New York Crumb Cake Recipe

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

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My father wasn’t much of a dessert kind of guy, but there were certain sweets that he really enjoyed, like Carvel ice cream cones, sfogiatelle, and crumb cake.  Not any old kind of crumb cake, mind you. It had to be New York crumb cake – the kind with big, giant globs of cinnamon-spiced, buttery, streuselly  crumbs on top.    And, it couldn’t be the kind that came out of a box, either.  No, no, no!  Only a freshly baked crumb cake would do.  Luckily, we actually lived in New York when I was little, and there was a bakery on almost every corner in our old neighborhood.  Some specialized in Italian pastries and some in various kinds of breads and Danish,  while others sold fancy cakes and pies.  We even had a little German bake shop nearby that churned out the most amazing tortes and strudels.   But on Sunday mornings, they all had one thing in common – crumb cake.   Hmmm.  I wonder if that’s why they call it New York crumb cake? 

There were two main churches that anchored each end of the neighborhood.  On one side there was St. Francis Xavier, and on the other was St. Clare’s, which was where we went.  Early each Sunday,  just about everyone, would head off to mass at one church or the other.  Those were the days when people really believed that “the family that prays together, stays together”.  Afterward, lines would form out the doors of each bakery with people waiting to buy their Sunday allotment of pastries, cookies and cakes to take with them when they went visiting .   In every display case of every shop, there would also be some tempting variation of crumb cake to tide everyone over until Sunday dinner.

Sometimes, my dad would get up extra early and run out to the bakery to beat the crowds while the rest of us got ready for church.  Even though we weren’t supposed to eat anything for at least an hour before mass, he would let my brother and me sneak a few bites of crumb cake before we left the house.  Trust me, that was almost a religious experience in itself!

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Sundays aren’t like that anymore – at least not where I live now.  First of all, there are very few true bakeries around here, and almost none of them are open on Sundays.  If you want cake on a Sunday, your only options are Starbucks or a local supermarket.  Or, you can bake one yourself.

This recipe yields a cake with a light and fluffy vanilla-scented crumb.  Some other crumb cake recipes I’ve tried have turned out a cake that was kind of dry and dense, but this one was quite moist.  I know that the star of this show is the crumb topping, but still, who wants to eat a dry cake?   You might as well just skip the cake and eat a bowl of crumbs instead.

The first thing you need to do to make this cake is mix up the crumb topping.  Just add all of the ingredients together in a bowl and smoosh them around until they form big clumps.  I think that clean fingers make the best utensils for this.

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Then, mix up your cake batter and spread it into a pan.

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Finally, toss those big, beautiful crumbs all over the top and slide it into the oven.  Just make sure you don’t get all woozy from the heavenly smells that will start wafting throughout your house.   And, you also might want to close the windows, unless you don’t mind having every hungry neighbor on your street knocking on the door looking for cake.

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My father’s birthday was a few days ago.  It’s always a bittersweet day for me. I’d been remembering all of those simple, yet wonderful Sunday mornings my family shared when I was a child.   I decided to bake this crumb cake because it was one of my dad’s favorites.   Somehow, it gave me a little comfort.  I only wish that he was still here to share it with me.

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37 responses to New York Crumb Cake Recipe

  1. On November 09, 2011 at 10:18am, Rosa said...

    Lovely! That is a treat I love.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. On November 09, 2011 at 10:24am, Kathy - Panini Happy said...

    Oh my goodness, this looks perfect. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had a real New York crumb cake before (which would be inexcusable given that my parents live 30 minutes outside Manhattan) but I sure would love to!

  3. On November 09, 2011 at 10:32am, Anne said...

    Love the reminiscence about your father. I was missing my grandfather the other day. He had this great raspberry patch, and when we visited he and we kids would each take a tin can with holes punched near the top rim and a string tied through the holes to make a “necklace” so that we could all pick berries two-handed. I was only about ten or so when Grandpa died…but I’ll always be inspired by his love of gardening. I’ll have to plant a raspberry patch one of these days…and upcycle a few tin cans and pieces of string… but meanwhile maybe I’ll try this recipe and think about how seemingly small things can make such sweet memories.

    • On November 10, 2011 at 8:01am, Susan said...

      What a great story about your grandfather, Anne! The tin can idea is brilliant! And yes, sometimes the simplest memories are the sweetest. :)

  4. On November 09, 2011 at 11:09am, Rachel (S[d]OC) said...

    Funny, I never thought of crumb cake as “NY Style”, but I guess that’s because I’ve always lived in NY and didn’t realize there wasn’t anything like it elsewhere.

    I do have some bakeries in my neighborhood though. They don’t make crumb cake a big feature. I would definitely have to try your recipe when I’m in the mood.

    • On November 10, 2011 at 8:03am, Susan said...

      I never thought of it that way either, until I didn’t live in NYC anymore. Maybe people just call a lot of dishes “NY-style” to give them more cred.

  5. On November 09, 2011 at 11:32am, Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

    Thanks for sharing the lovely story and this wonderful recipe! The crumb cake is making my mouth water!

  6. On November 09, 2011 at 2:45pm, Lynae said...

    Susan, you made me smile the entire time I read this piece, and I really needed that today. Your wit and way of writing with heartfelt charm is enlightening. Thank you for that. Lynae

    • On November 10, 2011 at 8:04am, Susan said...

      Thank you, Lynae! I’m glad I could help brighten your day. :)

  7. On November 09, 2011 at 3:09pm, Katrina said...

    Yum! This cake sounds fabulous!

  8. On November 09, 2011 at 6:32pm, Lori said...

    What a beautiful story. I miss my Dad, too. My son, now 19, was raving about a similar crumb cake baked by a friend’s mom, from Rye, NY. I’m sure he’ll love your recipe, too, especially with that promise of a moist cake. However, it is all about the crumbs! Thanks!

    • On November 10, 2011 at 8:07am, Susan said...

      Thanks! And, you’re welcome! :)

  9. On November 09, 2011 at 6:49pm, Kris said...

    what a lovely post – I wish he was still here with you too. <3

    this is my kind of dessert – I love a good crumb, and when the ratio is almost the same as cake? yes please!

    • On November 10, 2011 at 8:07am, Susan said...

      Thank you, Kris! :)

  10. On November 10, 2011 at 9:38am, Maureen said...

    Thanks for sharing your memories. I also have very fond memories of Sunday morning bakery treats – crumb “buns”, jelly donuts, fresh rolls , etc.. I no longer live in NY but when I visit I make sure to stop in to the bakery which is now run by the grandchildren of the original owners. Great post!

  11. On November 10, 2011 at 11:30am, Nicola @ unhip squirrel said...

    I loved this story! Thank you for letting us all in on your life. Your cake looks delicious – and how could it not, it’s so steeped in history! Wonderful.

  12. On November 11, 2011 at 2:11pm, The Food Hunter said...

    Oh carvel ice cream cones…now that’s bringing back memories

  13. On November 11, 2011 at 11:55pm, Elizabeth - SugarHero! said...

    This was such a sweet post! You made me nostalgic for a childhood I didn’t even have. :) And the crumb cake looks fantastic. I’m with your dad–big buttery crumbs all the way. None of that skimpy little streusel stuff.

  14. On November 13, 2011 at 12:31pm, Jennifer from Wa said...

    OMG, it’s in the oven right now. I have Sunday dinner every month and decided to make this for today’s dinner. I’m not sure at all this cake isn’t going to get “tasted” before the guests arrive. It smells….so….good.

  15. On November 14, 2011 at 7:54pm, nicole said...

    your dad and I would get along perfectly… sfogiatelle!!! I love those!

  16. On November 15, 2011 at 3:15pm, Aly ~ Cooking In Stilettos said...

    This is a must make this winter. I’m pretty much over the “coffee house” baked goods lately. Guess it’s time to start baking in stilettos ;)

  17. On November 15, 2011 at 5:14pm, Originally from Jersey said...

    What a lovely post. Thank you so much for posting this recipe. My husband grew up in NY, he has these same memories of bakery-fresh Sunday-morning crumb cake, and the same disappointment of not being able to find any in any of the “bakeries” in any of the towns in which we have lived. I’ve tried other recipes, but they’ve never been quite right. This one looks wonderful, can’t wait to give it a go.

  18. On November 20, 2011 at 10:52am, ciaochowlinda said...

    Your dad was there with you Susan and he was happy that you made the cake. This was always one of my husband’s favorite treats too. But I have to admit I took as much if not more of the cake as he always did. Beautiful story and lovely cake.

  19. On November 22, 2011 at 8:06pm, Carroll @ VanillaLemonade said...

    Hmmmmm- my familys ridiculous obsession with Entemann’s is about to end… Lovely!

  20. On November 25, 2011 at 8:58pm, Amy said...

    This looks like a lovely recipe to try out, I’ve always been a fan of Crumb Cake and this looks marvelous.

  21. On November 29, 2011 at 6:50pm, Ellen said...

    Susan, you’re not talking about St. Clare’s in the Bronx, are you? I don’t know about St. Francis Xavier, but my Dad lived up the street from St. Clare’s, we went there frequently, and there were plenty of bakeries in the neighborhood (Rhinelander Ave, Morris Park Avenue, and so on). We too had special Sunday-only bakery treats, the “crumb buns” another reader mentioned. Wow … good memories, and thanks for sharing about your Dad. I miss my Mom a lot.

  22. On December 07, 2011 at 12:28pm, Brittney said...

    This recipe was perfect. My family is all Italian New Yorkers. I made this cake and they all begged for the recipe.

  23. On January 16, 2012 at 9:11am, Rich said...

    I have not had crumb cake in years as I have celiac disease and can’t eat anything with gluten in it. There is a bakery in Hackensack, NJ which sells crumb cake which is legendary in these parts and I frequently pass the bakery going to work. so it got me in the mood for making some.

    I enjoyed the family story you posted and decided to give the recipe a whirl making all necessary changes to make the recipe gluten free. it smelled great and better yet tasted great.

    my only question is the topping. there seemed to be bit of a crunch which I don’t recall from any past crumb cakes. mind you I have not eaten any in over 5 years so maybe I’m just not remembering it right. it is not a complaint, just an observation.

  24. On February 07, 2012 at 12:37pm, Sofia said...

    This looks amazing! I’d love to try…do you have any suggestions for a substitution for the sour cream without compromising the outcome? A few of my family members have a milk allergy (including myself), although eggs and butter are safe.

  25. On April 02, 2012 at 9:37am, annette p said...

    Let me start off by saying, I’m a crumb cake fanatic. My husband and I moved to Florida from New York 3 years ago and haven’t had crumb cake like the ones we used to get up north. Since our move, I’ve been trying various recipes (including this one). This one happens to be pretty darn good compared to others on marthastewart.com etc.
    One of the best New York Style Crumb Cakes my family has been enjoying for years comes from Crumb Cake Creations! They’re a New Jersey based bakery which ships throughout the US (yes, better than B&W and Mills in our opinion). I’ve yet to find a crumb cake with larger crumbs than these. Plus, they have a ton of varieties aside from the typical crumb cake you’d expect. Carrot, blueberry jam, red velvet, and pumpkin are just a few of the ones I’ve seen. My favorite happens to be Pumpkin Crumb Cake.
    Check them out in time for Easter – you wont be disappointed.

    -Annette

  26. On May 12, 2012 at 1:53am, Carol said...

    Amazing how food touches our lives and memories of those we love and miss. My dad’s family was from North Bergen New Jersey and Hilltop Bakery was pure joy when I was a kid. We lived in Virginia so and there were no bakeries or decent potato salad, delis, etc. I would visit in the summers to stay with my aunts and Babci and that bakery was Heaven. My cousin always called the topping “the bumps” cause he loved to pick them off and enjoy them alone. I miss those days so much, recently went back to see it during a family funeral, all gone, so sad, breaks my heart. I am going to try your recipe right away, I love crumb cake and cannot get a real one here in Virginia, they try but not the same.

  27. On May 12, 2012 at 10:56am, Liz said...

    Wow! Your Sundays growing up were a lot like mine! We lived in NJ though. We always called them crumb buns and they were always for breakfast, never as dessert! It is funny that I read your post as I have my own recipe baking in the oven right now!

  28. On May 12, 2012 at 10:59am, Liz said...

    PS ours had/have lots of powdered sugar on top!

  29. On July 18, 2012 at 2:29pm, Megan said...

    Hi! I made this today (it’s actually in my oven right now), and smells amazing. I’m having a problem with it though. After about five or ten minutes in the oven, the cake batter began to rise over the crumbs, so that the topping is now hidden beneath the risen cake. I’m not sure what went wrong; I admit that I didn’t follow the recipe exactly…I used buttermilk instead of the sour cream because it was all I had on hand (I found a way to substitute the buttermilk for the sour cream on allrecipes.com. I’m not sure how that could’ve caused the cake to rise over the crumbs though. I ended up just making another batch of topping halfway through the baking process, and spreading those over the top, so it looks like a crumb cake. It just won’t be as pretty as yours when cut into, but I’m sure it’ll taste just as good. Anyway, I’d really appreciate your thoughts on what went wrong with my cake. Thanks for a wonderful recipe!

  30. On October 29, 2012 at 3:34pm, Nancy Goldstein said...

    This is the best receipt for both the cake and even better for the topping. Have tried making it many times and the crumb topping just didn’t do it for me. Being a Long Island lady the crumb is the thing that makes a crumb cake.
    Now if I can only find a wonderful Babka bakery. Have to order it from Green’s in Williamsburg. Not complaining, just got a shipment the other day with chocolate babka, apricot hammentashen and cinnamon rugies. You can tell fall has finally come to Florida, we are now thinking comfort foods.

  31. On November 28, 2012 at 7:35pm, Laura Cihocki said...

    Ohhh, wow. This is a REALLY good crumb cake. Moist, buttery cake and plenty of crunchy (but not too dry) topping. Most crumb cake recipes I’ve tried are all cake and no crumb, but this one is perfectly balanced. Like many of the commenters, I grew up in New Jersey and didn’t realize that “coffee cake” as I knew it was a regional thing. I’ve missed it, but now I can have it whenever I want! Thank you :).

  32. On December 24, 2012 at 3:35pm, Beth said...

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I am a north easterner living in Arkansas. I’ve been searching for a good crumb cake to make for the family, I know they will be so excited. Whenever we visit NY we always are sure to bring back crumb cake. Now I will have a recipe that fits the bill. I’m off to make it now…thanks again

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    [...] New York Crumb Cake - Crumb cake is one of my favorite treats. I actually like it for breakfast sometimes with a tall cup of coffee or tea. This one looks awesome. (@ Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy) [...]

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Hello and welcome to SGCC! I’m Susan, a professional writer, food columnist, recipe developer, wife, mother, daughter and sister, who used to be a lawyer in a previous life. My love of food comes from a long line of wonderful and creative Italian home cooks who didn’t always have a lot, but knew how to make a lot out of what they had. I hope that you enjoy yourself while you’re here, and visit often! read more >>

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