11 June 2009

Crumb cake conundrum

Years ago, my dad would always take us to The Fresh Market when we visited him in Louisville and we would always get our own little scrumptious dessert item to eat after dinner. They had a wonderful dessert case with lots of items to choose from. On one occasion, I noticed a crumb cake sitting on top of the case and decided to purchase one to have for breakfast on our way home the next morning. It was the best crumb cake I ever had! From then on, whenever we went to Louisville, I would get a scrumptious dessert item and a crumb cake.

Until one day, we went to The Fresh Market and they didn't have any crumb cakes. I was disappointed, but I figured they had sold out and I would just have to get one next time. So, next time they didn't have any, and the next time, and the next time! When The Fresh Market opened closer to home in Westfield, I checked for the crumb cake there without any luck. To this day, I still look, but I have feeling I will never be able to purchase a crumb cake from The Fresh Market again.

I did get a fleeting moment of crumb cake satisfaction when my dad purchased a crumb cake mix for me from Williams-Sonoma. It was pretty much the exact same crumb cake I bought from The Fresh Market, only better because I was able to bake it myself. Alas, I was unable to find that crumb cake mix at Williams-Sonoma again. I was confused and bewildered by my bad luck finding a sustainable crumb cake. What's the deal with the disappearing crumb cakes? That's what I wanted to know.

I figured that if I wanted to have a crumb cake that I knew would always be there for me, I would just have to make it myself, from scratch. Unfortunately, I was hard pressed to find a decent crumb cake recipe. The problem was I knew exactly what I wanted and if it wasn't exactly like The Fresh Market crumb cake, I was going to be disappointed. I did internet searches for "The Fresh Market crumb cake" and "Williams-Sonoma crumb cake" to no avail. Then, a light bulb came on in my head.

Since I knew exactly what I was wanted in terms of how the crumb cake looked, I decided to do a Google image search for crumb cake and find a picture of the one I was looking for. If I was lucky, a recipe would accompany the picture and I would have finally found what had been eluding me for so long. Wouldn't you know it, I found exactly what I was looking for! As it turned out, the type of crumb cake I was looking for is a New York style crumb cake. This past weekend I made one and it was exactly like the one from The Fresh Market, and I would even go as far to say that it was better.

It was so easy to make and I will definitely be keeping this recipe in my collection. Now I can have crumb cake whenever I get that craving. Woo hoo! The light fluffy cake topped with the sweet crumb topping was just what the doctor ordered, and Emilie in particular couldn't get enough. It is rich though, so a little goes a long way, and we had plenty left over to have for breakfast for the next couple of days. In fact, I had the last small piece yesterday. The only thing I forgot was the dusting of powdered sugar, but I didn't miss it. Here is the recipe for those of you who want to share in my delight.

New York-Style Crumb Cake
(Source: Cook’s Illustrated, May 2007)
Printable Recipe
Serves 8 to 10

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

4. Transfer batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.


  1. I love this post, Luke! You have such a great writing style that entertains and enlightens! Heck yes I want to try this crumb cake.

  2. Let me know if you try it. I'd like to hear if you like it or not.



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