Monday, December 24, 2012

The Spice of Christmas

“Cinnamon, cinnamon, don’t forget the cinnamon” is a line from a song I sang in 8th grade choir about Fruitcake.  If orange is the smell of Christmas and chocolate is the taste, cinnamon is the spice.  Every Christmas my mother would make a cinnamon coffee cake for us to eat on Christmas morning while we opened presents.  She would make one plain for my sister and I and one with chopped pecans for my father.  The warm smell of cinnamon would fill our home.

My sister and I would get up before dawn on Christmas morning and wake our parents.  We turned on the Christmas tree lights while we waited for them.  We always had the most beautiful Christmas tree.  We took great care to find a perfectly shaped tree from the Christmas tree lot.  My mother would drag our Electrolux vacuum cleaner into the garage and reconfigure the hose so it would blow.  She would attach a bag of flocking and let loose on the tree.  It took several bags  to achieve a tree that looked like it had just been in a fluffy, white, snow storm.  My sister and I weren’t allowed in the garage while she was at work, probably because the stuff was toxic.  Several minutes later my mother would emerge, triumphant with a perfectly flocked tree and bits of white fluff lodged in her bouffant hairdo.  Carefully, my parents would move the tree to our living room where it was adorn with blue lights and red and blue ornaments.  It was magnificent. 

The coffee cake recipe is from my Kindergarten teacher, who is a friend of my parents.  She was my all-time favorite teacher.  I remember learning about taste in her class - sweet, salty, bitter, and sour - this was before umami was added to the list.  We tasted a cookie, a potato chip, a lemon, and a dill pickle.  The lemon and dill pickle made my face cringe.  She always had clever ways of teaching us things.  

The recipe makes two 9-inch coffee cakes.  They aren’t real thick, but they are moist and have a fine, tender crumb.  The cinnamon, sugar and nuts can be mixed together if you are using it on both cakes.  If you prefer to make one plain and the other with nuts keep the nuts separate.  The coffee cake can be make ahead and rewarmed when ready to serve.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

1 cup (8 ounces/226 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 (300 g) cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup (240 g) sour cream
2 cups (280 g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together:
5 tablespoons (75 g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, whatever you like)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Butter and flour, two, 9-inch cake pans, set aside. Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs, sour cream, and vanilla.  Mix well.  Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and add to mixture.  Put a 1/4 of the batter in each pan.  Sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar and nuts if using.  Top with the rest of the batter and sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon sugar and nuts.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

First layer of batter

Add cinnamon, sugar, and nuts

Top with batter and cinnamon, sugar, and nuts

Merry Christmas

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