Susan’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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Susan’s name is scribbled at the top of this family legend. She is married to my older brother, and they live on the same farm in Indiana where I grew up.

Susan is a skilled cook, gardener, and farmer’s wife, but the cooking part hasn’t always been so. Back in the sixties, she married my brother a week before he was shipped off to Vietnam. She found a job teaching music at my little country school (only a couple steps up from a one-room schoolhouse), so my parents invited her to live with us for a year until my brother returned home. Can you imagine living with your in-law’s and their pre-teen daughters, in your first year of marriage, without your husband?

Back to my story. I remember the day Susan decided to make some yeast rolls. I was no expert, but since I had made these rolls for the 4-H fair one year, I was familiar with the process. After she formed the rolls into butterhorn shapes, as dictated by family tradition, she set them aside to rise. It wasn’t long before she asked me if they were ready to bake. The house was probably on the cool side temperature-wise, and they weren’t growing very fast. I told her I didn’t think so, but she said, “Too bad. I can’t wait.” The result was some rather small and not-so-light dinner rolls. We all laughed about it, she the most, and tried to eat the rolls before they got cold since even bad homemade bread is pretty good when it’s still warm. She has since perfected her skills, and now I can’t wait to eat at her dinner table any chance I get.

When my Alabama sister was here a couple weeks ago, she reminded me of Susan’s coffee cake since she makes it quite often. Besides being perfectly moist, it gets even better the second day, which means you can make it the day before if it’s more convenient. I love vanilla and cinnamon, so my recipe calls for double the amount used in Susan’s version.

In keeping with my philosophy to make desserts in small sizes, I usually halve this recipe, use a foil-lined 8 x 8-inch square baking pan, and reduce oven time to 25 minutes.  No leftovers = no needless temptation. Because, believe me, those layers of cinnamony goodness will call your name and nag you endlessly if left to idle in your kitchen.

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Susan's Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Recipe type: Dessert, Breakfast
Serves: 12
A simple coffee cake that's even better the next day.
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  1. Beat room-temperature butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs and continue to beat another minute or two.
  2. Sift or stir flour, soda, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.
  3. Whisk sour cream, vanilla, and milk together in another small bowl.
  4. Alternate adding dry ingredients and sour cream mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix just until combined. Don't overdo it.
  5. Pour half of the batter into a 9 x 13-inch pan. Sprinkle with half of the streusel. Repeat with other half of batter and streusel which means you will end up with streusel over the top.
  6. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  1. Combine all ingredients and follow instructions above.
Sprinkling the top with powdered sugar is optional. That's how I do it.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Barb March 3, 2015 at 8:18 pm

Made this yesterday for a ladies’ meeting this morning. It was wonderful. I got fabulous comments. Great to be able to make it the day before. Wondered if I should grease the pan, but Paula, your recipes are always specific, and delicious, so I followed it exactly. No surprise, it was perfect. Even my husband, who is not a cake eater, loved it because it was so moist. Thanks for this and all the other wonderful recipes and tips!


Eve October 5, 2014 at 1:43 am

I made this coffeecake and sadly, the streusel topping drifted away like sand with nothing to hold it together. I looked at other streusel recipes and I think there should have been butter in the streusel topping.


Susie September 2, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Looks yummy! I never knew that about Susan!


Paula September 1, 2014 at 6:42 am

So nice that this recipe can be easily halved! Cute story and a delicious looking dessert.


Betty August 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I love streusel cakes like these right out of the oven with a steaming cup of coffee. This one, with its lovely layer in the middle, looks like it would be right at home in my kitchen, calling my name and nagging me! I think it would also be right at home at work where it could call to my colleagues as they passed by the teacher’s lounge on the first day of school. 🙂


Lisa August 24, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Ooohhh, looks so good! Do you suppose I could swap out homemade yogurt for the sour cream? I have noticed with different types of milk, making the yogurt, they all have their different consistencies and I was worried it wouldn’t provide enough moisture? Thank you for sharing!! You’re my go to site and happy to have a new recipe.


Paula August 25, 2014 at 9:08 am

Hi Lisa,
I haven’t tried it but I plan to. I’ll leave a note on the recipe when I do.


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