Master the Classic
Likely an offspring of Germany’s Streuselkuchen, New York–style crumb cake is easy to perfect
“although there is no written evidence that crumb cake was invented in Germany,” Alfons Schuhbeck, author of The
German Cookbook, says, “its emergence is attributed to the cuisine of Silesia in the 19th century, which at that time was still [German].” There, where today the cake is eaten mostly as an afternoon snack, traditional Streuselkuchen, or streusel cake, features a yeasted batter and, occasionally, a second layer of streusel ribboned through the center.
This New York–style variation—which gets both lift and added richness from a combination of sour cream, baking soda, and baking powder (but no yeast)—is easier to mix and bake. While the crumb is similar (streusel is mostly butter, flour, and sugar, with cinnamon and sometimes oats or nuts), usually there’s more of it on the New York version, and a hefty dose of powdered sugar.
“The amount of crumbs is the most important part. You want a lot, and enough tender cake to play off them,” Greenspan says.