Over the past two weeks, thanks to the amazingly warm weather we have been blessed with, I have logged quite a few miles in my spiffy new Nike running shoes. However, before I go any further, allow me to state, for the record, that the preceding sentence was not a plug for the brand.
It was, in fact, a statement of fact. And that’s a fact…
I had to buy new athletic shoes when I took a close look at my old running shoes and realized why my feet were aching so badly after my workouts…. the soles were almost completely worn down in spots. A good sign (that means a lot of workouts) and a bad sign (that I neglected to replace them sooner).
The point of the story is that while I have been dutifully breaking in my new shoes, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a new page I am working on for the blog, which is a listing of all our favorites that will facilitate my ability to find what I’m looking for in a reasonable amount of time. And since I discovered that I have 14 variations of chocolate chip cookies, I think it would behoove myself (and the posse, should they be so inclined..) to have the absolute favorites listed in one place.
Which brings us to this crumb cake. It was, in a word, sublime. I think what sent it to “most favored” status was the fact that the cake portion stays soft, even a few days after baking. The other version I was using became dry and unpalatable after a day or so.
And no one – repeat, no one – likes dry cake.
Mom – your comments were dutifully noted :)
Our New Favorite Crumb Cake – adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk
confectioners’ sugar (optional, to finish)
To make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together both sugars, the cinnamon, and melted butter. Add the cake flour and use a rubber spatula to fold it in until cohesive. The mixture will be very thick. Allow to cool to room temperature, about 10-15 minutes.
To make the cake: Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack in the upper third. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides so you can lift the cake out afterward. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the cake flour, sugar, and baking soda in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low briefly to combine. With the mixer still on low, add the butter, one piece at a time, and continue mixing until the mixture is crumbly, about 1-2 minutes (there shouldn’t be any visible chunks of butter left). Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and increase the mixer to medium-high speed. Beat until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan, and spread into an even layer. Pick up the crumb topping by handfuls, and break off chunks, scattering them over the top of the batter. Use all of the topping – it will be a thick layer. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the crumb topping is golden brown, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the pan to a wire rack and cool for at least 30 minutes, before using the foil handles to lift the cake out of the pan. Cut into squares for serving (dusting with confectioners’ sugar to finish if desired).