MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: Sour cream coffee cake, or when Nick yelled at his mother

By Nick Roumel

I rarely bake. But for my birthday, fifteen years ago, I wanted sour cream coffee cake. Like Zingerman's, with walnuts. But I wanted to bake my own, so I did. Then my wife and I went out to dinner.

My mom and dad were watching our infant daughter. The sour cream coffee cake was hot out of the oven, resting on the counter, waiting for me when I got home.

All I could think about on the ride home was that sour cream coffee cake, fresh and still warm. We came in the house and I went to the counter. My heart stopped.

"Where's my sour cream coffee cake?" I asked.

My mother saw my wild eyes and got defensive. "I put it in the refrigerator."

"YOU PUT IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR?" was all I could say. "YOU PUT IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR?!" I repeated, this time with an exclamation point after the question mark. I stared at my mother, quivering.

My poor mother. All this sainted woman did was give birth to me, raise me, and love me unconditionally. One time I came home from Ann Arbor to Pittsburgh to surprise her on Mother's Day. I walked in the back door just as the family was sitting down to breakfast. Just as my brother-in-law was about to take his first bite, my mother snatched his plate. "Here Nick, have some breakfast."

My mother, who taught me my love for cooking. One day she was sick, in bed. My father gathered me and my sisters and said, "I guess we don't eat dinner tonight, kids." He was not joking. My mother heard this, and could not bear it. She dragged herself out of bed and made dinner.

My mother, who put my sour cream coffee cake in the refrigerator! How could she do this to her only son? But, how could I be angry at my own mother? So I just kept repeating the same rhetorical question, incredulously, like a windup doll. "You put it in the refrigerator?" She'd never seen me angry at her before. She laughed nervously.

Finally, I took it out and ate a piece. It was still delicious. "I'm sorry, Mom. I don't know why I got so upset. We sat down and ate together. She smiled. "Happy birthday, Nick. I love you."

Oh, Mom. I love you too.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Batter:

* 1 C. unsalted butter

* 2 C. white sugar

* 2 eggs

* 1 C. sour cream

* 1 teaspoon vanilla

* 2 C. flour

* 1 teaspoon baking powder

* 1/4 teaspoon salt

Streusel:

* 1/2 C. brown sugar

* 2 C. walnuts

* 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions:

* Preheat oven to 350.

* Grease and flour a bundt pan.

* Cream together the butter and white sugar until fluffy.

* Add eggs one at a time, blending well.

* Add sour cream and vanilla and mix.

* Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt).

* Fold dry ingredients with the creamed mixture, mixing until just blended.

* Mix the streusel ingredients together.

* Pour half the batter into the bundt pan.

* Sprinkle 1/2 streusel over batter.

* Top with rest of batter.

* Top with remaining streusel.

* Bake about 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Then refrigerate. No really, it's OK. I won't get angry. I promise.

Miss you, Mom.

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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine in Ann Arbor.

Published: Wed, Apr 4, 2012