My orange cardamom crumb cake is a New York style coffee cake bursting with fresh orange flavor and piled high with lightly spiced crumbs. Breakfast really doesn’t get much better.
orange cardamom crumb cake is an upgraded New York classic
Growing up in New York, crumb cake was a big part of my childhood culinary life, but it was always store-bought, never homemade. The cardboard bakery box was always on the counter, with a butter knife inside so anybody passing by could grab a slice. When I finally got around to making it myself I gained a whole new appreciation for this classic breakfast cake. There is nothing, but nothing, like pulling out a homemade crumb cake out of the oven. The anticipation is intense and I never seem to be able to wait for it to cool down before digging in.
what’s the origin of crumb cake?
German immigrants brought their love of baking, and crumb cake, to New York in the 1800s. (Streusel in German means to strew or scatter.) Over the years the crumble topping grew taller and taller, just like the skyscrapers of the city itself! And as any born and bred New Yorker will tell you, the crumbs are the best part 🙂
orange plus cardamom is a favorite Mediterranean combination
The warm cardamom spice speaks a little more softly than cinnamon, with a slightly exotic edge. The combination of citrus and cardamom is one of my favorites ~ I use it in these Orange and Cardamom Muffins. and these Moroccan Meatballs with Cardamom and Lemon.
I infuse fresh orange into this coffee cake with my special orange sugar technique.
If you’ve never tried this method for adding citrus flavor to baked goods, now is a good time to get to know it:
I process the sugar for the cake with the rind of one orange. The result is a vibrant orange sugar that permeates this cake with a true orange flavor. All you need is the rind, which is where all the essential oils hang out. Juice the rest of your orange to drink with your cake! Get the details in the recipe below, and if you want to know more about this process, check out my How to Make Lemon Sugar post.
where does the cardamom come in?
I add ground cardamom to the crumble topping. This allows the orange to take center stage in the cake so when you take a bite you get a burst of orange followed by a hint of cardamom. It’s a pretty sophisticated flavor profile for a coffee cake, and it’s pretty fabulous with a cup of coffee.
how is cardamom different from cinnamon?
Cardamom and cinnamon do not, actually, taste alike at all, but they can be successfully substituted for one another, especially in baked goods. Cardamom is soft and aromatic whereas cinnamon can be quite strident and intense. They both have vaguely ‘peppery’ flavors, but cardamom is more subtle, and lingering. It’s very hard to describe a unique flavor in words…you just have to try it.
crumb cake FAQS
That’s right, in a German Streuselkuchen there’s more real estate devoted to the boulder-sized crumbs than there is to the actual cake itself, and that’s exactly as it should be. But maybe you don’t live in the crumb cake zone (New York to the Mid-Atlantic) and you have no idea what I’m talking about. But trust me, the cake is just an excuse for the crumbs.
The crumbs on a crumb cake are a mixture of flour, butter, and sugar, mixed together with your fingertips until they resemble large, pale brown rubble.
The original crumb cake made by Central European immigrants in New York was a yeasted recipe. I prefer this cake based version because the cake is soft and moist, and much more user friendly.
You can use cinnamon, or even ground ginger. You can leave the spice out altogether and just go with vanilla or almond flavoring.
Because the cake is a thin and ‘lean’ cake, meaning there isn’t much fat in the cake layer, it’s best eaten within a day or two of baking. Absolutely best the same day, natch.
Yes, let it cool completely, then wrap well in plastic, then in foil. I’d use it within 3 months for best quality.
more dessert for breakfast
- Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Scone Recipe
- Apple Cider Doughnut Loaf Cake
- Glazed Old Fashioned Buttermilk Doughnut Bundt Cake
- Cranberry Breakfast Cake!
- Breakfast Fruit Crisp
Orange Cardamom Crumb Cake
- quarter sheet pan (9 x 12 1/2) Buy on Amazon here
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted and sightly cooled
cake wet ingredients
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- peeled zest of 1 navel orange
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
cake dry ingredients
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- confectioner's sugar
- Preheat oven to 325F. Spray and flour a quarter sheet pan (9 x 12 1/2)
- To make the crumb topping put the flour, sugar, and cardamom in a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir briefly with a spatula, then go in with your hands and toss the mixture together until everything is evenly moistened and you get large crumbs. Break any big chunks apart with your fingers as you toss. Once it is all evenly combined, set aside.
- Put the sugar and orange zest in a food processor and process until the zest is completely incorporated and the sugar is moist and orange. Pulse the machine to make sure there are no chunks of zest left.
- Put the orange sugar, oil, egg, milk, and extract in a bowl and whisk together.
- In another bowl whisk together the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Add the dry mixture to the wet and blend gently with a spatula.
- Spread the batter into your prepared pan. It will be a thin layer, but spread out as evenly as you can.
- Top the batter with the crumbs, breaking up any large crumbs with your fingers. Be sure to get them evenly scattered, and don't forget all the edges and corners. You don't want a big mound in the middle.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Rotate the pan halfway through cooking.
- Let the cake cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy warm, or at room temperature. This crumb cake is best the day it is made, but will keep on the counter, covered, for a couple of days.
- As you can see, this is a thin cake, so small differences in pan size, oven temperature, or ingredient measuring can have an impact on the final outcome, so be precise and make sure to check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer.
- If your cake is not cooked through, add a few more minutes to the baking time. If your cake is dry, it baked too long. You want to hit that sweet spot where the cake is cooked through, but not over cooked. This cake is worth perfecting, and once you’ve got it right for your oven, you’ll have a recipe you’ll make over and over again.