alone…
At least an hour before you start the cake, take 2 sticks of butter and 3 eggs out of the refrigerator so they can get to room temperature. (Or you can put each stick of butter in the microwave for 10 seconds and just use cold eggs.)
Heat oven to 350°F.
2 sticks of room-temperature butter (8 ounces)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, preferably room temperature
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
5 teaspoons vanilla
Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer. Add eggs, one by one, mixing after each addition.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in another bowl. Mix well. Add to butter-sugar-egg mixture. Stir in sour cream and vanilla. Mix.
Pour into buttered 10-inch bundt pan. Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool in pan 5-10 minutes and then invert onto a rack to finish cooling, or to start eating.
Note: from Cathy Barrow, how to ensure that your bundt pan releases the cake: Combine 1 tablespoon of vegetable shortening and 1 tablespoon of flour in a small bowl. Use your fingers or a paper towel to generously coat the inside of the bundt pan with the paste, systematically working it into each crevice. Aim to evenly cover all the surfaces, including the center tube and the uppermost edges, because the baked cake will fill the entire pan. Toss any excess paste.