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A super-generous crumb topping and genius pastry chef trick make this the best crumb cake ever.
An extra-generous topping of big, buttery brown sugar clumps and a genius pastry chef trick make this the best crumb cake ever. The recipe comes from pastry chef Lisa Kolb Ruland of the blog Unpeeled. Lisa has worked in some of NYC’s best bake shops, and she has spectacular dessert recipes (her pecan shortbread cookies are an absolute must for the holidays!).
Lisa’s trick to making this cake over-the-top perfect? She uses two types of flour: delicate cake flour for the streusel crumb topping and sturdy all-purpose flour for the cake. The cake flour gives the streusel a lovely texture (crisp but not too crunchy), while the all-purpose flour gives the cake base enough structure to prop up the plentiful streusel as it bakes. This cake is wonderful with coffee any time of day. The only problem is that it’s impossible to resist picking off the crumb topping every time you pass by.
What You’ll Need To Make Crumb Cake
Step 1: Make the Crumb Topping
In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Whisk until evenly combined.
Using a spoon, stir in the cake flour one cup at a time.
The mixture forms a cohesive dough, like a very thick and clumpy cookie dough. As you add the last cup of flour, the mixture will be difficult to stir, so feel free to ditch the spoon and use your hands to mix it in. Set aside.
Step 2: Make the Cake Batter
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition.
Beat in the vanilla and scrape the bowl to make sure everything is evenly combined. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little curdled.
Mix in half of the flour mixture.
Followed by all of the sour cream.
Finally, mix in the remaining half of the flour mixture until the batter is evenly combined.
Step 3: Assemble and Bake the Crumb Cake
Spread the cake batter evenly in the cake pan (it will only come about 3/4 inch up the sides of the pan).
Top the batter with the streusel crumbs, using your fingers to break the mixture apart and form it into roughly 1/2-inch chunks.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool fully on a rack.
Dust with powdered sugar.
Cut into squares to serve. Cover any leftover cake with aluminum foil and store at room temperature; it will keep nicely for up to 3 days. To keep the cake fresher longer, store it in the refrigerator, but bring it to room temperature before serving.
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A super-generous crumb topping and genius pastry chef trick make this the best crumb cake ever.
For the Crumb Topping
- 2½ sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ cups (packed) light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups cake flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
- Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
For the Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
For the Crumb Topping
- In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Using a spoon, stir in the cake flour one cup at a time, until the mixture forms a cohesive dough, like a very thick and clumpy cookie dough. As you add the last cup of flour, the mixture will be difficult to stir, so feel free to ditch the spoon and use your hands to mix it in. Set aside.
For the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack to the middle position. Grease a 9 x 13-in cake pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition (don't worry if the batter looks a little curdled at this point). Beat in the vanilla and scrape the bowl to make sure everything is evenly combined. Add the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream (half of the flour/all of the sour cream/then the remaining half of the flour), mixing on low speed with each addition, until just combined.
- Spread the cake batter evenly in the cake pan (it will only come about ¾ inch up the sides of the pan). Top the batter with the streusel crumbs, using your fingers to break it apart and form it into roughly ½-inch chunks. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool fully on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares to serve. Cover the cake with aluminum foil and store at room temperature; it will keep nicely for up to 3 days. To keep the cake fresher longer, store it in the refrigerator but bring it to room temperature before serving.
- Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cake can be frozen for up to 3 months. After it is completely cooled, wrap it tightly with aluminum foil or freezer wrap. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving.
- Per serving (12 servings)
- Calories: 708
- Fat: 32 g
- Saturated fat: 20 g
- Carbohydrates: 97 g
- Sugar: 45 g
- Fiber: 2 g
- Protein: 8 g
- Sodium: 318 mg
- Cholesterol: 128 mg
This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.
Can it serve 10-12 people?
I just made this cake. Upon taking it out of the oven I noticed that some of the topping looks like the sugar caramelized as there are spots on the top of the cake that are not crumbly. I haven’t tasted it yet. I don’t know what I did wrong, but the crumb topping definitely does not look like yours.
Hi Carole, I’ve never experienced that. Do you recall if your brown sugar was very clumpy?
I have made this and it was delicious! If I bake it on Saturday for Sunday should I refrigerate and bring to room temperature on Sunday?
Hi Susan, no need to refrigerate it if you’re serving the next day. I’d just cover it with foil and store at room temp. Hope everyone enjoys!
Good recipe – but I had an issue with some of the cake not being cooked enough. I think maybe the cake should be cooked a little first before putting the crumb topping on.
Hi Jen! I’m a huge fan and married to a chef and we BOTH love your recipes! Quick question- I will be making this cake today for a brunch tomorrow- should I let the cake cool in the pan and cover until tomorrow? Or remove from the pan before covering? Thanks!
Hi Karleigh, So glad you both enjoy the recipes! 🙂 You could go either way; I would probably leave it in the pan. Hope everyone enjoys!
10/10 Delish! Not too sweet, cake texture wasn’t dense, but held up to the weight of the crumb top. Added 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (since I had leftovers from Thanksgiving baking) and 1/4 tsp more of cinnamon (love the taste of it) to the crumb. Also added 1 tsp of almond extract to the batter, however I don’t think it added all that much to it (might try orange extract next time).
I use Mexican cinnamon, which has a milder, rounded flavor. Highly recommend for baking.
Another winner, everyone loved this. The cake was perfectly moist. The crumble was a slight bit dry. Is there something in my technique that I may have done incorrectly? Otherwise, fantastic recipe that I will make again.
Hi Jen, Sorry to hear you found the crumb topping to be a bit dry. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure the flour? Even a few extra ounces can make a big difference. This article/video explains it nicely.
I wonder if you can sub buttermilk for the sour cream? I am thinking it may throw the texture off?
Hi Marybeth, I think it should be fine. Please LMK how it turns out!
What size pan did you use?
Hi Chari, You’ll need a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Hope you enjoy!
If an 8×8 pan is used, is the baking time reduced?
Hi Tammy, I’m assuming you’re planning on halving the recipe? (The full recipe won’t fit in an 8 x 8-inch pan.) Assuming that, the bake time should be about the same, but keep a close eye on it. Hope you enjoy!
This was fantastic! Best crumb cake I’ve ever had! Making it again for brunch later this month. Followed the recipe exactly. A keeper!
So light and delicious! Not too sweet. A keeper!
This looks like a great recipe to try, especially reading all the comments on here!
I am just wondering if Blueberries could be added to the batter (perhaps just swirled into the batter in the pan). I have made your “Boy Bait” Blueberry coffee cake and it is delicious. I guess one could make the Blueberry coffee cake recipe and then top it off with the topping from the Crumb cake recipe!!
Mary in BC Canada!!
Hi Mary, the baker that this recipe was adapted from adds a cup of blueberries to her cake, so it should work nicely. Enjoy!
My daughter and I have made this Coffee Cake many times, this is the very best by far. Today I will be making a Coffee Cake and will add a Lemon middle before the Crumb Topping, yummy
I was from Long Island and grew up with Crumb Cake and was so happy to find this recipe.
Can I just use all purpose flour instead of cake flour?
Hi Linda, I’d recommend sticking with cake flour here. If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can make your own. See how here.
I don’t understand, you recommended sticking with cake flour but the recipe calls for all purpose flour. Which is it? Thanks!
Just reviewed the recipe again, I see that cake flour is used for the topping. Thanks!
Hi Jenn. This looks amazing. I don’t have sour cream on hand, could I use Greek yogurt or regular yogurt? Or do you think the sour cream would be a better flavor? Thank you so much.
Hi Shelly, Greek yogurt will work perfectly well. Enjoy!
I made this cake a couple of days ago and it was fabulous. It was easy to make using your instructions and it was enjoyed by all. A perfect comfort cake for a very cold January day.
I’m looking forward to making this crumb cake. Can I substitute pastry flour for cake flour in the topping?
I am a huge fan of crumb cake and thought I’d never have another good one after leaving NY over 45 years ago…… until today when I made this recipe! Followed recipe exactly and it was WONDERFUL. Thanks for another great recipe, Jenn.
Loved the recipe but I found that my cake turned out a little dry! Any idea what I might have done? I think I might have left it in for 5 minutes too long, but I’m wondering if how long or short I beat the ingredients together might have also contributed. I also baked it in an electric oven, which I’m not used to doing, but idk if that would make a difference. Any input would be much appreciated!!
Hi Allison, Sorry this came out dry for you! Dryness is usually caused by measuring the flour incorrectly. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure the flour? Even a few extra ounces can make a big difference. This article/video explains it nicely. Overbaking can also contribute to dryness but over beating it wouldn’t make it dry. I don’t know about electric ovens, so not sure if that would’ve had an impact.
Excellent crumb cake recipe! I added a can of organic apple pie filling to the batter and made this an apple crumb cake. Perfect topping – not too sweet – according to my wife, who prefers cakes that are less sweet. My addition of the apple pie filling provided made the perfect combination – a moist apple cinnamon crumb cake. Warmed up with some ice cream – YUM!
Wonderful and easy but husband requested less topping. 🙂
I made this cake yesterday and it was fabulous…like every other recipe of yours that I’ve made! However, the consensus from “the family” is that they would like it even better is there was less topping. Can I do this by just halving each of the topping ingredients? Thank you!
Sure, Marilyn – that’s fine. Glad you enjoyed. 🙂
Delicious Crumb Cake recipe! Easy to make with clear instructions from Jen. Reminds me of my grandmother who always had a crumb cake to serve guests.
This crumb cake is absolutely fabulous! If we had a Food Olympics, this Crumb Cake would win 10 Gold Medals! It is OMG great!
Thanks for another winner. If everyone in the entire world ate this every morning we would have World Peace.
Our Favorite is the topping and lots of it. Love this recipe because of the crumbs!!!
What do you mean by cake flour?
Hi Susan, Compared to all-purpose flour, cake flour is lower in protein and causes less gluten to form as you mix the batter together. This makes baked goods that have a softer, finer texture. If you don’t have cake flour on hand, you can make your own. See how here.
I bought the cake flour and will be trying this recipe tomorrow. Thank you!
👍 Hope you enjoy!
I made it and my family absolutely loved it! Thank you. I was wondering if I could have used an 8×8 cake pan?
So glad you enjoyed it, Susan! If you use an 8-inch square, you’ll need to cut the ingredients in half (just use 2 eggs).
Can this be reduced to an 8 x 8 pan? If so, would you recommend halving the recipe?
Hi Marie, Yes, I’ve tried halving the recipe for an 8-inch pan and it works very well (just use two eggs instead of 1-1/2). Hope you enjoy it!
Loved this! Looking for this type of recipe and so happy to find it as my husband says it is “amazing”
Thank you, Jenn! Yummy! Perfect recipe, perfect taste! Everyone loved it, so I made 3 more!
Would 1% low fat sour cream be ok?
Hi Dara, I do think it would work. Enjoy!
This cake is AMAZING! At first I thought 4 cups of flour seemed like a lot for the topping, but I went with it and boy was it good.
I made this for Christmas Eve and it was loved by all! Wonderful taste & perfect with coffee!
Can this be prepared the night before and baked in the morning?
Hi Jeannie, I would just bake it the night before – it keeps nicely for a few days.
Can this be baked in a glass pan?
Hi Jenn. I am a avid follower and love your recipes. Is this cake moist? I haven’t had great luck with crumb cakes they are somewhat dry. Thank you
Hi Ann Marie, I think you will find the cake to be quite moist. Like most cakes, it is best enjoyed soon after it is baked.
Could you add some thin sliced or diced apples into the batter?
Hi Kathy, Lisa adds 1 cup blueberries to her version, so I think it should work. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it.
Hi jenn, I have to make this this morning! Are there really 4 cups of flour in the topping?
Yes – I know it seems like A LOT but it’s correct. 🙂