Betty Pretzer’s Apple Coffee Cake with Sour Cream


Betty Pretzer's AppleCoffee Cake with Sour Cream

The season of apples and cinnamon

Braeburn Apples

“The long Salinas Valley was part of the exploitation. Adam had seen and studied a fine color broadside which set forth the valley as that region which heaven unsuccessfully imitated. After reading the literature, anyone who did not want to settle in the Salinas Valley was crazy.”

East of Eden, John Steinbeck


Way back when (I am not divulging any dates) I worked for woman who loved to bake. She was single and new to the area so all her baking adventures were shared at the office. She was fiercely independent, having taken this new job, with a new company, in a new community. One of my favorite bosses had just been promoted and she took his place. And she arrived, a feminist in a male dominated workplace. We worked at a factory and I had been able to move from the warehouse to the accounting office. It was a lateral transfer but I no longer had to wear a hardhat or alternate working day and swing shift. We got off to a rocky start. She wanted me to take accounting classes, I resisted, she insisted. In the end she won and I took the classes.

Braeburn Apples

We became friends and in many ways she was my mentor. When I finished my regular work assignments she encouraged me to do my accounting homework at the office. She took time to explain the concepts I struggled to understand. She badgered me to complete my college education, telling me I was smart enough and deserved the benefits a degree could offer. She got me to swim laps with her at lunch, I began to enjoy exercising. Her delight in baking for pleasure captured my imagination. During those years women were fighting to stay out of the kitchen. She stayed true to the things that excited her and drove her passion for living. Over the years I’ve lost touch with her but I’ve saved the recipes she shared with me. If my memory of the origin of the recipe is accurate, Betty was a friend of her mother. This coffee cake recipe is a family favorite. So much so, that when I asked picky daughter what I should bake with crisp fall apples “the coffee cake with cinnamon and apples” was suggested.


Betty Pretzer's Apple Coffee Cake with Sour Cream

I’ve made this recipe countless times and it never fails to please. I use whatever apples I have and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. Do slice the apple very thinly as it must cook in the same time as the cake. Over time I have changed Betty’s recipe, adding more filling with a touch of nutmeg, lemon zest and a little more sour cream. I take the time to toast the walnuts too. But it’s her recipe and it is wonderful. Betty says the coffee cake freezes well. But without any leftovers, I’ve never had the opportunity to try her recommendation. The original recipe is made in an angel food cake pan which I used for this post. I usually use a 8”x8” square baking pan. Either way, the recipe will yield a terrific coffee cake. Both have a river of fall spices and walnuts that meander through the soft, fluffy coffee cake studded with apples. A bonus is the aroma of spice and apple that will fill the kitchen as the coffee cake bakes, sublime.

I’m updating this post on February 2, 2016 to share a little more about this story. This post was first published in October 2015 and before the end of the year my friend and mentor had contacted me! It had been decades since we last connected. The funny thing is that the post had nothing to do with reconnecting. Nowhere in the post do I mention Andrea’s name. I’m convinced it was fate, or were the stars in alignment? And as if the cake needed icing, Andrea doesn’t remember this coffee cake recipe, she thought I was using her mom’s recipe.

3/4C walnuts
2-1/2t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg
1C sugar
1/4C brown sugar
Coffee Cake
2C all-purpose flour
1t baking powder
1t baking soda
1t salt
1/2C unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2C sugar
2 eggs
1t vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested
1-1/4C sour cream, full fat
1 large apple, thinly sliced
2T powdered sugar, optional
  1. Heat the oven to 350°. Spread the walnuts across the surface of a sheet pan and toast for 8-10 minutes. The walnuts will become fragrant and toasty brown when ready. Remove from the oven, cool and then chop. Leave the oven on at 350°.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the chopped walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and both sugars.
  3. Grease an angel food pan or an 8”x8” square baking dish. If using the 8”x8” square baking dish the pan can be lightly greased and then lined with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper too. After baking the entire coffee cake can be lifted out of the pan by using the parchment paper as handles for ease of cutting and serving.
  4. Into a medium sized bowl, sift or shake though a sieve the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter and sugar together until the butter is pale yellow in color, 3-5 minutes. Stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure the butter and sugar are throughly combined. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix in completely. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl after mixing in each egg. Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest. Add the sour cream and mix just until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and fold in the flour mixture. Do not over mix. Spread half the batter evenly across the bottom of the baking pan. Cover the batter with half of the filling and then the thinly sliced apple. Spread the remaining batter evenly on top of the apples. Spread the remaining filling on top of the batter.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes. The coffee cake with have pulled away from the edges of the baking pan and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake will come out cleanly when the cake is finished baking. Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. If using the angel food pan loosen the sides and remove only the outer ring from the cake. Leave the center tube—bottom of the pan in place until the cake has cooled completely. When cool, place the coffee cake on a serving platter and remove the center ring. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

washi tape cake flags

Betty Pretzer's Apple Coffee Cake with Sour Cream

Betty Pretzer's Apple Coffee Cake with Sour Cream

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27 Responses to Betty Pretzer’s Apple Coffee Cake with Sour Cream

  1. We all need mentors and friends like Betty throughout our lives. They help us in so many ways . I remember the ones I had. I can see why your daughter likes that apple cake, it looks delicious .

  2. cristina says:

    Your friend Betty sounds like a lovely person – one that was a positive role model and her zest and love for life and giving. I’m pinning this cake and just may have to make this highly recommended, deliciousness for the holidays. 😉 Thanks for sharing and beautiful images!

  3. valentina says:

    Deb, I hope your friend/mentor/boss is out there reading this! Looks delicious!

  4. Yes, it’s the season of apple, cinnamon and many delicious baked goodies made out of them. This coffee cake looks fun yet comforting and super delicious, Deb! I’d keep this recipe to try soon.

  5. Carol Sacks says:

    Yes, please! Lovely cake and I enjoyed hearing about your mentor, too!

  6. This must be such a nice moist cake, perfect to go with a cup of tea.

  7. Deb, we just never know when, where, or with whom we may be making an impression. We are lucky when just the right person comes along at just the right time in our lives. And this cake! It has left an impression on me. So much so that it is at the top of my list to bake. This is my kind of cake. It is perfect for breakfast, with coffee, as a snack, really I wouldn’t need an excuse to have a slice any time of the day.

    • Deb says:

      Mary you are so right about about this coffee cake being for anytime of day, I imagine that’s way leftovers disappear. Thank you for your wonderful comment, much appreciated!

  8. What lovely inspiration. This cake has fall baked right into it and your little flags are super adorable!

  9. Dear Deb, What a gorgeous cake! Loved learning about Betty. I’ve had many wonderful Bettys in my life through the years….one who was even NAMED Betty. And a reminder to BE a Betty to others. Thanks for sharing her great recipe today!

  10. Such a lovely cake for apple season, that filling looks positively irresistible. I have to bake this! 🙂

  11. mjskit says:

    What a wonderful mentor and what a way to honor her! When I saw that first picture it reminded me instantly of my mother’s apple coffee cake. Reading that this is an old family recipe, I now can see why. I know that this taste as good as it looks. Now you’ve inspired me Deb! Thanks!

  12. Lynda says:

    This recipe is certainly a keeper. I will channel a New England fall when I bake it.

  13. That filling in the middle looks so good! What a perfect treat for fall. I’d love to wake up to the aroma of this in the oven.

  14. Pingback: The Ginger Snap Obsession | East of Eden Cooking

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