little cakes, sweet crumbs

crumb cake

I might as well say now, since it will become obvious shortly, I like to bake much more than I like to cook. This is no surprise, as I like dessert much more than I like main courses, always preferring brownies and cakes to meats and sauces. I do make exception for very fresh, very hot-out-of-the-oven, crusty Italian bread, which can truly hold its own against any pastry, but, as bread is bakery, it’s really no deviation, so I suppose no surprise there, either.

A lot of people seem to frown upon this, my sugar love. I’ve heard many gourmets wax eloquent instead about a cheese or a particular vegetable—I believe I heard one Top Chef contestant proclaim the virtues of a beet—so it’s with a little embarrassment I admit this freely: I have a sweet tooth. A big one. I’ve never met a chocolate I didn’t love. I happily eat dessert before—and after—dinner. And, when given opportunity, I think cake makes a great breakfast. That’s probably why I’m especially partial to breakfast pastries, coffee cakes and doughnuts. I like a little sweets to start the day.

crumb cake larger

These delightful little crumb cakes, called “individual bites of WOW” by the woman who first blogged about them, are small enough to minimize guilt (portion control is the only weapon I have left), and not-too-sweet enough to be paired well with your morning coffee. The cake proper, the body that sits inside the muffin cup, is fairly average—a simple, basic cake.

What makes these creations good is the topping. Next time, I think I’ll make 50% more of the topping so I can really layer it on for effect. A mix of butter, sugar, cinnamon and flour, the topping becomes a sweet, crystallized complement to the dough. It reminds me a little of toffee in parts—particularly the hardened bits I pulled off the pan and sampled right out of the oven. Whether you’ve a sweet tooth or not, this breakfasty dessert is worth trying.

Old-Fashioned Crumb Cakes, recipe by Marye Audet of Baking Delights

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar

Wet ingredients:
1/2 cup oil (light, I used canola)
2 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk

Topping ingredients:

1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Sift dry ingredients into large bowl. Beat together wet ingredients and combine with the dry mixture. Scoop into muffin cups–you’ll want the fill the cups 2/3 full or more. (I was worried about the cakes overflowing, so I was conservative here. Don’t be. I ended up with extra cups, which meant more to distribute the topping amongst, which meant less sugary goodness atop each cake).

In a small bowl, mix together the topping ingredients. Rub together until the mix is crumbly. Sprinkle generously on top of the cakes, flattening gently.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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