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  • Sour cream coffee cake

    A set of seven recipe cards is among Ms Noriana Proft's most prized possessions.

     

    They are from her 91-year-old grandmother, an avid baker who had typed the recipes for pies, cakes and savoury food on index cards. She has more than 100 cards and stores them in a wooden box.

     

    She would give some of these cards to her children and grandchildren when they visited her in the United States.

     

    Ms Proft, who has an American father and Singaporean mother, has seven of these cards, for recipes such as Quiche Lorraine, cheesecake and chocolate angel pie.

     

    The most wrinkled and well-used one is for sour cream coffee cake and it is more than 30 years old. Besides listing the ingredients and method concisely, her grandmother added tips such as "it is best to stir the cake batter with a wooden spoon", which Ms Proft adheres to.

     

    She says: "It is nice to have these little pieces of family history to remind me of my grandmother, who lives far away."

     

    The 24-year-old Singapore permanent resident started baking five years ago, after eating mediocre-tasting and sometimes dry cakes in cafes. Besides learning how to bake lemon pound cake and red velvet cake from recipes by American celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Ina Garten online, she added her family's heirloom sour cream coffee cake to her repertoire.

     

    Contrary to its name, the fluffy, sugared, walnut-studded cake does not contain coffee. Instead, it is meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea.

     

    Ms Proft learnt the recipe from her father, a 57-year-old programme manager with United Parcel Service.

     

    A firm family favourite, the cake is eaten at breakfast and teatime and is a potluck favourite at Christmas and for housewarming parties.

     

    She says: "My dad and I grew up eating this cake. Every time he makes it, the home smells amazing."

     

    Besides baking, Ms Proft is the designated cook during gatherings with friends. She whips up dishes such as baked salmon with mustard and dill, meatball spaghetti and roast chicken slathered with olive oil, a recipe she picked up from her 50-year-old mother, a housewife.

     

    Helping her mother in the kitchen sparked her interest in cooking and she finds it therapeutic to watch videos of recipes on YouTube channels such as Food Wishes and Bryon Talbott as well as shows by US celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

     

    Ms Proft, who works in the communications industry, relishes cooking breakfast on weekends with her younger brother, 21, who is serving national service.

     

    The duo have been cooking eggs, rosti, mushrooms, pancakes and corned beef hash for the family since she was 16 and him 13.

     

    She says: "We have a system. Whoever wakes up first will start cooking and the aroma will eventually wake the other person to come down and help."

     

    She finds having brunches at home more satisfying than "disappointing and expensive" ones at cafes.

     

    "We can cook a better brunch at home and I can customise what I want on my platewithout having to pay an exorbitant amount of money for eggs, meat and bread," she says.

     

    Ingredients

    For the cake:

    • 500g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 125g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
    • 250g white sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla essence
    • 250ml sour cream

     

    For the topping:

    • 125g walnuts, chopped
    • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
    • 62g brown sugar

     

    Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

     

    2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl.

     

    3. Cream the butter and sugar in a free-standing electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and continue mixing for two to three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

     

    4. With the machine on medium speed, add the flour mixture slowly to the creamed butter and sugar, followed by the vanilla essence and sour cream.

     

    5. Mix the contents on low speed for a minute.

     

    6. Use a spatula to fold the batter thoroughly for 30 seconds, till it achieves a sticky and smooth consistency. Set aside.

     

    7. Place the chopped walnuts, cinnamon and brown sugar into a bowl. Mix well with a spoon and set aside.

     

    8. Grease a 25cm-diameter tube pan with butter.

     

    9. Scoop half of the batter into the tube pan. Use a spatula to spread the batter evenly.

     

    10. Sprinkle half of the walnut mix over the batter.

     

    11. Stick a butter knife into the batter and move it in a wavy motion around the batter. This incorporates the walnut mixture.

     

    12. Scoop the remaining batter into the pan and sprinkle the remaining walnut mix. Repeat step 11.

     

    13. Bake for 40 minutes. To check for doneness, stick a butter knife into the cake. It should come out clean.

     

    14. Leave the cake to cool in the pan for five minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes more before serving.

     

    Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

     

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