Bakers' Dozens: Elements of a Perfect Crumb Cake



My first real attempt at baking started with a classic coffee cake. I have always been fascinated by the crumbs that sit atop coffee cake or crumb cake. In fact, my mother taught me how to choose the perfect crumb cake the same way mothers teach their daughters how to pick out the perfect pair of shoes.

My passion for buttery crumbs led me on a career journey to bake the perfect crumb cake. In order to bake a delicious cake, you need to start off with great ingredients. After all, there are just a handful of ingredients in any one cake.

Flour is one of the main ingredients, and it’s an important one! I prefer cake flour to all-purpose flour.

Cake flour yields a more delicate crumb texture that’s entirely different from all-purpose flour. It has a lower protein content, about 7 percent, as compared with 10 or 12 percent in all-purpose flour. The lower the protein, the lower the gluten content, and the lighter the cake. And who doesn’t like a lovely light and airy cake instead of something that’s dead weight?





Cake flour is also ground finer than other flours. When a recipe calls for a specific flour, there is a good reason. Purchase a good-quality cake flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill or King Arthur).

Eggs are hugely important. I try always to use large eggs, because they are the perfect size for my recipes. Whatever size the egg, it’s important to buy the size eggs that a recipe calls for; otherwise you may end up with a dry cake.

I prefer organic eggs, but they’re expensive. When baking, always start with room-temperature eggs. It helps the mixing process if all of the ingredients are at the same temperature. They will take less time to mix into the cake, which means less gluten development. OK, let’s just say your cake will have a much better consistency.





Butter is super important when it comes to baking. Here’s the dealio: All butters contains between 15 and 20 percent water. This is significant. I prefer butter with a butterfat content between 82 and 84 percent. The higher the fat percentage, the lower the percent of water. Excess water is not helpful in making butter crumbs. Buy the best quality you can afford.

Spices are equally important, especially if the spice you plan on using is as old as your youngest child or has been in your cabinet since you moved into your house. When spices sit and sit and sit, the delicate oils become exposed to air and light. Four-year-old ground cinnamon will not taste like a fresh jar of cinnamon.

Get the Recipe: Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

Before you throw them away, repurpose spices by throwing them into a pot of water and making potpourri. When you purchase new ones, write the year on the jar and replace it after a year; this will keep your spices fresh and flavorful. I have several friends who pack up their spice cabinet each time they move. They would be better off leaving the old jars behind.

See how to make Hedy’s crumb cake, step by step.

Pastry chef and cookbook author Hedy Goldsmith is a James Beard Award finalist for the nationally contested Outstanding Pastry Chef category. Her creations grace the menus of The Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants, including flagship Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. Her first cookbook, Baking Out Loud, was published by Clarkson Potter in 2012. Hedy has been featured in multiple national media outlets, including NBC’s Today show, The New York Times and People magazine.

Next Up

Bakers' Dozens: Corn Desserts

Corn contains natural sweetener, has a buttery and sometimes creamy texture, and is seasonal and local for many of us. Sounds like the perfect dessert ingredient!

Bakers' Dozens: Raising the Bar

Pastries cut into bar-shaped pieces never really go out of style. With a handful of recipes for crusts and toppings, you can easily make bar cookies completely interchangeable

Bakers' Dozens: Into the Deep ... Freeze

Hedy Goldsmith created a Peanut Butter Jelly Roll recipe, and now it has a new life as a frozen "Peanut Butter Jelly Roll Pop.”

Bakers' Dozens: Sweet Temptations at the Airport

Why are the sweets at most airports dry, flavorless, high in fat and sugar, and oddly very appealing? Skip them in favor of pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith's homemade versions of these treats.

The Perfect Frosting for Every Cake

Learn the how-tos for making rich, silky frosting with this handy guide.

Perfect Pairings

These tried-and-true wine and food combinations were practically made for each other.

EWG Update: The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

The Environmental Working Group has updated its list of which fruits and veggies you should buy organic; here’s a review.

A Dozen Hearty Recipes to Usher In Fall

We've got a dozen delicious ways to celebrate the season.

Organic Produce: The Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

Organic produce is all the rage these days, but do you need to buy EVERYTHING organic to avoid ingestion of potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides? Certain fruits and vegetables are grown using more virulent pesticides because of how and where they’re grown and the types of insects that damage them. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has conducted extensive research on popular fruits and vegetables to identify which are the most contaminated.

Related Pages