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Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake

This Classic Crumb Cake recipe is buttery, moist, and delivers plenty of cinnamon flavor. It’s also practically fail-proof!

Square of crumb cake on small plate with fork

Moist Old-Fashioned Crumb Cake Recipe

Recently, I came into possession of Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. There are so many things in this book that I want to try, I hardly know where to start. I like to mark recipes-to-be-tried with small post-its, but with this book I didn’t even bother because I plan on making every single thing. First up? This Classic Crumb Cake.

If you’ve been disappointed by dry crumb cakes in the past, let me tell you: this cake is extremely moist thanks to the addition of sour cream. And the crumb topping is absolute perfection—crisp, buttery, and full of cinnamon flavor. 

I like to use Penzey’s Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon in this recipe, which is apparently the strongest cinnamon money can buy. Penzey’s recommends only using 2/3 the amount of cinnamon called for in a recipe, but I went all in and have no regrets—a strong cinnamon works well in a crumb cake. Whatever kind of cinnamon you use, take a whiff and make sure it still has a strong cinnamon scent before you use it in this cake. Cinnamon loses aroma and flavor over time, so if you don’t bake often, it’s very possible that you may need to replace yours!

Overhead view of crumb cake ingredients

What You’ll Need

You’ll notice that the ingredient list here is simple, which means it’s important to use high-quality butter, cinnamon, and vanilla. It makes a big difference in the overall flavor of the recipe!

For the crumb topping:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Light brown sugar
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Coarse salt – This adds a little bit of balance to the sugary topping.
  • Unsalted butter – The butter should be softened, but not too soft. 

For the cake:

  • Butter – This butter also needs to be softened. (Learn more: How to Soften Butter.)
  • All-purpose flour – Measure by weight for best results.
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Granulated sugar
  • Eggs – Let the eggs come to room temperature.
  • Sour cream – The sour cream should be room temperature, too! Let it sit for about 30 minutes with the butter and eggs while you gather the other ingredients and get ready to start baking.
  • Vanilla extract

How to Make Classic Crumb Cake

Martha Stewart calls this crumb cake fool-proof and I agree! It’s hard to go wrong with this recipe.

Make the crumb topping. Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a small mixing bowl. Add the butter, and incorporate it using a pastry blender or a fork until it forms large, moist clumps. Refrigerate it while you make the cake.

Prepare. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ pan, or line the pan with parchment paper and butter the paper and any exposed corners or edges.

Overhead view of dry ingredients for cake in bowl with spoon

Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Overhead view of butter and sugar in mixing bowl

Mix the wet ingredients. Use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.

Overhead view of cake batter in mixing bowl

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry mixture and sour cream. Mix just until combined.

Assemble. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter.

Overhead view of crumb cake in baking pan

Bake. Place the baking pan in the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. (Learn more: Why Every Baker Needs Wire Cooling Racks.) Dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar when serving, if desired.

Squares of crumb cake on plates

Tips for Success

Here are a few tips to help you make perfect crumb cake!

  • Don’t over-mix the crumbs. If the butter gets too warm or the crumbs get over-mixed, the topping mixture will sort of melt and then bake into one, solid topping instead of crumbs.
  • Choosing a pan. The first time I made this recipe, I used a dark cake pan, so the bottom and sides were a bit more done than I would have preferred. I recommend using a lighter-colored metal to avoid this. (Learn more: How to Choose Baking Pans.)
  • Substituting yogurt for sour cream. If you’re wondering if you can use plain yogurt instead of sour cream, you can! I recommend using a full-fat yogurt for best results.
Overhead view of crumb cake on plates

How to Store

Store your crumb cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. 

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

You can freeze a whole crumb cake by tightly wrapping it, wrap individual pieces, or place any portion of the cake in an airtight storage container. Freeze it for up to 3 months, then let it thaw at room temperature before serving.

Side view of crumb cake on plate with fork

Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake

Yield 24 servings
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes

This classic crumb cake pairs a super-moist vanilla cake with a buttery cinnamon-sugar topping.

Side view of crumb cake on plate with fork

Ingredients

For the crumb topping:

  • 3 cups (360g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 & 3/4 cups (396g) unsalted butter, softened

For the cake:

  • 10 tablespoons (141g) butter, softened
  • 2 & 1/2 cups (300g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 & 1/4 cups (282g) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the crumb topping:

  1. Combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
  2. Add the butter, and mix with a pastry blender or a fork. When well mixed, the mixture should form large, moist clumps. Place in the refrigerator while you make the cake.

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9″ x 13″ x 2" pan and set aside. Alternatively, line the pan with parchment paper, and butter the paper and any exposed parts of the pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after adding each one. Mix in the vanilla.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture and the sour cream. Mix just until blended.
  5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the batter.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. If you like, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar when serving.

Notes

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook.

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    24 Comments on “Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake”

  1. i love crumb cake, but mine never turn out well…

    maybe because i eat all the ‘crumb’ before i can bake the cake.

    😉

  2. I always use the Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzeys and never reduce the amount. I dont think it has overpowered anything yet – and I go through bags of the stuff!

  3. Connie, I couldn’t blame you. That’s the best part of the cake!

    Joe, thanks for your input about the cinnamon. I’m definitely getting a bigger container next time.

  4. oh my goodness! i just started reading your blog recently and you have some amazing looking stuff on here. but how do you and your hubby consume it all?! hahahaha…

  5. Your crumb cake looks awesome. Much better than the Hostess kind I used to beg my mom to buy me.

  6. Makes me want a hunk of that and a big mug of coffee!

    Oy. I’m so in love with the “idea” of that woman it’s sad. I’m not sure that I’d like her all that much person to person, though. As for her recipes? My experience is totally hit or miss. I never know. I’m writing a blog about one of her pasta dishes I tried last week that was great. But I really, really disliked the gingerbread recipe of hers that I once tried.

  7. Lindsay, the short answer is that we don’t. I usually give most of this stuff away. This cake, for instance, we ate Sunday and Monday, and then I gave the rest away. If we ate all of this, we’d be in BIG trouble.

  8. I have Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook as well – and I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about the crumb cake recipe! I’ll definitely have to give it a try now!

  9. Yum. I love crumb cake – the crumb more so than the cake! Like you, I have mixed feelings about MS but got the book anyway. This looks like a “must” for this weekend’s baking! Thanks!

  10. Oh wow, I just used the Vietnamese cinnamon for the first time a while back and it *is* strong! I prefer the Chinese, but it’s so fun to experiment with them all! Your crumb cake looks delish!

  11. Oh Joy! I just followed the link to your site, and what a find! I love it, and can’t wait to explore!

    As for Martha’s Baking Handbook – I have made several things out of it now, and they’ve been wonderful. You’re right, Martha is sort of weird, but her recipes are fabulous. I’ve had my eye on this crumbcake, but yes, I was hesitant to see how much butter it called for…I’m waiting until there’s a reason to bake it and share it, or my husband and I would have no choice but to slowly consume the cake, day by day, until we’d eaten A POUND of butter!!

    Cheers!

  12. I was attempting to make this wonderful cake when the directions said to add the sour cream but it isn’t listed in the ingredients. Am I to assume it’s a cup? Help!

  13. Oops! There are 1 & 1/4 cups of sour cream in the recipe. I’ve fixed it in the recipe. Thanks for pointing this out!

  14. How do you measure your sour cream? That’s one ingredient that always stumps me. I’m never sure whether I should measure it in a dry measuring cup, a liquid measuring cup or by weight.

  15. Good question, Gigi. I measure sour cream with a dry ingredient measurer. Weight is a bit tricky with things like that because it is usually measured in fluid ounces instead of by weight. So, I use the dry measurer for this and things like peanut butter and yogurt. Hope that helps!

  16. I’m just about to make this crumb cake but I’m a little hesitant about using that much butter. Did you use 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) of butter or 3 1/2 sticks
    (1 3/4) cup butter for the topping?

  17. Elsa, it is indeed 3 & 1/2 sticks of butter. Trust me, it’s delicious. Good luck!

  18. Wow, what a quick response! Thank you so much. I really appreciat that! You’ve made my night. I’m sure this will be delicious in the morning.
    Thanks again!

  19. Thanks Jennifer!

  20. I’m a Penzey’s fan, too. And I love all the choices. I usually use the Vietnamese Cassia Cinnamon in the batter where & the milder Ceylon Cinnamon in the strusel toppings where the taste is not so bitey. I even put a few of the Cinnamon Chunks in the brew basket of the coffee maker for a wonderful cinnamon coffee!

    Just found your blog, BTW.

  21. I’m confused by the recipe instructions of Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake; is the crumb topping baked on the cake. The recipe reads like you finish off the cake with dusting confectioner’s sugar. Then you mix up the crumb topping, but the instructions end with a bowl of really buttery crumbs. I figured something may have been deleted from this recipe but I’d love to make it correctly & this leaves too much information out.

  22. Disregard my question about finishing the Martha’s Classic Crumb Cake. I went back & reread it a couple times. Yep the crumb mix goes on before baking. I think I even caught turning the pan 1/2 way through baking but the most important part of crumb cake just escaped my brain. My confusion is that the instructions for the crumb topping came after a finished g cooling product.

  23. I made this recipe also with Penzey’s cinnamon. I used the full tablespoon. Loved it. I agree my dark pan also made edges of cake dark. Your tips and thoughts were exactly what I was thinking. I made this at the request of my husband! Delicious!

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