Damn I miss New York City. I told myself I wouldn’t but I do.
It’s been two months since I returned from my trip to the US and I still feel myself recalling the days I spent there. Most of my thoughts inevitably drift to New York, just because it’s the city we spent most of our time on the ground; walking, exploring, just me and my Dad. Navigating that city was a good exercise.
Considering I spent all my four days in Manhattan flitting from one tourist spot to another, it’s quite obvious there’s a lot of things I have yet to discover about the Big Apple. For instance, their burgeoning food scene.
Much has been said about NYC’s food trifecta—pizza, bagels, and cheesecake— and I had my fair share while I was there. (More on that when I write my travel posts.) But apart from those I still have a bunch of New York icons I haven’t had the pleasure of trying. Stuff like streetside pretzels, black and white cookies, and the curious thing called New York Crumb Cake.
It’s kind of hard to claim something as yours with such surety, but New York has a habit of doing that. I recently had my education on what a New York Crumb Cake actually is thanks to Cakespy.com, and then I realized I have actually made this delicious little cake way before we planned to visit New York. I just never posted it here because I never found a fitting opportunity!
Essentially it is cake with a buttery-sweet-crumbly layer on top, and it is absolutely perfect with a cup of tea or coffee. But does that mean you can use just any cake and add just any topping on it to make it a New York Crumb Cake? Apparently not!
According to Cakespy.com, a New York Crumb Cake has a yellowish cake base that is just fluffy enough to still be considered cake, but sturdy enough to hold all that delicious crumb on top of it. The crumb should be made up of good chunky clusters, and let’s not forget to talk about ratios!
In order for something to qualify as crumb cake, the crumb should make up a significant portion of the whole thing– at least 1/3 of the whole crumb cake’s thickness; not something you sprinkle lightly onto a cake as an afterthought. Seems fair. Some even dial it up to crumb that’s exactly as thick as the base layer, but to me that might be a little too much.
So to sum up what I have gathered, as long as you’ve got a slice of cake where the crumb is a thick and buttery mass that makes up an actual layer of the cake– perhaps even thicker than the cake base itself– you might be able to pass it off as New York Crumb Cake. Man, the rules sure are strict! So does this one pass the qualifications? 😀
After writing all this information I regret immensely that I was not able to eat any Crumb Cake in New York. Would’ve been nice to have a gauge as to how close to the real deal this recipe is, and ya’ll know I just want to try everything out.
Then again, I imagine most of us aren’t all that strict about our crumb cakes anyway, so I think the fact that these are DELICIOUS should be enough to convince you to eat them. The base is light and lovely, and the sweetness is supplied wholly by the crumb topping. Normally I have adaptation ideas after I make recipes, but I wouldn’t change anything from this one.
So, let’s dig in!
Makes one 8 x 8-inch cake*
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour**
- 1 ¼ cups cake flour**
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces and softened but still cool
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup buttermilk or plain yoghurt
- confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)
- 1. In a medium bowl, whisk the two sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter to combine. Mix until majority of the sugar has melted into the warm butter.
- 2. Add in the flour and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture comes together and resembles cookie dough. Set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
- 3. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C) and adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper, making sure there are overhangs on either side of the pan that will allow you to lift the cake up easily once it is baked.
- 4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt using paddle attachment on low speed to combine. Still on low speed, add butter one piece at a time; beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, about 1 minute or so. There should be no more visible butter chunks remaining.
- 5. Add in egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk or yoghurt. Switch speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the side of the bowl once, if necessary. Transfer batter to the baking pan and spread out into an even layer.
- 6. Break apart the crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces between your thumb, pointer, and middle fingers. (Don't break them apart too small! You want chunky pieces.) Spread the crumb in an even layer over the batter until it is fully covered, beginning at edges and then working toward the center. You don't need to push the crumbs into the batter.
- 7. Bake the crumb cake until a skewer inserted into the center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the cake pan to a wire rack and cool the cake inside the pan for at least 30 minutes. Remove cake using the overhang of your parchment paper, then dust with confectioner's sugar, if desired. Slice into squares. The cake can be stored wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 days.
- *To double the recipe, use a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and increase the baking time to about 45 minutes.
- **To substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour: For every 1 cup cake flour needed, use 1 cup all-purpose flour but take out 2 Tablespoons. Add in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch to replace it, then sift the whole thing to distribute the cornstarch. Using cake flour yields a softer cake base.