I hope that good intentions are worth something because my initial plan to bring a warm coffee cake to a new neighbor really was a good idea.

It went a little something like this…  A month or so ago, my visiting mom picked up some new neighbors in front of our house.  The neighbor lady and her mother were out for a walk and were equally as open to communicate with friendly strangers as my mother always is. Within the first five minutes, we knew that they had just moved back into the city from the suburbs with their three kids and that our parents were both from Michigan. (Hailing from Michigan is common for Chicagoans. Discovery of this common geographic origin often results in a showing of “the hand” and occasionally the name game to find connections.)

I was reminded that when I moved into the neighborhood, I was welcomed with a warm apple, rhubarb cake by my next door neighbor.  It made my week and softened the blow of unpacking all the boxes.  So, I decided to pass along the good will to our neighbor and bake her a coffee cake.

I chose a new recipe from my Grand Central Baking Book.  My plan was to split the recipe usually intended for a 9 x 13 pan into two smaller square pans so I could keep one at home and bring one to her.  But, the day I started baking I discovered that my ingredients were short and I was forced to halve the recipe.  The list of ingredients, fresh blueberries and soft, thick crumble atop the cake seemed to promise a sure thing.  But, as the cake was cooling and the aroma filled the house, I gained a sliver of doubt.

What if is was dry?  What if it isn’t a very good recipe?  I would hate to welcome the new neighbors with a subpar performance.  I better sample… just a nibble.  Oh wait, I can’t bring over a cake with a piece cut out.  I might as well just eat a small square.  Wow.  This is good cake.  I bet it would taste even more perfect alongside a cup of hot coffee. [brew coffee]  Why yes… yes it does taste unbelievable.  This must be the best sour cream coffee cake recipe I have ever made.

Not a morsel of that cake made it past my threshold.  In my head it felt wrong but for my taste buds and tummy it felt oh so right.  She will never miss what she didn’t know she was getting? *Sigh*

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
from The Grand Central Bakery

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (7 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of slat
3/4 cup rolled oats

Coffee Cake
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sour cream

2 cups diced fresh fruit, berries or rhubarb

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Make the streusel: Dice the butter into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes, then combine it with the granulated and brown sugars, flour and salt. Use two knives, a pastry blender, or your fingers to mix the ingredients until crumbly, then mix in the oats. If you’re making the streusel ahead of time, cover and store in fridge until ready to proceed.

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl with high sides. Make a well in the center. In another bowl, lightly whisk the eggs, butter and vanilla together. Pour the mixture into the well, then add the sour cream by evenly distributing large spoonfuls around the edges of the dry ingredients. Gently mix the batter using a large spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Use big, slow, circular strokes that scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with each motion. Don’t worry if the batter appears slightly lumpy, or if there are streaks of sour cream. The delicate texture of this batter is achieved through minimal mixing. (Some small patches of flour may still be visible, that is okay. It will be absorbed during the baking process.)

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Distribute the fruit in an even layer over the batter, then sprinkle evenly with the streusel. Bake for 45 minutes rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The streusel should be crunchy and brown and a skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Serve straight from the oven with plenty of fresh, piping hot coffee.