In Search of the Perfect Sour Cream Coffee Cake

My daughter and I both love The Corner Bakery Cinnamon Crème Cake, one of their best sellers.  The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but people have posted attempts on the net to try to duplicate it, without success I might add.  I have found one recipe that I like as much as the Corner Bakery cake, and one that I haven’t tried (but I am told by a friend is very close to the Cinnamon Crème Cake).  I have tried the Askenazic Sour Cream Cake from Gil Mark’s World of Jewish Desserts and although it is OK, it is not nearly as good as what I am trying to clone.  The one that I like as my clone (if not better than the original) is a modification of a recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties!, and I will present it below in its original form, and explain the modifications.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Ina Garten ©2001


12 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 1/2 sticks at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Streusel
1/4 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
For the Glaze
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

My modifications:  Forget the glaze, it is completely unnecessary.  What is far more important is the cake needs much more streusel for the swirl inside the cake.  Therefore, I double the amount of the streusel ingredients and use at least 1½ cups of the streusel in the swirl.  The use of the cake flour for the cake itself is important to get the light consistency for the cake crumb.

As an alternate, I need to try Sara Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from The Cake Bible ©1988:

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Cake (with Apple or Peach Option)

Source: The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum

Ingredients (all of which should be a room temp)


1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (2.5 oz/72 g)

2 T granulated sugar (1 oz/26 grams)

1 cup walnuts or pecans (I used pecans) (4 oz/113 g)

1 ½ t cinnamon

½ cup (dip and sweep) unsifted cake flour (2 ¼ oz/65 g)

4 T softened unsalted butter (1/2 stick/2 oz/57 g)

½ t vanilla


4 large egg yolks

2/3 cup sour cream (5.5 oz/160 g)

1 ½ t vanilla

2 cups sifted cake flour (7 oz/200 g)

1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz/200 g)

½ t baking powder

½ t baking soda

¼ t salt

12 T unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks/6 oz/170 g)

1 granny smith or tart baking apple, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch thick wedges, sprinkled with 2 t of lemon juice (or 1 heaping cup of frozen peached, thawed, dried and sliced ¼ inch thick while still partially frozen).

Prepare a 9 inch springform pan by greasing it, lining the bottom with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit, and then greasing and flouring the over that. Beranbaum suggests something called Magi-Cake Strips to insulate the sides as this cake browns a lot due to the yolk content and a long baking time. Instead just fold heavy aluminum foil around the pan in a 3 inch strip that is 3 folds thick to insulating it. This will prevent the outside of the cake from cooking faster than the center.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Streusel Topping and Filling:

In a food processor with the fitted blade, pulse the sugars, nuts and cinnamon until the nuts are coarsely chopped. Remove ¾ cup to use as filling. To the remained add the cake flour, butter and vanilla and pulse briefly to form a coarse, crumbly mixture for the topping.


In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, vanilla and about ¼ of the sour cream. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the butter and remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients have been moistened and then increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 ½ minutes to aerate and develop the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides as needed. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition and scraping the sides each time. Remove from the mixer and use a spatula to fold the batter a few times, making sure that the very bottom and the sides all incorporate evenly.

Reserve about 1/3 of the batter and scrape the rest into the prepared pan. Smooth the surface with an angled spatula.  Sprinkle with the prepared streusel filling (if using the apple or peach slices, then layer theapple slices over that). Dollop the rest of the batter into blobs over the apples or peach slices and smooth it out with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the cake.

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cover loosely with buttered foil after 45 minutes to prevent overbrowning. The cake should start to shrink back from the sides of the pan only after removal from the oven.

Let the cake cool in its pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides with a small paring knife and remove the sides of the springform pan. Cool completely before wrapping airtight. Serve at room temperature.

Vanilla ice cream would be excellent with this cake.  Photos and some comments from “Laura” from her 2008 post on

This cake can be wrapped airtight and stored for 2 days at room temperature, 5 days in the refrigerator, or 2 months frozen.

Now if anyone knows the real Corner Bakery Cinnamon Crème Cake recipe, please let me know.


About trustforce

A well trained amateur chef, I have learned by taking some master classes and doing a lot of reading and experimentation. I cook and enjoy many different cuisines. The fun is getting it right, with great taste and presentation. The smells and appearance add to the pleasure of eating well. I can enjoy a great Chicago style hot dog or an Italian beef sandwich, or have equal pleasure from haut cuisine. All my recipe postings are extensively tested by me unless I state otherwise. I will sometimes post a recipe that sounds like it should be good before I actually make it myself, but I will always come back and revise the "untested" recipe after I've made it, with valid comments to keep old posts accurate and current. If I am not the originator of a recipe I will always correctly attribute the source author, even if I have modified the recipe. I will occasionally post reviews of local restaurants on the site. The big problem that I have with eating out is that I know too much about restaurants and I find it hard to ignore or forgive sloppy technique or bad ingredients. I pull no punches in my restaurant reviews!
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