Play with Fruit
Why reserve the season’s best produce for cobblers and pies?
beneath the streusel, German crumb cakes often have a layer of colorful fruit. “[It] can vary in different seasons,” Schuhbeck says, noting that apples, cherries, apricots, and prunes are popular. According to Beranbaum, adding fruit sparingly is key—a little moistens the cake, but too much causes sogginess. (She also suggests cutting larger fruits thick enough to retain a little bite.)
At 20th Century Cafe, Polzine adds nuts to the crumb to complement the fruits. “Walnuts are so good with apple,” she says. “Or black walnuts with huckleberries, pistachios with apricots—just pair things you like.” Season the fruit separately, tossing with sugar, spices, or salt as needed.
Cranberry Crumb Cake with Almonds and Oats
SERVES 12 Active: 1 hr. Total: 2 hr. 10 min. (plus cooling)
Fresh cranberries tenderize in the oven, providing a tart, jammy layer beneath the sweet crumb. You can swap them for halved fresh or frozen, defrosted, and drained cherries; or sautéed and then drained chopped apples or pears. Any chopped nut can work in place of the almonds.
FOR THE CRUMB: 2 cups all-purpose flour (245 g) ¾ cup rolled oats (75 g) 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (200 g) ¼ cup cane sugar (48 g) 2 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. kosher salt 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (2¼ sticks or 9 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, then left out to soften slightly ⅔ cup sliced almonds
FOR THE CAKE: 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (275 g) ½ tsp. baking powder ½ tsp. baking soda ¾ tsp. kosher salt ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing 1½ cups (290 g) plus 1 Tbsp. cane sugar, divided 3 large eggs 1 tsp. plus ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided 1 tsp. pure almond extract 1 cup full-fat sour cream 10 oz. fresh or thawed frozen cranberries (about 3 cups plus 2 Tbsp.), drained well in a strainer
FOR THE GLAZE: 1 cup powdered sugar 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice Pinch of salt 1 Make the crumb: In a large bowl, add the flour, oats, both sugars, cinnamon, and salt; stir. Add the butter; mix it in with your fingers and by squeezing the mixture with your palms until saturated and chunky, 3–4 minutes. Refrigerate until firm, at least 25 minutes, or until ready to bake the cake.
2 Mix the cake: In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir briefly to combine. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1½ cups sugar at medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and the almond extract, and beat at medium-low speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until incorporated. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture (in three batches) and the sour cream (in two batches), beginning and ending with the flour mixture, and beating until just incorporated.
3 Preheat the oven to 350°F and set a rack in the center. Grease a 9x13-inch cake pan or baking dish with butter. Add the batter, and use an offset spatula to spread it evenly into a thin layer, filling the corners.
4 In a medium bowl, stir the drained cranberries, remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, and remaining ½ teaspoon vanilla.
5 Retrieve the crumb topping. Add the almonds, and mix briefly with your hands to combine.
6 Sprinkle the cranberries evenly over the batter, leaving behind any moisture. Crumble the topping evenly over the fruit in pebble-size pieces. Bake until the crumbs are lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.
7 Make the glaze: In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon water, the lemon juice, and salt; stir well until smooth. Drizzle on the cake to taste, then slice and serve.
Reinvent the classic crumb by adding oats, nuts, spices, or chocolate chips, or by drizzling on a simple glaze.