I usually scoff at butterphobia, but man, this crumb cake is kind of shocking. It’s marvelous, to be sure, but you need to bake it for a crowd—or run the risk of realizing on day two that your casual nibbling has taken you through an entire stick of butter.
Although Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook deems this cake “foolproof,” I nearly managed to ruin it: I let the butter for the topping get too warm before cutting it into the dry ingredients, so my crumbs were more like a dense, uniform blanket. It still tasted fantastic (if a bit salty—I would reduce the recommended 1 1/2 teaspoons salt by about half), but be sure to mix up the topping before the butter gets too soft, especially if your kitchen is still summer-hot.
A small square of crumb cake would be a great dessert at a barbecue or picnic, but you could also start the day with a larger slice and a nice piece of fruit.
Classic Crumb Cake
- 4 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, and a little more for the pan
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups sour cream
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Generously butter a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Whisk together 2 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Cream 1 1/4 sticks butter and the cup of granulated sugar until light and fluffy (about 4 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment). Add the eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and sour cream; beat just until combined.
Make the crumb topping: Whisk together the remaining 3 cups flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and 1 1/2 teaspoons (or perhaps a bit less) salt. Cut in the remaining 3 1/2 sticks butter until large, moist clumps form. (You can also mix the topping in a food processor). Topping can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Spoon the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, Before serving, dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired.