A mother-in-law’s help in the ways of love and good food

Try this sour cream coffee cake, sure to make a great start to any Mother’s Day celebration. - Lisa Katsman/Contributed Photo
Try this sour cream coffee cake, sure to make a great start to any Mother’s Day celebration.
— image credit: Lisa Katsman/Contributed Photo

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, my mind is racing with what should I write about. Of course, we mothers already know that we are loved, cherished, undervalued and over-worked. Even if we are “only” stay-at-home moms. The true question lies: What happens to us when our mothers are no longer with us? How is Mother’s Day celebrated? I have yet to be faced with this question. Having stated this, I am faced with the recent loss of my mother-in-law, Sheila, who I simply adored. Sheila Katsman taught me the ways and means of the Pacific Northwest and its survival techniques. She had many conversations with me about the right ways and wrong ways of the Northwest. Most were pretty funny. But I listened anyway.

So this year at Mother’s Day, I will not be thinking of myself as a mother, or my mother and my grandmother. I will be thinking of my husband and his father, and how they will be coping on Mother’s Day. Sheila passed away seven months ago in my husband Ralph’s arms. The most commonly asked question is: “Was she ill?” The answer is, “No.”

While thinking about this article, I was thinking about the hundreds of conversations that I had with Sheila over the last 20 years. One of my earliest phone conversations was when Ralph and I first started dating. Ralph was very busy and much stressed with his fourth year of medical training in the field of GI. I wanted to win his heart through his stomach. (This technique always worked in my family, so I thought it worked in everyone else’s, too.) I snuck in Ralph’s phone directory and looked for his home phone number on Mercer Island. His mother answered, with a little giggle. She stated the way to Ralph’s heart is not through his stomach, but through his mind. At the end of the brief conversation, Sheila once again gave a little chuckle and stated, “Good luck.”

I enclose to you the first recipe of a sour cream coffee cake that Sheila mailed to me to win Ralph’s heart. If Sheila were here today, she would give a chuckle to herself while reading this and then laugh, all while drinking a hot cup of properly made English tea.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, stepmothers and mother figures.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Kinnereth Cookbook – Hadassah – Wizo Toronto

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sour cream

½ cup butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking flour

½ teaspoon salt


¼ cup chopped nuts

½ cup granulated or brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch springform pan. Add soda to sour cream and let stand. Cream butter and add sugar gradually, beating until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Fold sifted dry ingredients into butter mixture alternately with sour cream-soda mixture. Pour ½ of batter into greased springform pan. Sprinkle with topping. Add rest of batter and sprinkle with the rest of topping. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake tests done. Freezes well. For a nice variation, ¼ cup each of chocolate chips and coconut can be added to this mixture.


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