Cinnamon Crumb Cake
Cinnamon Crumb Cake: Moist sour cream cake topped with a thick layer of crumbly cinnamon streusel. A total classic, so delicious with a cup of coffee!
*Original publish date: February 22, 2018.*
I have certainly made my love for all things crumb-topped well known here at Baking a Moment!
There are SO many delicious recipes here that begin and end with streusel! Here’s just a small sampling:
- Blueberry Muffins
- Homemade Crumb Donuts
- Chocolate Crumb Donuts
- New York Crumb Cheesecake
- Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake
- Pear Cranberry Crisp
- Apple Raspberry Crumb Cake
- Brown Butter Peach Crumble Ice Cream
But recently I realized there was a glaring omission in my recipe index.
No cinnamon crumb cake??
No no no no no. This cannot be.
So I immediately got to work baking up this total classic.
I think you are going to love it!
Table of Contents
- What makes this the best crumb cake recipe
- What does crumb cake taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make this crumb cake recipe
- How to serve crumb cake
- Expert tips
- A few more of my favorite breakfast recipes
What makes this the best crumb cake recipe
- Tastes amazing: There’s plenty of warm cinnamon, earthy & sweet brown sugar, and vanilla-scented sour cream cake.
- Perfect texture: The cake itself is so moist, and the crumb topping is buttery and rich with a tender crunch.
- Few ingredients: You’ll only need a handful of pantry staples to make it.
- Easy to make: This recipe utilizes the reverse creaming method, so it’s practically foolproof!
What does crumb cake taste like?
The most prominent flavor here would have to be cinnamon.
But there’s also the warmth of brown sugar, the sweet aroma of vanilla, and a slight tang from sour cream and lemon.
And there’s a buttery richness that just keeps you going back for another bite!
You’ll use butter both in the cake and in the crumb topping as well.
I like to use unsalted butter because it lets me control the amount of salt in the dish. Different brands of butter can contain different amounts of salt, so this way you get a more consistent result.
For a vegan or dairy-free crumb cake recipe, use a plant-based product that can substitute for dairy butter 1:1.
The butter will be melted for the topping, but for the cake it should be softened to room temperature. You can set it out on the counter a few hours ahead of making your recipe, or you can microwave it for 10 seconds, turn it over, and microwave it again for another 8 seconds.
All-purpose flour is my go-to, but you can swap it out for any kind of whole-grain option if you like. You may need slightly less if you go that route.
A gluten-free flour blend that can sub 1:1 for regular flour should also work just fine, if you’d like to make a gluten-free crumb cake.
These not only sweeten the cake but they also help to keep it moist. Sugar is hydrophilic, meaning it draws moisture in and holds onto it.
Ground cinnamon flavors the topping in a very traditional way. Feel free to substitute with another ground spice (to taste), if you’d like to get creative!
Salt carries the flavors and intensifies them. The end result won’t taste salty, but it will make everything so much more flavorful!
I like kosher salt best because it doesn’t have any additives (table salt usually contains iodine which can leave a bitter taste), so the flavor is pure. It’s also inexpensive and easy to find in a regular grocery store.
Eggs provide structure to the cake as well as added richness.
Use large chicken eggs, preferably at room temperature, or a plant-based product that subs 1:1.
This ingredient helps the cake to be ultra-moist, as well as giving it a really appealing and subtly tangy flavor.
Not only does lemon lift the flavor of the cake, it also works together with the baking soda to create a chemical reaction that makes the cake rise.
Freshly squeezed is best, but bottled lemon juice will work in a pinch.
Vanilla extract adds a subtly sweet flavor without being at all sugary.
- Measuring cups and spoons: For measuring ingredients accurately. Follow this guide: How to Measure Ingredients for Baking.
- Small pot and a fork: In which to melt the butter and mix up the crumb topping.
- Large mixing bowl: For making the cake batter.
- Electric mixer: Either a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer will work.
- Silicone spatula: Reaches and incorporates any ingredients that might be hiding from the mixer, and helps to get every bit of dough from the bowl!
- Cooking spray: So the cake doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Parchment paper sheets: Also prevents the cake from sticking to the pan, and makes it really easy to remove the whole cake to a cutting board for slicing.
- Baking pan: I’ve used a 9×9-inch metal pan here, but 8×8 would work too (your cake would just be a bit taller and may need a little more time in the oven.
How to make this crumb cake recipe
This recipe comes together in 4 main steps.
Step 1: Make the crumb topping
You’ll want to start by melting the butter. You can do this in the microwave or in a small pot on the stove, over low heat.
Next, add the remaining ingredients: flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Then just mix everything with a fork.
At first, while the butter is still hot, the mixture may seem kinda doughy, but as it cools and the butter solidifies it will become more crumbly.
Step 2: Make the sour cream cake batter
Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in your mixing bowl and give them a quick stir just to combine them.
Add the soft butter…
…and stir it in on medium-low speed, until the mixture resembles damp sand.
Next, add the eggs, stirring them in just until combined.
Then, in go the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of your bowl first!
Step 3: Assemble the cake
Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan, and layer it generously with the crumb topping.
Step 4: Bake
Slide the cake into a preheated oven and allow it to bake until it feels springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
How to serve crumb cake
Allow the cake to cool, then grab it by the excess parchment at the sides and lift it onto a cutting board.
Cut it into squares, and dust it generously with powdered sugar. This adds a little more sweetness, plus it looks so pretty!
You can eat this for breakfast, as an afternoon snack, or for dessert. It pairs beautifully with coffee! In fact, here in the US we often call this dish “coffee cake.” It doesn’t contain any coffee, but it’s the perfect accompaniment!
Measure accurately: Follow this guide for precise and accurate measuring: How to Measure Ingredients.
Sweeten to taste: If you like your cake a little sweeter, pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup tightly. If you prefer things a little less sweet, pack it loosely.
Don’t overmix: If you overwork your batter, it will develop the natural glutens in the flour and your cake could come out tough. For the lightest, airiest, pillowy-soft cake, stir just as long as is recommended in the recipe card below.
Don’t overbake: This is the number one cause of dry cake. Keep an eye on your cake as it’s baking. A few minutes before you think it will be done, flip on the oven light and view the cake through the window. If it doesn’t look wet in the middle, crack open the door slightly and give it a feel. It should feel springy. If so, give it the toothpick test. If it comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the cake is done.
Cool it in the pan: Cooling the cake in the pan helps to keep it moist.
Crumb cake is a classic recipe that consists of a moist, vanilla-scented sour cream cake, layered with a thick application of buttery cinnamon streusel. It’s traditionally served for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack, along with coffee.
While many cakes are made by first creaming butter and sugar, then alternately stirring in the liquid and dry ingredients, this one is different.
That’s because it utilizes the reverse creaming method.
With this method, you start with the dry ingredients, then work the butter in. The eggs go in next, and lastly, the liquids.
I prefer this method because I find it easier. You only have to use one bowl, and you are less likely to overmix the batter, resulting in a tough cake.
The reverse creaming method has been around for decades, and it takes so much of the guesswork out. And the results are always perfect!
You can make the streusel topping up to a week or so ahead of time, but I’d save the cake batter for just before you plan to bake it. Otherwise, your rising agents will lose their lifting power.
Of course, you can always measure out your ingredients beforehand, to get a jump on things!
Once the cake is baked, it should keep for a good while. More on that in the next faq!
This cake can be left at room temperature, lightly covered for a few days. Any longer than that, and it should probably go into the fridge.
It will keep in the fridge for a week or so.
You can also freeze it! Wrap it very tightly and it will last for a couple of months, and can be thawed in the fridge or at room temp.
Reheat it for about 10 or 15 seconds in the microwave, or wrap it in foil and place it in a 170-degree F oven until it’s warmed through.
I’ve cut the crumb cake you see here into 9 very generous squares.
The nutritional info in the recipe card below reflects a serving size of 1/9 of the whole cake, and it includes the cake layer, the crumb layer, and the powdered sugar garnish.
That said, I don’t think I could manage a 3-inch square of this cake! It’s so generous, it would be too much for me. So feel free to cut yours into smaller squares if you prefer!
A few more of my favorite breakfast recipes
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Cinnamon Crumb Cake
For the cinnamon crumb topping:
For the sour cream cake:
- 1 1/2 cups (187.5 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon (3 g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter,, softened
- 2 (100 g) large eggs
- 2/3 cup (153.33 g) sour cream
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) lemon juice , (from half a lemon)
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) powdered sugar, (for garnish)
To make the cinnamon crumb topping:
- Place the butter in a small pot and melt over low heat.
- Add the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and toss to combine.
To make the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and mist a 9×9-inch metal pan with non-stick spray.
- Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer, and stir to combine.
- Add the butter, and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles damp sand (about 2 minutes).
- Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until smooth.
- Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula, then add the sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice.
- Beat on medium speed for about 1 1/2 minutes, to aerate the cake batter and build its structure.
- Transfer the cake batter to the prepared pan.
- Layer the cinnamon crumb mixture on top, then bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.
- Cool completely, then dust with powdered sugar for garnish.