No coffee required.

by Tamar Fox

Ashkenazic coffee cake, most often made with sour cream, is a dish with a history going back to 17th century Eastern Europe. Recipes for this pastry have changed over time. Though the original Jewish coffee cakes called for coffee as one of the main ingredients, today most such cakes are perfect partners for a hot cop of joe, but are totally caffeine-free.

In contemporary Jewish homes coffee cake is often served for breakfast on Shabbat and holidays, and at the break fast table after Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. When enjoying coffee cake after Shabbat, some families like to sprinkle the fragrant spices used in havdalah on top of the cake. Sweet, and containing nuts, cinnamon, and/or chocolate, a slice of coffee cake is one of the best ways to make a meal special.

This recipe comes from my mother, who liked to make coffee cake for celebratory brunches. The filling can be adapted for the crowd. If you’re hosting some chocolate-lovers, try the chocolate filling. If your family gobbles up raisin challah, try the raisin-nut filling. The simple combination of pecans and walnuts in the nut filling is surprisingly elegant. Any way you go, you’re bound to end up with a table full of smiles and crumbs.



1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz sour cream


Nut Filling

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3 Tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins (optional)


Chocolate Filling

1 cup chocolate chips

1 teaspoon cinnamon



Yield: Serves 10

Prep: 30 mins.

Cook: 1 hr. 15 mins.

Preheat the oven to 325 F.
Combine the filling ingredients of your choice in a bowl and mix with a spoon. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.

Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar, and mix using electric beaters at a slow speed. Add 1 egg and mix. Add half of the remaining dry ingredients and mix. Add the second egg and mix. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and the final egg, and mix thoroughly.
Add the vanilla and sour cream. Pour half of the batter into a well-greased bundt pan, then add half of the filling of your choice (nut, chocolate, raisin-nut, or any other filling you choose). Add the rest of the batter. Top with the remaining filling.

Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until the middle is set. Allow to cool for at least half an hour, and then invert onto a serving platter.

Tamar Fox is an associate editor at She has an MFA in fiction writing from Vanderbilt University, and a BA from the University of Iowa. She has worked as the editor of the religion blog at She spent a summer as a fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, and was a Senior Apprentice Artist for four years at Gallery 37 in Chicago.

The Jewish Light