When I was growing up in Brooklyn Heights, an unbelievably delicious store-bought crumb cake was a special breakfast treat on weekends. I was especially (if not obsessively) partial to the crumb topping, picking off every last bit before discarding the cake and moving on to my next piece. I can’t begin to tell you how that irritated my brothers. In this recipe the cake is every bit as delicious as its topping.
The crumb topping is lightly sugared and spiced and prepared first, so that it has time to cool and will be easy to crumble over the batter. When the cake is fresh from the oven, the crumb topping is slightly crunchy—a lovely contrast to the soft, moist cake. Over the next day or so, the crumbs soften and the cinnamon-nutmeg flavor becomes more pronounced.
- 16 tablespoons (8 ounces/227 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- ½ cup (4 ounces/113 grams) granulated sugar
- ¾ cup (6 ounces/170 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Pinch of table salt
- 2 2/3 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) all-purpose flour
- 3 cups (13 ½ ounces/383 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups (10 ounces/284 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon table salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (8 fl ounces/233 ml) whole milk
- 12 tablespoons (6 ounces/170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
1. To make the topping: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Slide the pan from the heat and add the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir with a rubber spatula, pressing when necessary, until there are no lumps of sugar. Add the flour and mix until well blended and pasty. Set aside.
2. To make the cake: Position an over rack on the middle run heat the oven to 350 degrees (180°C). Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch (22.75-by-33cm) baking pan or dish.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Whisk until well blended. In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Whisk until well blended.
4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently stir with a rubber spatula just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Break up the topping mixture with your fingers into medium-sized pieces and sprinkle evenly over the cake batter to form a generous layer.
5. Bake until the cake springs back lightly when pressed in the center and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature. Before serving, sift some confectioners’ sugar over the top, if desired.