Crumb cake is my favorite kind of cake because it has no frosting! This incredibly tender sour cream crumb cake is filled with tart cranberries and topped with a thick layer of brown sugar streusel. Serve it as a sweet breakfast, brunch or dessert!
Crumb cake is my kind of cake! This frosting hater is pumped about a thick layer of streusel! I could eat that all day long. All. Day.
Crumb cake is not something I had ever really had until I moved to the east coast. This stuff is dangerous. The most tender fluffy cake on bottom and a really thick layer of brown sugar struesel “crumbs” on top.
We were eating crumb cake for breakfast at Thanksgiving this year and immediately I decided I needed to make one. It is just too good not to have my own recipe in my repertoire. For this specific crumb cake, cranberries are added in the middle to give a nice tart contrast. I love that. But it is equally as good without them. Your call.
Let’s talk tenderness of this cake. We are using cake flour which, if you have been a follower of my Baking 101 posts, you know has a lower protein content than other flours. This lower protein content means that less gluten will be developed which is what we want for cake! We need some gluten to create the structure but not too much!
It is all a balancing act. Cake flour is also really really finely ground, much more so than other flours. For this reason, cake flour lends to a much finer and tender crumb. I’m telling you, cake flour is worth getting if you want to make a really killer cake!
Baking Science Fun Fact: Cake flour has a protein content of about 7-8% compared to the 10-12% found in all-purpose flour. Bread flour has an even higher protein content, coming in at 14-16%! The percentage varies a little from brand to brand.
For this cake we are going to be using the Creaming Method, not to be confused with the creaming method used for cookies, though they are very similar. It is very simple and broken down into these steps.
Procedure for the Cake Creaming Method
- Sift or whisk all of your dry ingredients together and set aside.
- Cream together your butter and sugar.
- Mix the eggs and other flavorings, such as vanilla, into the creamed butter mixture.
- Alternate between mixing in part of the dry ingredients then part of the wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
When I first started baking I was very confused by that last step. Why alternate between adding in the dry ingredients and wet ingredients when making a cake? Why can’t they just all go in at once?
The reason for this is that the batter cannot properly absorb all of the liquid without at least some of the dry ingredients present. But we are trying to avoid overdeveloping the gluten here because we want a tender cake!
So part of the flour goes in, then part of the liquid (in this case sour cream) and repeat. Three additions of the flour and 2 additions of the liquid (sometimes this is broken down into 4 additions of flour and 3 additions of liquid) helps the liquid get absorbed without all of the flour being beaten for an extended period of time.
To read the very detailed steps about how this method works for cake making, read the article The Creaming Method for Making Cakes.
If you are still up for braving the stores this week this crumb cake would be lovely for Christmas breakfast or even New Years Day breakfast! I have another brunch recipe coming up for you tomorrow.
I meant to give these to you earlier but Baker Bettie is on holiday hours and I’m trying not to stress too much! Just enjoying a lot of family, too much food, waaaay too much wine, and not getting enough work done. That’s how it should be, right? Cheers!
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 1 cup sour cream
- 12 oz fresh or frozen cranberries (optional)
InstructionsFor the Streusel
- Start by preparing the streusel- Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and salt together until well combined.
- Stir in the melted butter and mix well with a fork or with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Set aside and prepare the cake.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F and position the oven rack on the center rung. Grease a 9 by 13 inch baking pan and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl with a hand mixer, or the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and the eggs one at a time and beat until just incorporated.
- Alternate adding about 1/4 of the flour mixture and then about 1/3 of the sour cream, starting and ending with the flour mixture (4 additions of flour, 3 additions of sour cream), and beat until just incorporated. Do not over-mix.
- Using a rubber spatula, spread half of the cake mixture in the baking dish. Spread the cranberries evenly over top of the batter. Top with the rest of the cake mixture and use the spatula to spread evenly. Evenly spread the streusel mixture over the cake.
- Bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Loosely place a piece of tinfoil over top of the cake during the last 20 minutes of baking if needed to not over-brown.