Thursday, December 4, 2014

New York Crumb Cake

I grew up in a suburb of New York City.  It was a lovely place to live.  Just a train ride into the city for all the culture you could ever want but very suburban when you went back home.  New York was the center of the universe.  Bagels like no other, roasted chestnuts on the sidewalks...they definitely have a smell unlike anything else...I don't think I ever actually ate them.  And crumb cake.  Delicious, lovely, buttery crumb cake.  I was blissfully unaware that crumb cake was not available across the universe until I went to college in Indiana.  It appears to be big in NY and the shore towns of South Jersey.  Who knew?  Anyway, there was always Drakes but bakery crumb cake is a thing of beauty.  I have spent the last 30 plus years trying to find a recipe that makes a crumb cake the way I remember it to be. 

It finally happened.  I've tried Martha Stewart, Carole Walter (who has a lovely crumb cake recipe in her book that is fabulous but it's not the NY style one I was looking for but I've made it a bunch and it's really good), various online recipes and then I got a Cakespy email with new posts.  She posted one that came from the Food Maven.  The angels sang, the heavens opened and the recipe was "the one".  I've made it at least 6 times since I got it.  The kids love it, I love it.  You can freeze it.  You can substitute greek yogurt (even the non fat stuff) for sour cream because you don't have any and it's still great.  It has a lot of butter in it.  You've been warned.

New York Crumb Cake
Original Recipe from The Food Maven, adapted slightly from Cakespy
Makes one 9″ by 13″ cake



  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (or use salted if that's all you have.  I do it all the time)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the top (optional)

For the cake

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon plus 1 pinch salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream

For the topping: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Mix with the brown sugar. Set aside.In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. When melted, pour on top of the dry mixture. Add the vanilla. Stir with a fork until the mixture comes together to form small crumbs (if you clump it in your hand, it should easily form crumbs). Set the crumb mixture aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place a rack in the middle of the oven.  Coat a 9″ by 13″ pan with non stick spray.
For the cake:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar, and continue mixing until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer. Don't skimp on this.  It takes time.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed using a rubber spatula.  Add the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with each addition. Add the vanilla. 

Reduce the mixing speed to low. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternately with the sour cream, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Continue scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Blend only until combined. The batter will be thick.  Spoon the batter into the well-greased pan and smooth with a flat rubber spatula.

Now comes the fun part.  Take a handful of the crumbs and break on top of the unbaked cake. Continue, making crumbs of your desired sizes all across the surface of the cake. You need to cover all of the surface with crumbs, or the cake may bubble over the crumb mixture. That is not pretty and nobody wants that piece because it doesn't have the good stuff on it.  Gently pat the crumbs into the batter with your hand or a wooden spoon, but don’t sink them all the way into the batter, just pat them down a little bit.

I hope you don't have a horrible looking hand like I do in this picture.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown on top and begins to shrink from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool. If desired, dust the top with confectioners’ sugar. Once cool or just lightly warm, slice into squares.
Store leftovers, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days.  It also freezes well.  I wrap the pieces individually and store them in a zip top bag.

The cake was good even if my photography wasn't.  Sorry.