Hanukkah Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Happy Hanukkah, everyone!
Being in a full-time yeshiva (Jewish study) program this year means that I am going into Hanukkah with a deeper understanding of the holiday's history and its implications in our current day. Research into holiday food traditions, along with classes I’m taking on the holiday, reveal aspects of the Hanukkah story and miracle that I never knew about.
Judith is a notable female character within the male-dominated story. In the (likely apocryphal) tale, Judith, or Yehudit in the Hebrew, defeats the enemy (an Assyrian army general) by seducing him, feeding him cheese and wine so that he falls asleep, then slaughtering him. Judith’s actions are instrumental for the Jewish army’s success.
The accuracy of the story is still up for debate, and the most tangible remnant of this part of the story is in the dairy desserts we make for the holiday (a nod to Judith’s agency and her use of cheese to defeat the general).
In honor of a vital, but less well-known, woman taking charge, I’ll be teaching you how to make a dairy dessert. Specifically, a warm and delicious coffee cake to share with your friends and family.
This recipe, based on a famous Silver Palate Cookbook recipe, contains multiple forms of dairy (butter, milk, sour cream) and is an ego-boosting crowd pleaser.* For an additional Hanukkah spin on the recipe, I’ve added some jam as a reference to Sufganiyot. Enjoy!
2 sticks butter (1 cup)
2 cups white sugar
2 large eggs
Dash of vanilla
1 cup sour cream (full fat)
2 cups flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
Zest from 1 lemon
¾ cup sugar
½ cup chocolate
Optional: ½ cup pecans
2 tbs jam
1 tbs cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
4 tbs COLD butter (½ stick)
3 tbs flour
2 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Bundt pan or 2 9x5 loaf pan
Preheat your oven to 350° and bring butter and eggs to room temperature. While you wait, blend your chocolate and (optional) pecans until crumb consistency.
Separately, mix together streusel ingredients (brown sugar, flour, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg) and add in butter cut into pea-sized pieces. Mix together with your hands until consistent throughout.
Set aside while you make the cake batter.
Cream together room-temperature butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing for a minute between each. Add in vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sour cream, mix for another 2 minutes.
You can do this using a stand mixer, hand beaters, or just mixing by hand. Creaming the butter and sugar will take a little more effort by hand but this is a tough one to mess up.
Mix together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt) in a separate bowl. Fold the dry ingredients into your wet ingredients––I typically do this by hand. With cakes, muffins, etc, you want to be careful not to overmix, which can cause the cake to become dry and too crumbly. Stop as soon as the batter appears consistent.
Mazel tov, you’ve made all the components! 75% of the battle is done.
Now to assemble.
First, butter and flour cake pans. If you do this, you won’t have any issues taking the cake out of the pan and you can serve the cake stress-free.
Then, put down a layer of about ⅓ of your batter. Using a spatula and gravity, spread it evenly across the pan.
Time to add the first filling layer: a jam of your choosing! But definitely choose strawberry or mixed fruit! Using a 1/4 to ½ cup of jam, place tablespoon sized amounts around the circumference of your cake, then connect evenly around with a spatula.
Sprinkle a tiny amount of your chocolate-sugar-cinnamon-nutmeg mixture over the top, but leave most for the next layer.
Spread another third of the batter over the jam. This will be a little bit tricky because of the stickiness of the jam, but by dolloping small amounts then spreading lightly you won’t have too much movement of the lower layers.
Now it’s your chocolate and (optional) pecan crumb mixture’s time to shine––sprinkle it evenly around the entire cake.
Spread the last of the batter over the top, then cover evenly with streusel layer.
Put cake in the oven for 55-60 minutes, checking every few minutes during the last 15 minutes with a toothpick to see if it comes out of the cake clean.
If your cake is browning too fast (if it’s dark brown at 30 minutes, for example), cover lightly with tin foil and keep baking it for the full time.
And you’re done. Let the cake cool, then either save it for a later event or cut up and eat with your family immediately. I’d recommend either but maybe make two if you’re going to eat it immediately since you will 100% want some later.
* One comment I got when I made this cake was “This is the only thing I want to eat for the rest of my life.”
Chag Sameach, Happy Hanukkah, and I hope you have a warm holiday filled with love, light, and strength.
How to cite this page
Yelsey , Lisa. "Hanukkah Sour Cream Coffee Cake ." 12 December 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 25, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/hanukkah-sour-cream-coffee-cake>.