ANNE BYRN / COOKBOOK AUTHOR, "THE CAKE MIX DOCTOR RETURNS"
For the cake
Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pan
Flour, for dusting the pan
1 package (18.5 ounces) plain butter recipe golden cake mix
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the topping
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1. Make the cakes: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly mist two 9-inch (or one 13 by 9-inch) metal cake pans with vegetable oil spray, then dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pans aside.
2. Place the cake mix, sour cream, oil, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients are incorporated, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the mixture lightens and is smooth, 2 minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. Pour half the cake batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, dividing it evenly between them. Smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.
3. Make the topping: Combine the brown sugar, pecans, if using, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spoon half of the topping over the batter in the cake pans. Pour the remaining cake batter over the topping in the two cake pans, dividing it evenly between them. Spoon the rest of the topping over the cake batter.
4. Place the pans in the oven side by side. Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the cake pans to wire racks and let the cakes sit until nearly cool, 20 minutes. Slice and serve the cakes while still a bit warm.
NOTE: Keep It Fresh! Store these cakes, covered with aluminum foil, at room temperature for up to four days or for up to one week in the refrigerator. Freeze the cakes in the pans, covered with aluminum foil, for up to three months. Let the cakes thaw overnight on the counter before serving.
You can also make this cake in two 9-inch square pans: Eat one cake and freeze the second. But for large gatherings bake it in a 13 by 9-inch pan for 50 to 55 minutes.