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Recipe: A crumb cake worth digging into

                                Brown butter and a generous dose of fresh cinnamon turn up the volume on crumb cake.


    Brown butter and a generous dose of fresh cinnamon turn up the volume on crumb cake.

I’m a sweets-for-breakfast guy. When I need grab- and-go food, blueberry muffins are what I make. When I have time, buttermilk biscuits with jam hit the spot. When I want something that will last, I make crumb cake, the old-school Jewish/German/New York kind with an avalanche of rocky shortbread crumbles on top.

The cake keeps for a week, so it could carry you from Christmas morning to New Year’s Day.

I turn the volume up by amplifying the best part about the cake: the topping. I create boulder-sized crumbs, which are really what we all want. And instead of a gentle perfume of spice, I pack the crumbs with spoonfuls of really good cinnamon that’s been warmed in brown butter. To balance all the intensity up top, I leave the cake batter below relatively plain — a buttery yellow cake scented with vanilla.

This cake only gets better the further it gets from the day I had to put in the work to bake it.

Brown Butter-Cinnamon Crumb Cake

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more to grease pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Powdered sugar, to garnish (optional)

>> Crumb topping:

  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Make the crumb topping: Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until butter foams and starts to smell nutty, 3 to 5 minutes. As soon as light brown flecks appear on bottom of skillet (these are the milk solids caramelizing), remove pan from heat and use a spatula to scrape butter and all the browned bits into a medium bowl. Whisk in cinnamon, then place bowl in freezer 10 minutes, stirring two or three times while it cools down.

Remove butter mixture from freezer; add flour, followed by both sugars and salt. Knead mixture until it forms a clumpy dough. Return bowl to freezer while you make cake batter.

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round springform pan with butter and line bottom with a round of parchment. Grease paper, then dust inside with flour, tapping out excess. Place pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In another bowl, combine butter, sugar and vanilla; beat with wooden spoon or hand mixer until creamy and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating in between until well combined. Once batter is smooth, beat in sour cream.

Add a third of dry ingredients, then half the milk; whisk until almost combined. Add another third of dry ingredients and remaining milk; whisk again. Add remaining dry ingredients; stir with a spatula until batter just comes together and no patches of flour remain. Scrape batter into prepared baking pan and smooth top.

Remove crumb topping from freezer. Using your fingers, break up topping into crumbles as you sprinkle it evenly over batter.

Bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 80 to 90 minutes. Transfer cake to a rack and let cool completely before unmolding. Dust top with powdered sugar, if you like, and cut into wedges to serve.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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