Gramma McCarthy was my mom's grandmother. She was born in Hungary (part of the Burgenland Croats enclave) but claimed German (and sometimes Austrian) citizenship, and even changed her surname—before marrying, and not in any offical way.

For many years, I wondered if her secrecy & the timing of her emigration from Europe were signs that she was hiding Jewish ancestry (I now know that's not the case). She was, as far as those of us interested in our geneology can ascertain, a mysterious woman.

This is the recipe that she passed down to her daughter & granddaughter. Mom made it every Thanksgiving & Christmas morning and typically no other time during the year. It was sort of a breakfast appetizer to eat while we were opening & then playing with our presents.


¾ c
white sugar
½ c
unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 tsp
vanilla extract
2 c
all purpose flour
1 tsp
baking soda
1 tsp
baking powder
2 c
sour cream
1 c
brown sugar (packed)
½ c
unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 tsp
1 c


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Grease a Bundt pan.
    You can use the parchment paper that wraps a stick of butter for this.
  3. Prepare the batter in a mixing bowl:
    1. Using beaters or a mixer, cream ½ cup butter with the white sugar & vanilla.
      To cream a mixture, the butter should be at room temperature, and cut into squares.
    2. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
    3. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, & baking powder.
    4. Alternate adding the sour cream & the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, blending after each addition.
  4. Prepare the strudel in another mixing bowl:
    1. Add ½ cup butter, the brown sugar, cinnamon, & walnuts.
    2. Mix the ingredients by crossing two butter knives, almost as if sharpening them.
      Don't over-mix; the strudel should have small chunks of butter.
  5. Layer the Bundt pan in this order:
    1. Half the batter
    2. Half the strudel
    3. Remaining batter
    4. Remaining strudel
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, then check for doneness.
    The cake is done when a toothpick comes out cleanly. It will probably take closer to 60 minutes to fully bake.
  7. Let the cake cool for 20–30 minutes before removing it from the pan.

About this recipe

  • The original recipe calls for only one cup of sour cream, but Gramma always made it with two.
  • I know we're baking here, but I feel like cinnamon is one of those ingredients you have a lot of leeway with. Like, 2tsp should be fine, but 1 or 3 (or more) is probably also fine.
  • Taste the batter; enjoy your life.