I like to bake much more than I like to cook. Anybody with me on this?
In my case, this is no surprise, as I like dessert much more than I like main courses. I always prefer brownies and cakes to meats and sauces.
I do make an exception on the more savory side of things for very fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven crusty Italian bread, which can truly hold its own against any pastry. But, bread is baked as well, so it’s really no deviation from my personal norms.
A lot of people seem to frown upon my love for sugar. I’ve heard many gourmets wax eloquent instead about a cheese or a particular vegetable.
I believe I heard one Top Chef contestant proclaim the virtues of a beet – so it’s with a little embarrassment I admit this freely: I have a serious sweet tooth.
A big one.
I’ve never met a chocolate I didn’t love. I happily eat dessert after – and before – dinner. And, when given opportunity, I think cake makes a great breakfast.
That’s probably why I’m especially partial to breakfast pastries, coffee cakes, and doughnuts. I like something a little sweet to start the day. And this is the perfect recipe to satisfy that craving.
I like to call these delightful little crumb cakes “individual bites of WOW.” They are small enough to minimize your guilt (portion control is the only weapon I have left), and just sweet enough to make a satisfying pairing with your morning coffee.
The cake proper, the part that sits inside the muffin cup, is fairly average – a simple, basic cake.
It’s good, don’t get me wrong. But what makes these creations so delectable is the streusel topping. Next time, I think I’ll make 50% more of the topping so I can really layer it on to maximize the effect.
A mix of butter, sugar, cinnamon, and flour, the topping becomes a sweet, crystallized complement to the dough. It reminds me a little of toffee in parts – particularly the hardened bits I pulled off the pan and sampled right out of the oven.
Trust me: Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, this breakfast-y dessert is worth trying at home.Print
The Best Old-Fashioned Crumb Cakes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 12 cakes 1x
Melt-in-your-mouth Old Fashioned Crumb Cakes are the classic streusel-topped cake you love, in individual servings that are perfect for dessert or breakfast.
For the Cake:
- Cooking oil spray or softened butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk
For the Topping:
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking oil or softened butter.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar into a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat together the oil, eggs, vanilla, and milk. Scatter the dry mixture over the top of the wet mixture, and stir to combine.
- Scoop batter into 12 muffin cups, to about 2/3 full.
- To make the topping, combine the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter in a small bowl. Rub together with your fingers until the mix is crumbly. Sprinkle generously on top of the cakes, and flatten gently to make it stick.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prep and Measure Ingredients
Preheat your oven to 400°F and liberally grease your muffin tin.
Cooking spray is a great solution, just be sure not to spray your floor (that stuff is slippery!). Some cooks swear by butter, since they say it provides the best release from the pan. The choice is up to you.
Measure out the dry, wet, and topping ingredients. Whenever you are baking, it’s a great idea to measure out all of your ingredients ahead of time so you have them handy.
Also, don’t forget to read through the recipe at least once before you start to cook or bake any dish. You will never run into a panic attack mid-recipe ever again.
Step 2 – Sift Dry Ingredients
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
You can use a sifter designed specifically for getting lumps out of flour, but a fine mesh sieve is also a great multitasker to use for this purpose.
Step 3 – Add Wet Ingredients
In a separate bowl (or in the same bowl, to save time), combine the cooking oil, eggs, vanilla, and milk.
Sprinkle the dry mixture on top, then use an electric mixer to beat together until combined.
Be sure not to overmix; stop beating the batter as soon as all of the ingredients are incorporated.
Step 4 – Fill Muffin Cups
Using a large spoon, ice cream scoop, or even a pitcher, scoop or pour the batter into your muffin tin.
Fill each of the cups approximately 2/3 full. Be sure not to completely fill each cup, as these cakes rise a good amount in the oven.
Step 5 – Make Streusel Topping
Place all of the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Use your fingers to rub the mixture together, combining the dry ingredients with the butter until it is nice and crumbly.
I like to pinch the butter with the other ingredients between my fingers as I go, making smaller pieces easily.
Step 6 – Top Cakes
Sprinkle the topping on top of each of the cups of batter.
Be sure to divide the mixture evenly between the cups.
Step 7 – Bake
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. When you insert a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean, the crumb cakes are done.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.
Serve warm with butter for breakfast or dessert.
The Perfect Dessert… Or Breakfast
If there’s a recipe that can double for breakfast or for dessert, you can bet that I will make it in my kitchen. That’s the magic of these cinnamon crumb-topped cakes.
They are crumbly and sweet, but not too sweet – those who aren’t obsessed with sugary desserts will still love them. The cinnamon flavor and the classic texture of these cakes are a great accompaniment to coffee in the morning, or after a satisfying family meal. They’re just the right size, so you won’t feel guilty about gobbling one up.
Plus, it’s unbelievably easy to quickly heat these up in the microwave or toaster oven and take a few with you if you’re in a rush to get out the door in the morning.
If you make these cakes, don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comments below. Do you prefer to eat them for breakfast, or dessert? Be sure to rate the recipe as well!
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Photos by Meghan Bassett, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Meghan Bassett. Originally published on August 11, 2008. Last updated: December 30, 2021 at 17:15 pm with additional writing and editing by Meghan Bassett and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.