Christmas at our house was wonderful. It was certainly great having family around, although it was sad that not everyone could make it home. I tried to relax and not push myself past the limit of sanity, where I often hang out during the holidays.

It’s amazing how much of a role food plays in a family gathering. Christmas eve when my parents arrived we had an assortment of cheeses with crackers (some of my Seedy Crackers) for an afternoon snack. Dinner was a delicious spinach salad with home-made manicotti. At my house it pretty much goes without saying that everything is home-made. I don’t mean to be snobbish about it, but I’m not very keen on prepared food. (The big exception to this rule would be President’s Choice frozen puff pastry, since it’s made with butter and is fabulous.) The manicotti recipe is from McCall’s Cooking School, a recipe I first make about 35 years ago (but who’s counting?). I decided to bake a coffee cake for Christmas morning. It was a Browned Butter, Ginger and Sour Cream Coffee Cake that I found on Epicurious. You’ve got to love a recipe that starts with over a pound of butter being heated till it browns. OMG

Brunch consisted of Potato, Sausage and Spinach Breakfast Casserole and a big fruit salad. Lattes and cappuccinos all round as well. This was the first time I tried this recipe and I would rate it an unqualified success. As soon as brunch was over, we finished opening gifts and before you know it, it was time to start dinner.

Here’s a link to the manicotti recipe. And here’s the recipe for the coffee cake:

Browned Butter, Ginger and Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Brown Butter:

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (4 1/4 sticks; or more) unsalted butter


1 1/4 cups flour

1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger


unsalted butter for pan

2 cups AP flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tbsp. vanilla

3/4 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped

For brown butter:
Simmer 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned bits form, 6-8 minutes. Pour into a 2-cup measuring cup. If needed, add more butter to measure 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (added butter will melt).

For topping:
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown butter (reserve remaining butter for cake); stir until moist clumps form. Stir in ginger. Set aside.

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°. Butter pan generously. Whisk all-purpose flour and next 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat remaining 1 cup browned butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and thick, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in sour cream, milk, and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture just to blend.

Spoon half of cake batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Scatter 1 cup of topping over. Spoon remaining batter in dollops over; smooth. Add almonds to remaining topping; squeeze to form 1/2″ clumps and scatter evenly over batter in pan.

Bake until a tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of pan to release cake. Remove pan sides; let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Here’s a photo of the last bit of cake:

coffee cake

What do you think?

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