First, the golden rule of crab cakes: only use enough extraneous ingredients (i.e., anything that's not crab) to hold it together; it follows that the crab should be of good quality, preferably not canned.
Yes, they have a tendency to fall apart, but the key is to use plenty of butter in the pan, wait until it's very hot before adding the cakes, and turn them only once when the crust is fully formed and golden. Though these guys were nearly a hash when I finally got them onto the plates, they did make it—and the flavor was excellent.
It did feel a little bit funny cooking this dish for dinner in January, since crab cakes remind me of summer more than anything else. But maybe that's actually the perfect reason to prepare this classic from the New York Times Country Weekend Cookbook, which opts for an egg and a minimum of breadcrumbs to tie it all together.
I modified the recipe to include a homemade tartar sauce, which isn't too difficult, and raises the bar for this meal considerably.