I grew up in a suburb just outside New York City, and I have a pretty good dose of German heritage on my dad’s side. If you put those two things together in a hat and shake them up real good, you’ll come up with, among other things…crumb cake. Crumb cake is as New York as New York pizza, and it seemed like it was always sitting on the counter in our kitchen, sometimes homemade, mostly store bought, and always accompanied by a glass of orange juice that was puckeringly sour when it followed a bite of that sweet cake. Now that I’m grown up I’ve replaced the orange juice with lots of hot coffee, and it’s pure heaven.
Crumb cake was brought over to New York by German immigrants, and along with all those foods that have become American classics like hot dogs, hamburgers, and beer, they also brought over a kind of bakery culture and a love of all things ‘cake’. It’s rare to find a New Yorker who doesn’t love crumb cake, but it’s possible that if you live on the West coast, you might never have heard of it. It’s a very simple, unassuming but very buttery and moist cake topped with lots and lots of crumbs. And it makes the perfect mid-winter breakfast.
There are lots of ways to make it — sometimes the crumbs are like little boulders all over the top, and other times it’s more like a streusel topping. This one is the latter. The crumbs are made from a bit of reserved cake mixture, so it’s super easy. It’s spiced with warm, fragrant cardamom, which is not traditional, but really wonderful. Cardamom is more subtle than cinnamon, and if you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend you do. Switching out cinnamon for cardamom is a tiny little change that can freshen up a lot of your favorite recipes.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp cardamom
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 Tbsp.)
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Set oven to 350F
- Spray a 9x9 square baking pan and line with parchment paper if you want to be able to lift it out for cutting. That part is optional.
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamom in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine, You can also do this by hand in a large mixing bowl.
- Cut the butter in small pieces and add it to the bowl. Pulse to combine, maybe about 20 pulses. The mixture should be crumbly with the butter well distributed and in very small pieces.. You can also do this by hand with a pastry cutter.
- Measure out 1 cup of the mixture and set aside.
- Whisk together the wet ingredients and mix with the dry, just until combined. Spread the batter into the pan, and top with the reserved crumbs.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
recipe just slightly adapted from Martha Stewart