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Anyone have a GREAT crumb cake recipe and why aren't my cakes moist?

  • v

I am more of a cook than a baker, but my husband likes to eat something sweet for breakfast so I try to make him coffee cake type cakes on a somewhat regular basis. Sometimes they are great but more often they end up a little on the dry side. Not gagging dry, but not box cake moist either (sorry, but it's true. Those preservatives do some good work!)

My first question is, if you have a terrific, foolproof crumb cake recipe, will you please share it? He's from NJ and loves the ones that are a nice mix of cake and crumb but definitely a strong crumb showing.

Second, any advice on the moistness of cake would be greatly appreciated. I don't have a great oven and it seems like generally if I take it out much earlier, it's too wet in the middle and collapses a little in the center when I take it out. But maybe that's the best solution? I follow recipes relatively closely.


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  1. There's a current thread about favorite recipes form the SmittenKitchen Blog. The recipe for the Big Crumb Coffee Cake is frequently mentioned. Here's the link to that recipe:


    1. My cakes are usually dry-ish. I like that texture. It comes from not making box cakes, AFAICT. I tried making box cakes recently, from Trader Joe's. One was a cinnamon crumb cake, which had just the kind of moisture your husband may be looking for. It was entirely too moist for me.

      It was insanely easy -- now I know why people make box cakes -- and you don't have to put rhubarb in it.


      1. I make the most unbelievable crumb cake, at least according to my Dad and my husband, but it starts with boxed mix. I double the crumbs (which of course are scratch) so yes, there is an overabundance, as I find that is what everyone prefers. If you don't have anything against cake mix, I'll write it out.

        20 Replies
        1. re: coll

          Okay, I don't have anything against cake mix...may I have the recipe?

          1. re: critter101

            My pleasure! This is from the bakery where I once worked


            Use sheet pan 12x18x1

            Preheat oven 350. Grease and flour pan.

            1 box white (or yellow) cake mix:
            Mix as directed EXCEPT use milk instead of water
            Bake 20 minutes, cool 10 minutes.

            Sprinkle crumbs on top and pat down with a wooden spoon. Bake 15 minutes more.

            Cool and sprinkle with confectioner sugar.

            Now the most important part: THE CRUMBS! This is the recipe for them, already doubled:

            2 sticks of butter and 2 sticks of margarine (but I use one of those "healthy" substitutes like Trader Joes), it doesn't come out right with all butter
            4 cups flour
            1 1/3 cup sugar
            pinch of salt
            4 tsp cinnamon
            1 tsp nutmeg
            2 tsp vanilla
            2 tsp baking powder

            Melt butter/margarine and mix all ingredients together.

            1. re: coll

              Thanks so much. I have everything except the cake mix...looks like we'll have a yummy brunch on Saturday!

              1. re: critter101

                Oh I hope so. And unless you have a major guest list, the leftovers freeze very well, for the future!

                1. re: coll

                  Leftover crumb cake. Hard to conceive of.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    This is a bakery sized pan, and there are only two of us. Now if we were having company, you're right!

                    1. re: coll

                      Oh, I see. I was picturing 8" x 8".

                      1. re: Jay F

                        No, it's enough for an army!

                        1. re: coll

                          I guess I could quarter the recipe for an 8x8. It sounds wonderful. Thanks for posting it.

              2. re: coll

                Couple questions!

                The pan - 12x18x1 - so this isn't a high cake? I love cakes that are mostly crumb, but does it topple out of the pan?

                The butter/margarine - why do you think it doesn't come out right with all butter?

                I used to have a great recipe that I used that was on Epicurious - the Ashkanazic sour cream coffee cake, but I haven't made it in years and when I look at it now, I wonder if that was it. Just doesn't seem right. So this thread is very timely for me!

                1. re: Violatp

                  The cake layer is less than an inch tall at most, more like a half inch. No toppling involved, it doesn't rise all that much. It's a BIG pan and plenty of room for everything to spread out.

                  The couple of times I made the topping all butter, it just seemed too greasy. I'm sticking with the original, but feel free to experiment.

                  No sour cream, but very rich nevertheless. This is a bakery recipe from the 1970s or even earlier, so not sure that Epicurious was involved at any point.

                  1. re: coll

                    Okay, cool, I'm definitely going to try this in one of my half-sheets. I'll probably try all butter as butter is what I generally have on hand, but I'll see what happens.

                    I didn't think this recipe might be my old recipe - it's just when I look at that sour cream recipe on Epicurious, it doesn't spark my interest quite as much as I seem to remember. So, I;m confused as to whether or not that one was the recipe I made multiple times!

                    1. re: Violatp

                      Let us know, I've made it with all butter because that's what I usually have too. It's not inedible by any means!

                2. re: coll

                  Well, I made this cake tonight, and my SO says, "Yum...tastes like home"! He's a Jersey guy - I guess he should know. The cake is tender, and the double crumb topping is great. As recommended, I used half butter, half margarine. Thanks again for the recipe.

                  1. re: critter101

                    So glad you liked it, yeah it's very typical of New York and New Jersey.

                    1. re: critter101

                      Did you make the whole, giant batch? If so, can you send me some? ;-)

                    2. re: coll

                      Looks good, but I'm confused. A bakery used a boxed cake mix?

                      1. re: wincountrygirl

                        Oh, you'd be surprised by how many bakeries use box mix.

                        1. re: Violatp

                          Yeah but they weren't cheapskates, they used General Mills ;-)

                3. I found this recipe on the 'net when I was looking to use up some ricotta cheese and some blueberries. http://www.virtualcities.com/ons/wi/l...
                  It's very moist, probably because of the ricotta. I'm sure you could substitute other fruit for the blueberries although I never have.

                  1. Once you start adding the flour, it is best not to overmix as that will cause dryness. If the recipe calls for butter, use butter, whole milk.

                    1. I recently made the Butter Crumb Coffee Cake from Carole Walter’s “Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & More” and reported on it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8850... Her streusel is a bit more involved than most, but it was hands down the best I’ve ever had. The cake was just superb. You can find the recipe at this link: http://alittlezaftig.com/?p=2259

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: JoanN

                        I'm dying to try the Behemoth Crumb Cake from Serious Eats (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...). It's basically all topping with a tiny layer of cake at the bottom...

                        Heck - if it's dry, with all that topping, you won't even notice it!


                        1. re: jbsiegel

                          Will be curious to hear what you think if you do decide to make it. Seems to me it would be like just eating spoonfuls of flour, butter, and sugar. Much as I love streusel, that just doesn't sound appealing to me.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            Ha ha! I agree that it wouldn't be my choice for every breakfast (or maybe dessert?) for the rest of my life, but I'm thinking it'll be fun once in a while. Plus, I'm sure the kids will see absolutely NOTHING wrong with it! :-)

                            1. re: JoanN

                              I finally got around to making the crumb cake. I had to up the cooking time by a bit (maybe 10 extra minutes or so), but the result is pretty darned good. That said, I wouldn't want to eat it continually, but as a silly "treat", it's great!

                              BTW...the kids and the hubby LOVE it!

                            2. re: jbsiegel

                              Yikes...I just popped the ingredients for this one into a nutrition analyzer. The 9x13 pan is a total of over 14,000 calories. That means that to get it down to something reasonable to eat in one sitting, I'm going to be cutting itty bitty "towers" (very tall and narrow). Oh well - still trying it once...sometime next week.

                            3. re: JoanN

                              Carole Walter is always reliable. And that streusel! Oh, my.

                              1. re: JoanN

                                I recently tried this recipe too and love it! Until now my go to coffee cake recipe was from the Cafe Beaujolais cookbook which was often requested by friends/family.Both are very good and the CB recipe is definitely less work but for something special I will stick with Carole Walters' recipe.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Thanks, Joan, this will be the first one I try. I'm wondering if your comments on leveling the flour is part of my dryness issue. I have to admit, I don't do that.

                                  1. re: vvv03

                                    If you have a scale, it's best to weigh the flour. The average cup of flour is 4.5 ounces, though if you use King Arthur All Purpose, they give the cup weight as 4.25. If you can, weigh your un-leveled cup of flour. My guess is that it could weigh 6-7 ounces!

                                2. Scale your ingredients. Besides overbaking, too much flour is the #1 reason any baked thing comes out dry.
                                  Measuring flour by volume is hugely variable and can be off by as much as 50%.

                                  1. Recipes that use sour cream tend to be easier to keep moist. Don't pull the cake early but don't let it overcook either. If you need more accuracy, try pulling the cake with an internal temp about 205 and before 210. As others have said, don't overmix the flour.

                                    Two of my favorites:

                                    almond and sour cream:


                                    1. http://www.thefoodmaven.com/nycfood/n...

                                      I like this coffee cake. The crumb is rich, plenty of cinnamon and the butter/sour cream combo keeps the cake plenty moist. 9x13 pan. This is typically the coffee cake I bring to a Sunday brunch. I follow the tips recommended here, quick bake, def. don't over mix the batter and weigh the dry ingred.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        Is the use of superfine or strained sugar critical? By "strained sugar" do they just mean regular granulated white sugar that has been passed through a mesh strainer?

                                        1. re: masha

                                          I whirl regular white or granulated raw in my food processor for a few pulses and then proceed.

                                          1. re: HillJ

                                            One of the biggest factors in cake texture is beating the butter and sugar to the point that there is no grittiness left at all. None. It's quite a bit faster to get there with superfine sugar.
                                            I also insist superfine sugar measures differently despite what it says on the carton.

                                      2. my favorite recipe... lots of crumbs, a dense, super moist cake.
                                        Browned Butter Crumb Cake


                                        69 g Dark Brown Sugar
                                        69 g Granulated Sugar
                                        1 tsp. Cinnamon
                                        ⅛ tsp. Salt
                                        8 tablespoons Browned Butter
                                        210 g Flour

                                        1 large Egg
                                        1 Egg Yolk
                                        1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
                                        120 g Flour
                                        78 g Sugar
                                        30 g Brown Sugar, Loosely Packed
                                        ½ tsp. Baking Powder
                                        ½ tsp. Baking Soda
                                        ¼ tsp. Salt
                                        3 ounces Browned Butter
                                        ⅓ cup Sour Cream
                                        2.5 tbsp. Cream Cheese

                                        Add sugar, salt and spice to melted browned butter. Then add flour until it forms a smooth dough. Refrigerate. (Make sure to incorporate all of the sugar before adding the flour.)

                                        Stir together sour cream, cream cheese, egg, yolk, and vanilla.
                                        In stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, leaveners, and salt.
                                        Add melted (slightly cooled) browned butter, and a dollop of sour cream mixture, and mix on medium til flour is moistened. Beat for 30 seconds on high speed.
                                        Add remaining sour cream mixture in two additions, beating for 20 seconds after each, and scraping down sides of bowl.
                                        Preheat oven to 325 F.
                                        Line 8x8 inch square pan with parchment; spray with non-stick spray if desired. Put cake batter in. Break crumb topping into 1/2 inch size crumbs, and sprinkle over cake. Bake until toothpick is clean 40-55 minutes. Cool completely.

                                        Don't over bake, but pretty hard to make it dry...

                                        1. I make the Penzey's cinnamon coffee cake - and it's KILLER. Easy, moist tasty, and not too bad for you (one stick of butter for the whole 9 x 9 cake, including topping).

                                          The secret of it being moist? Use buttermilk instead of "regular" and, don't over bake it.

                                          1. As president of a dessert society, I have significant cake experience, and I can promise you that there is no cake recipe under the sun where you can't replace exactly half the flour with ground almonds to instantly get a moister, more delunctuous cake. Just add an extra half teaspoon of baking powder for any regular-sized cake recipe.

                                            If you want your cake even more moist and lip-smacking, use a cocktail stick to poke loads of holes in the top and then spoon over a good few tablespoons of a syrup or other liquid that compliments the body of the cake: sweetened lemon juice, sweetened strong coffee, liqueur, jam loosened up with a bit of water and microwaved...all work well and give the cake a very juicy, luxurious feel.

                                            To get the perfect bake on your cake, NEVER open the oven before the golden 20-minute period has passed, as the first 20 minutes of a cake's baking time is a fragile period and a tiny gust of cold air coming in through an open oven door can make it freak out and give up and collapse. When it seems done, poke the top of it gently and if it bounces back nicely like a baby's cheek it is perfectly cooked and won't collapse. And to prevent it sinking, you can even try dropping it (yes, quite violently) on the kitchen counter; all cakes sink to an extent as they cool because the gas inside the air bubbles contracts as it gets colder and sucks the cake in on itself. If you break the bubble walls with an impact the bubbles won't collapse and the cake stays perky.

                                            I hope you try these things and that they work for you!

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: HillJ

                                                Unfortunately not...! Wow! We're actually based in Britain so officially we're a Pudding Society - but 'pudding' tends to mean something other than 'generic dessert' anywhere else other than the UK :P

                                            1. anyone know where the thread is about the various school recipes? thought there was a crumb cake recipe there....if so, plz post the link here.

                                              also, when mentioning a thread or putting in the link, how does one find the post ie. #94787, I don't see that on my computer. TIA

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: iL Divo

                                                Is this the link you were looking for? http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/481552

                                                (I found the thread by clicking on the no. 1 listed thread under Discussions You Might Also Like in the top right of this thread. That wasn't it but the no. 1 listed thread there as to Discussions You Might Also Like was the one about LAUS recipes, so I figured that was what you were referring to. )

                                                1. re: masha

                                                  thanks to you masha.
                                                  it was the right thread regarding the LA Unified School District. I love those recipes.
                                                  topic # I still don't get.
                                                  I'm sorry it's no doubt me.

                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                    The topic number is included in the URL of each thread as displayed on your web browser. I.e, this thread is topic 891122.

                                                    To place the link into a discussion, I copy the URL and then paste it into the text.

                                              2. I second the suggestion of weighing the flour.

                                                I don't know if it was mentioned yet, but for a recipe I made the ATK/CI recipe once [New York Style Crumb Cake] and really liked it. The only thing that's kinda annoying is making the crumbs, but if you let your husband help, he can make the crumbs while you mix the cake then the preparation is quite simple.