Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New York Style Marble Crumb Cake

This past weekend I joined a group from Skidmore College on a bus trip to New York City, about 3 hours south of Saratoga Springs.  The Honors Forum, headed by my friend, Professor Catherine Golden, along with Skidmore Staff member Idalia Sepulveda, coordinated a trip to the city that not only provided students with a day of museums, shopping, and a Broadway play, but also the charitable component of donating relief items to the Staten Island and Far Rockaway areas of New York City.  These areas were particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy just two weeks ago, and our contribution is a mere drop in the bucket toward assisting victims in their newly uprooted lives.  Still, it was meaningful.

The Bounty

Arriving in New York, just outside Bryant Park, our bus was met by Idalia's relatives who were coordinating donation efforts with the Legacy Foundation.  Our bus's cargo hold was packed to capacity with bottled water, paper goods, disposable diapers, towels, baby formula, flashlights, and other truly basic necessities.  A New York City policeman, who was patrolling the area where our bus stopped to let us off, assisted us in the unloading, and even directed us into forming two "conveyor" lines to facilitate the transfer of materials.  He was amazing, and so very helpful.  I got a picture of him with our crew, and his smile was as broad as anyone's. He was heard to say, more than once,  "This is great!" with such sincerity.  It was a privilege to witness this whole process, and it made our trip to the city, as Catherine said, more than a day of indulgence.  It really made the whole day much more significant for the students and the rest of us who joined the trip.

Idalia Sepulveda and Catherine Golden, center
(and that amazing NYC policeman!)

After the Legacy truck was on its way, we all went our separate ways and agreed to meet at the Snapple Theater at 2:45 pm, for the 3:00 show of The Fantasticks starring Aaron Carter (former teen heart-throb).  It was a great musical play, one of the oldest running on Broadway, and a real joy to see.  Before the show, Catherine and I trekked over to the Pierpont Morgan Museum for the Beatrix Potter exhibit, which was lovely, followed by a quick lunch in the museum's cafe.  Catherine's cousin Karen, who lives in the city, joined us for lunch, as did her former student Phoebe, also a resident, so it was a very social time at the Pierpont Morgan!

As we walked to and from the museum, we were able follow the sidewalk along the Veteran's Day Parade up 5th Avenue.  The parade went from 10 am to 3 pm, five hours long!  It was a beautiful day, and humbling as young and old military men and women marched in uniform down the avenue.  There were bands, flags, and balloons, and you could feel the patriotic spirit of not only those marching but the crowd as well.  I'm so glad I got to be there for that.

When the day was almost done and we were about to meet our bus for the ride home, Catherine and I had a little time to relax so we walked around Bryant Park, checking out the merchandise of many of the kiosks that line the walks of that beautiful park.  I always check out the baking shops, because it provides inspiration and I get to see what other people are baking.  What caught my eye, at more than one, were cellophane-wrapped bricks of New York Style chocolate marble crumb cake.  I really stopped to study it, because it's not anything I would ever have thought to do.  Crumb cake on its own is almost sacred.  Why fool with it?  Well, it was a beautiful thing, and I was inspired to make it for myself.  That's what I did last night.  Here's the recipe I used, based on America's Test Kitchen's highly-rated version with just slight adaptations, and a few photos of the finished product:

based on America's Test Kitchen's recipe

Oven 326 degrees Farenheit

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
1 3/4 cups cake flour (7 ounces)

1 1/4 cups cake flour (5 ounces)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk

1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablepsoon milk

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
more water

1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 16-inch length parchment paper or aluminum foil and fold lengthwise to 7-inch width. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and fit parchment into dish, pushing it into corners and up sides; allow excess to overhang edges of dish.

3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.

4. Transfer 3/4 of the batter to baking pan; using rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. To the remaining batter, mix in 1 tbsp. cocoa powder and 1 tbsp. milk.  Drop over plain batter in pan.  To combine batters, gently lift and drop batter in pan with a circular motion with a spoon.  Then pull a knife through in both directions to marble.  Smooth top very gently with a spatula.  Break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter, beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan by lifting parchment overhang. Dust with confectioners’ sugar after it's cooled a while.  Drizzle with glazes.

Make glaze:

Mix enough water (just a bit at a time) with the confectioners sugar to create a smooth flowing glaze, the consistency of Elmer's glue.  Use half the glaze to drizzle over dusted crumb cake.  To the rest of the glaze, add 1 tbsp. cocoa powder and enough water to get it back to drizzling consistency.  Drizzle that over the cake.  Let glazes firm up before cutting the cake.




  1. What a wonderful experience,the people who will receive Skidmore's donations will truly appreciate your help! Sounds like an all around good day! As for the crumb cake,I can't wait to try baking it! Ahh,NY style anything is the best! CKJ

    1. Hi Cindy - yep, it was a very worthwhile trip, a very good day. And I know you'll love the crumb cake! Thanks for writing!

  2. I think it's so wonderful that you went to NYC with the donations! It's so needed.
    And this crumb cake looks fabulous :)
    I just realized I never got back to you about winning the October contest - sorry! Been a little busy with the wedding and all ;)

    1. Colleen, you newlywed, you! I owe you and your hubby something sweet, so just let me know what and when and I'll be sending it your way! Love the photos of your mini-Maine-honeymoon! Looked like a great place to stay. I'll be in touch!

    2. Well thank you so much! Maybe after Thanksgiving we can chat about a good time? And honestly, ANYTHING will be perfect. I can't wait to try any of your delicious goodies!! :-D

  3. I am going to have to try this one Jeannie--and I just learned how to make buttermilk :-)! Sounds like you all had a great day and good deeds .

  4. I'm not sure if it's my increasingly vivid imagination, or my ever shrinking memory, but I really imagined (or forgot) that I'd already commented on your trip down to the City! Either way, I do know I read your blog (and now twice!) and that I have vivid memories of my initial impressions and thoughts about your trip! How I wish I'd been home so I could have helped out in any way possible, but I can imagine the variety of feelings you had Jeannie, from sadness and compassion, to invigoration and joy, and back to shock and even guilt that you were so blessed, but finally to satisfaction, knowing that you and your team from Skidmore had made a difference! I thought about how your trip was a return to your family roots and imagined that in some way it felt spiritual. I reminisced about my magical college years in the 70's in the greatest City in the world, and worried about several of my dear friends from those days that still live on Staten Island and in the Rockaways and in the devastated neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn by the Navy Yards. I realized that I absolutely adore the City that never sleeps, and that I hurt so badly when its incredibly strong and resilient and proud citizens are devastated once again, this time by Sandy and before by 9/11. But I also am not afraid because I have such faith in their indomitable spirit and never say die attitudes. And once again, your blog took me to another place and time and allowed me to feel a range of emotions that are so very New York, and for that I say thank you!

    1. Weez, I always love a trip to the city, and though I myself never lived there, both my parents did, and all their families, so it does have a strange pull for me. I do feel as if I am returning to something very familiar, a hub of family history. Thanks for this second comment on this post. I welcome each and every word you write. Very grateful...

  5. This marble cake is on my to-do list!

  6. This looks so good. Since I love crumb cake AND chocolate I am going to have to try this. I will have to wait until we have company as with my diet, I can't afford to have it in the house for just Tim & me! I am MUCH weaker than he is. Have you ever frozen it? That could be helpful for us.

    1. Nancy, it freezes beautifully. I also have a recipe here for a raspberry and cream crumb cake (use the search tool on the right) and it's crazy good too!

  7. So excited to be making this today!!! Looks delicious. Living in Texas makes it hard to find a good crumb cake.