You guys, I found the absolute best coffee cake recipe in the world. This cake was so close to perfect, and it tasted like the fluffiest cloud is a heaven made of desserts. I’m obsessed with it.
Now, you may be wondering, what business does such a light and perfect dessert have accompanying a Stephen King novel? When you think Stephen King, you don’t exactly think light and airy.
I hear you, but Gwendy’s Button Box isn’t your typical Stephen King novel. It’s also so short, it’s more like a novella (also out of character for Mr. King) that features some haunting illustrations by Richard Chizmar.
And toward the end of the book, we find adult Gwendy deciding to enjoy a piece of scrumptious coffee cake when she gets an unexpected visitor.
She decides to have a slice of coffee cake and a glass of milk before going to bed. She gets as far as the living room, and there she stops cold. Sitting on the desk where she has attended to her studies for the last two years, next to a framed picture of Harry Streeter, is a small, neat black hat.Gwendy’s Button Box, pg. 152
Gwendy’s Button Box Summary & Review
When we first meet Gwendy (Gwendolyn Peterson), she’s preparing for her transition to middle school by running the “suicide stairs” in an effort to lose some weight. She’s also hoping to shed the cruel nickname, “Goodyear,” some of her peers have given her.
To her surprise, she’s not alone at the top of the stairs. A man named Mr. Farris bestows a button box upon her, entrusting her as its next keeper. The box is hardly just a box, as it has two levers: one that dispenses a small chocolate animal that is so delicious that after eating just one, your sweet tooth will be satisfied for a whole day, and another that dispenses antique silver dollars worth much more than their face value.
That’s not all. The box also comes with several buttons, one for each continent (except Antarctica), a red one that will give her “whatever she wants,” and a black one that ominously represents “everything.” With these cryptic descriptions, Mr. Farris leaves Gwendy to her newfound responsibility.
With the button box, life gets much better for Gwendy over the next several years. Thanks to the chocolates, she maintains a healthy weight and thanks to the silver dollars, she doesn’t have money problems. However, this being a King book, not everything in Gwendy’s life is sunshine and rainbows. Turns out that the price of keeping the box is hefty, and Gwendy is faced with moral dilemmas on an international scale. To give an example, one such incident leaves her wondering whether the Jonestown incident was her fault.
I actually really, really enjoyed this book. Now, please know that I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan, so even when some critics get tired of his (admittedly) sometimes rambling novels that are maybeeeee 100 pages too long, I eat it up. I just think his voice is so effortlessly casual and easy to read, and I admire that very much.
That being said, I still think this is a worthwhile read despite my bias. It’s refreshing to be able to finish a story in one sitting that still makes you think. Gwendy is a relatable and engaging character, and her life is so weird, you can’t help but get engrossed. If you’re looking for a quick book that’s a little strange, this one’s for you.
There are several classing King themes here, including the idea that sometimes evil exists for the sake of being evil, and sometimes that evil manifests itself as temptation. The story also touches on the connectedness of the international world, and how seemingly small actions can have a huge impact. This book has a sort of fable-like feeling to it, but you can decide its moral for yourself. It’s also the first in a trilogy, so here’s to continuing Gwendy’s story!
Okay, now back to my favorite cake I’ve ever eaten. <3
Sour Cream Coffee Cake Recipe
I got this recipe, once again, from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you like to bake, especially cakes, it’s required reading. You won’t regret it.
I mean….LOOK at that batter. A perfect, sweet little cloud!
I followed this recipe exactly, so for best results, you should do the same! I choose to add the Granny Smith apple slices, and it was perfect.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
- One 9-inch springform pan, greased, bottom lined with parchment paper, and then greased and floured.
- food processor
- stand or hand mixer
Streusel Topping and Filling
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar firmly packed
- 2 tbsps granulated white sugar
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans
- 1½ tsps cinnamon
- ½ cup unsifted cake flour
- 4 tbsps unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- ½ tsp vanilla
- 4 large egg yolks
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 1½ tsps vanilla
- 2 cups sifted cake flour
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 12 tbsps unsalted butter
- 1 Granny Smith apple peeled, cored, sliced ¼in. thick; sprinkled with 2 tsps lemon juice
- 1 heaping cup frozen peaches thawed and sliced ¼in. thick
For Streusel Topping & Filling
- Pulse sugars, nuts, and cinnamon until the nuts are coarsely chopped in a food processor.
- Remove ¾ cup of the mixture for filling. Add the flour, butter, and vanilla to the remainder, and pulse briefly to make the topping.
For the Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Combine the yolks, about ¼ of the sour cream, and the vanilla in a medium mixing bowl.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and mix on low for about 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to this mixture. Mix on low until the dry ingredients are moistened.
- Increase to medium speed (high if using a hand mixer) and beat for about 1½ minutes. Be sure to scrape down the sides.
- Gradually add in the egg mixture in three batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides.
- Reserve about ⅓ of the batter and scrape the remainder into the prepared pan (see equipment list).
- Smooth the surface and sprinkle with the streusel filing. Top with apple or peach slices if desired.
- Drop the reserved batter in large blobs over the fruit and spread evenly with the spatula. Sprinkle with the streusel topping and bake for 55 – 65 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean when pressed into the center. Cover loosely with buttered foil after 45 minutes to prevent over browning.
- Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides and remove the sides of the springform pan. Cool completely before wrapping airtight.
Please give this recipe a try and let me know how it turns out! Also, give Gwendy’s Button Box a read. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments!
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