Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake: Fragrant with Apples and Reminiscent of Home

Apple Sour Cream CakeI am obsessed with my mom’s apple pie. It is by far my favorite dish that she makes. I have never learned to make it, although I do have the recipe and aside from improving my pie crust I think I could make it (her pie is the exception to my rule that I don’t much care for pies and therefore have only made pie crust once). I haven’t learned because when you have a favorite recipe that your mom makes, your mom likes it when you beg her for it.She likes it when she makes it and you swoon with every bite. And it is Mom’s Apple Pie, you know? Not just any old recipe but rather one that is almost better because is making it. So, so far I have not made it.

Her apple pie is somewhat unique in that it has a sour cream filling and a crumble streusel top. I have seen each of those separately, but never done together outside of her kitchen. I prefer it made with pecans although sometimes she uses walnuts. To me—and I realize this is probably unfair—other apple pies are sickly sweet, mushy and bland by comparison. I could eat her pie for breakfast and after lunch and dinner and as a bedtime snack. She usually makes 2 large, deep-dish pies at once, and I would say they last about 2 days max at our house.

So imagine my pleasant surprise when I bit into Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Apples and discovered it tasted like the cake version of my mom’s pie.Now Mom, if you are reading this, don’t freak out, I still like your pie better.But this cake was really really good.Most coffee cakes I have had are dry and not sweet enough—I usually end up wanting to eat the topping and ignore the bottoms of the cakes.Especially since I don’t drink coffee anyway so that dry texture does nothing for me.This cake however had a streusel filling as well as a streusel topping and a layer of tart apples inside of a buttery sour cream batter.It was delicious and reminded both John and myself of the flavors in Mom’s apple pie.

Earlier this fall I discovered Half Price Books—it is a Midwest chain of used bookstores that carries both used and overstocks. And ever since I started shopping there I have been buying too many cookbooks. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Christmas cookie cookbook, Bread Bible and Cake Bible have been at the top of my list of used books to hunt for. So I was excited this past week at my parents’ house when I finally found The Cake Bible. This is the first recipe I have made from it, and it did not disappoint. I love that she gives volume measurements as well as ounces AND grams for each ingredient. Talk about precise! You guys will probably be hearing more recipes from this book as time goes by…

This recipe had an unusual—at least to me—method for making the cake. The butter and part of the sour cream are mixed into the dry ingredients, and then the wet ingredients are added. I was a little worried about my cake being tough since the batter with the flour added was mixed more than I usually would have done, but it turned out great. So trust Rosy!

Apple Sour Cream Cake 2Sour Cream Cake with Apple

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 (I used as many slices as would fit in one layer and let Alex eat the rest)

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 I just folded foil over about 4-5 times and wrapped it around the pan, insulating it. Although I think the Magi-Cake Strips may work even better, this solution seemed to work ok as my cake browned but not excessively.

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 ¼ of the sour cream. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl (or your mixer) combine the dry ingredients (I included the sugar here) 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 a spatula—this is a thick cake batter and will require smoothing. Sprinkle with the prepared streusel filling and then layer the apple slices over that. Dollop the rest of the batter into blobs over the apples 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 (50 in my oven) to prevent overbrowning. The cake should start to shrink back from the sides of the pan only after removing from the oven so that is not a sign that it is done.

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

We did not have any vanilla ice cream but we all agreed it would be excellent with this cake.



  1. Anonymous says

    Now I want to eat that cake. I am Laura’s mother, and I am not insulted that Rose’s cake tastes like the best part of my pie. I am delighted. I don’t want to make it. So Laura, when I come to visit, I hope you will make me this cake!

  2. Treehouse Chef says

    This looks so delicious! I have never made coffee cake. This looks like a super delux version. Can’t wait to try it.

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