The Cake is not actually the point of crumb cake. Good crumb cake is all about the crumb, which should be buttery, brown sugar sweet, and piled on in excess.
Streuselkuchen. That's the German name for crumb cake. More accurately, I should say that crumb cake is the English word for streuselkuchen because this buttery cake topped with a pile of buttery streusel originated in Germany.
Traditionally, the cake was baked with a yeast dough, which is rarely the case here in the US. What IS similar is the proportion of cake to crumb. German bakers aimed for a 50/50 ratio between the cake and the crumb. Americans must agree, because that's the proportion you're most likely to find in bakeries across the country.
Honestly, I think you could get away with more crumb than cake, because, as I said earlier, crumb cake is all about the crumb.
What make a good crumb cake:
- Lots of crumb. Do I really need to say that again? Yes. I think I do. Crumb cake should have a lot of crumb. At least 50%.
- Salt. I've seen recipes for crumb toppings that do not include salt and I just don't understand them. Salt is crucial to everything delicious - savory and sweet - because it enhances the flavors in whatever it is your making. Beyond that, in sweet foods, salt actually brings out the sweetness. Weird, but true.
- The size of the crumbs is up to you. I like my crumb cake to be topped with big, fat crumbs that are practically the size of small cookies. To get those big crumbs, just squeeze the crumb topping together in your hand as you add it to the top of the cake batter. But, if you prefer a delicate, loose crumb topping, just break the crumbs up as you sprinkle them on the cake.
- Use room temperature butter and eggs. When baking a cake, you almost always want dairy ingredients to be at room temperature because that allows them for form an emulsion that traps air. All that trapped air expands in the oven, giving cakes their fluffy consistency. Also, room temperature ingredients are much easier to beat into a smooth, fully blended batter that results in a uniform texture and even baking.
- Whipped cream gives this cake a super fine, buttery texture. One of my favorite baking books of all time is BakeWise by Shirley O’Corriher. At the beginning of the book, Shirley explains that when folded gently into the batter right before baking, whipped cream adds additional air, giving cakes a soft, silky texture. That technique works so well in this cake. You won't think that ¼ cup of cream, whipped to soft peaks, will do all that much. But, it will.
This is breakfast food, people
Ok. So, I'd take a good piece of crumb cake any time of day, but this is the kind of cake that just begs to be eaten for breakfast. We - you, me, everyone - love cake for breakfast. Rather than just eat cake for breakfast, we've created categories of breakfast cakes that we call "coffee cake" and "muffins".
The names are just markers for the kind of cake we feel justified in eating first thing in the morning. Why these types of cakes? I have no idea. But, if it means cake for breakfast, I'm in.
More morning pastry recipes you might like:
- Mixed Berry Muffins
- Cinnamon Streusel Mini-Muffins
- Homemade Overnight Caramel Rolls
- Homemade Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
Used to make this recipe:
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.
For the Crumb Topping:
- 1 ⅔ cup (160 grams) of all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (71 grams) dark brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 10 tablespoons (141 grams) salted butter, melted
For the cake:
- 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon (7 grams) cornstarch
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup (12 tablespoons or 6 ounces) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- ¼ cup (57 grams) heavy whipping cream, cold
Prepare the Crumb Topping:
- Add all the crumb topping ingredients except the melted butter to a bowl and stir to mix. Pour in the butter and stir until all the dry ingredients are throughly moistened. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and set aside.
Make the Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch square baking pan by greasing the inside with butter or shortening then shaking flour around inside the pan until the bottom and sides are completely coated.
- Add the flour, cornstarch, salt, and nutmeg to a bowl and stir with a wire whisk to blend. Set aside.
- Add the butter and both sugars to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium low speed just to blend, then on high for 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl from time to time.
- Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat to blend.
- Add the 2 eggs and egg yolk to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating on medium low speed after each addition just long enough to incorporate the egg into the batter.
- Add the dry ingredients to the bater and beat on low speed just long enough to blend. Do not over mix.
- Using a hand held mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form when you lift the beaters from the cream. Gently fold the cream into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top into an even layer.
- Add the crumb topping in an even layer over the cake batter. If you want large crumbs, squeeze the topping together in your hand as you add it to the cake.
- Bake for 70 - 75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out without any raw batter clinging to it.
- Let cool completely before serving.
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