Mas­ter the Clas­sic

Likely an off­spring of Ger­many’s Streuselkuchen, New York–style crumb cake is easy to per­fect

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“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.

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