Barbara’s Sour Cream Apple Cake

Welcome to a very special edition of Needs Baked. This is a special recipe, and you’ll soon see why. It’s not just that it’s delicious. It’s also an heirloom family recipe.

For Rosh Hashanah, we normally go to my wife’s dear friend’s family’s home to celebrate. My wife wasn’t feeling well that day, so we stayed home. I didn’t want us to miss out completely on the holiday, so I decided to make a dessert to bring some of the holiday to us. So I went looking through cookbooks.

We have a lot of cookbooks. Before my wife and I moved in together, I had a few, plus I keep getting them as presents from people. (Somehow they got the idea that I like to make food. ;)). My wife had also had some, and she got a lot more recently when her parents were getting rid of a lot of theirs. So I went on a search through all our cookbooks, knowing that we must have something in there. I knew that my wife’s books in particular had a lot of holiday specific recipes in them, so I had a particular focus on those.

As I was looking through them, my wife remembered her mom’s world-famous sour cream apple cake. Okay, maybe world-famous is stretching it a little bit. But it was definitely famous in her world. It sounded like a great recipe to use, so we tried to find it.


As the search continued, I found this amazing Calico book. As my wife explained to me, it was this book that her mom used when she taught herself how to cook. She gave a copy to my wife when my wife was on her way to law school and was going to need to know how to cook. It’s an old school cookbook with lots of great recipes. We thought the cake recipe might be in there. It wasn’t. But also, it was.

Let me explain. We didn’t know where the recipe was. We had already looked around through a bunch of books by this point, but we hadn’t found it. We had basically given up. But while looking through the Calico book, I found in the front of the book a lovely inscription from my mother-in-law to my wife telling her about the book and how important it was to her. In the back of the book were a couple of blank pages, pages her mother used to write in some other recipes. And lo and behold, one of the recipes was the one we were looking for!


Eureka! We had found it! In the book it’s called sour cream coffee cake. At the very bottom it says you can add chocolate chips or Comstock apple slices. Additionally, it says to cook it in a springform pan, but that it can also be baked in a loaf pan. According to my wife, her mom made all those different variations, with the different ingredients, in different pans, even mini bundt pans. She made it for Rosh Hashanah and all year round.


With recipe in hand, I had to get some ingredients. I went looking for Comstock apple slices, but I couldn’t find them. With my wife’s guidance, we decided on apple rings (dried apples).


The batter.

The recipe was very easy. Thank you again KitchenAid for helping to make short work of it. It creamed the butter and sugar in almost no time flat, before I even got the sour cream together. I didn’t sift the flour and baking powder, I just mixed them. I quartered the apple rings and mixed them in. I used pecans for the nuts.

The topping.

I baked it in a springform pan, but that almost didn’t happen. Let me run you through the process. First, I thought we didn’t have a springform pan, and I thought I would have to make it in a loaf pan. Then I worried that our loaf pan was woefully small. And finally, I remembered we actually had a springform pan, even though we had never used it. We had gotten one with a gift certificate from our wedding to a lovely local kitchen store (where we had registered).

The first layer.

The first layer.

So besides it being the first time making one of my mother-in-law’s recipes, it was the first time using a springform pan. I sprayed it with cooking spray, and threw some flour on as suggested. Following the instructions, I poured in half the batter, then layered half the topping (nuts, cinnamon, sugar). Wash, rinse, repeat.

The second layer. Ready to bake.

The second layer. Ready to bake.

I baked it for the minimum 45 minutes. It smelled wonderful while baking. After 45 minutes it was done. While testing, the toothpick almost got lost. The cake was too big and it couldn’t reach all the way down. I used a knife instead. Done, done, and done. I let it cool a bit before removing the sides of the pan. I cut slices with a spatula, as the pan is non-stick. It was very easy to cut because the cake was so moist.

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

The cake had risen a lot, which makes sense. There was lots of leavening in it, both baking powder and baking soda. There wasn’t a huge amount of batter before baking, but by the end it was almost bursting out of the pan. The top looked great. It was all sugary and crunchy. It had an unusual look because it was breaking open (due to how the topping had baked).

Look at how the topping had baked. Fun!

Look at how the topping had baked. Fun!

The rest of it looked great too. It had a lovely brown outside and a light inside. It was fluffy and moist. (It’s so fluffy!) Not too sweet. The apple bits were chewy, which was a different texture than the rest. It might have been better to just go with fresh apples, or even fresh apples that had been cooked a bit to soften them up. (The canned apples it called for were soft.) The top was good and crunchy. I also liked having the topping in the middle a bit. It broke up the cake a bit. Although either the topping sank a bit, or kept the dough under it from rising a bit because it was near the bottom. (Yes, I realize that’s a lot of bits, but I don’t regret them one bit.)

"I'm free!" says the cake.

“I’m free!” says the cake.

It was really yummy. “It tastes like home,” my wife said. We immediately thought of all the other versions we could make with it, but it was pretty amazing as it was.


We wondered where the recipe came from originally. Was it another cookbook? Did she make it up? The cookbook itself had a similar recipe in it, but it wasn’t the same. (The recipe was hand written in the page next to the last page of the index which coincidentally had the sour cream cake recipe from the book, which is how I thought to check.) So it definitely came from somewhere else. Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t, but we have the recipe now.

Extreme slice close-up!

Extreme slice close-up!

We ate it over the next few days, keeping it wrapped in plastic in the fridge. It kept being moist and delicious all week. It was a very big cake, and it was just the two of us. So when I say “all week”, I mean “all week”. 🙂


I asked my wife if it was okay to publish her mom’s recipe with this post. I said, I know it’s a secret family recipe, so I wanted to respect her wishes. She said it’s my family too, and that it was okay. (See below for the recipe.) I’m glad she said so, because this recipe is delicious and deserves to be shared. Thank you Barbara for bringing this delicious cake into the world. And more importantly, thank you for bringing your wonderful daughter into the world.


So there you have it. The story of Barbara’s cake in all its glory. Use it in good health. If you do, I’d love to hear about it. And as long as we’re sharing secret family recipes: I’m curious, do you have any that you’re willing to share? Are there recipes that you want your friends or family members to share but they won’t? I can’t wait to hear all about them.

Recipe courtesy of my lovely mother-in-law Barbara.



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