Old-fashioned coffee cake with nut crumble
FoodDairy or pareve

Old-fashioned coffee cake with nut crumble

A nice treat for brunch or for Shabbat morning

Old-fashioned coffee cake with nut crumble (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Old-fashioned coffee cake with nut crumble (Photo by Jessica Grann)

I have a treasure trove of recipes handed down from my mom and her sisters — all excellent bakers. I remember this cake fondly as it was often served when special guests came to stay. It’s especially nice for brunch or on Shabbat morning with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

The cake is dense so it holds up to dunking, and the sweetness comes more from the nut crumble than the cake. The crumble mixture melts beautifully into the cake, so you have a spiced ribbon in the center as well as a sugary crust.

You can make this cake pareve with two small changes. You can also substitute pecans if you’re not a fan of walnuts.

I prefer this cake as my mother made it — with good-quality butter. I typically bake with unsalted butter, but since this recipe calls for no added salt, it’s fine to use salted butter if that’s what you have on hand.


For the cake batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
3 large eggs
8 ounces sour cream or pareve alternative

For the nut mixture:
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ cup softened butter or margarine
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
A pinch of salt (only if you used unsalted butter in the batter)

Set the oven to 300 F, and place the wire rack in the center.

Lightly butter or spray a Bundt or tube pan.

Sift together the flour and baking powder.

Cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes on medium speed with an electric mixer.

Add the eggs one at a time until they appear to be mixed in, then add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately. You can do this in three or four batches, just be sure that the flour is mixed in well before adding the sour cream; then make sure that the sour cream is well incorporated before adding more flour.

When nicely combined, turn the mixer off. Don’t overmix.

Old-fashioned coffee cake with nut crumble (Photo by Jessica Grann)
With a spatula, scrape the edges and bottom of the mixing bowl so there are not any lumps of butter in the batter.

To make the nut mixture, mash the softened butter or margarine and sugar together with a fork or a pastry cutter in a small bowl.

Add the spices, salt and vanilla, and mix by hand until combined. Mix in the chopped nuts last.

Take about ¼ of the nut mixture and sprinkle it across the bottom of the pan.

Using a large spoon, gently scoop half the cake batter into the pan, being careful not to drag or smooth it with the spoon as that would disrupt the even distribution of sugar.

Let the batter rest for a minute or tap the pan gently on your countertop a few times to help the batter settle; alternatively, you can take a spatula and gently press the batter so it covers as much of the nut mixture as possible.

Sprinkle half of the remaining nut mixture over the batter, then repeat the same process with the second half of the batter.

Sprinkle the rest of the nut mixture on top and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Metal and glass pans cook things differently, so it may take a full hour depending on the material of your pan.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes.

Remove from pan while it’s still warm so that the sugary part of the cake releases well; if it cools down too much it may stick and crumble. Run a sharp knife around the edges, if needed.

Wearing oven mitts, place a large plate over the cake and flip it upside down and out onto the platter.

Let it cool completely before serving.

This cake keeps beautifully for several days and also freezes well. Enjoy and bless your hands! PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

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