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Rich cakes require perfect crumbs

When I want to make a quick breakfast or brunch dessert, I typically make a crumb cake.

For me, the ubiquitous supermarket versions of crumb cakes don’t really do it justice. They are laden with stabilizing preservatives, and the cake typically has a streusel topping rather than just a crumb topping.

My goal, then, was to find recipes for crumb cake that have rich dough, topped with thick chunks of lightly spiced crumb topping. The perfect crumbs on top of a cake should look crunchy and have a buttery and sweet crunch, yet be sort of cake like all at once.

The following recipes are truly perfect at any time of the day. But for the biggest “wow” factor, put the cake together the night before and get up just a little early, bake it and serve it for breakfast.

Buttermilk Spiced Crumb Cake

3 cups flour

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup butter, softened

2 teaspoons ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, butter, nutmeg and cinnamon. Mix thoroughly until mixture resembles crumbs. Reserve one cup crumb mixture for topping. Add the eggs, buttermilk, baking powder and baking soda to remaining crumb mixture; beat well. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Top with reserved crumbs. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake for 45 minutes or until cake tests done. Cut into squares and serve warm or cold. Makes 12 to 14 servings.

Martha Stewart’s New York Crumb Cake

4 cups flour, divided

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and set it aside In a large bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and spread the batter into pan. Set it aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and stir with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. Spread evenly over batter in pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating once, until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving in large pieces. Serves 12.

– Modified from a Martha Stewart recipe Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.