All of a sudden, everyone in my Instagram feed is making cake.
Why cake? Of all the social distancing sweets a person could bake, cake seems to be the one you’d want to share the most (with pie as a close second).
Crumb cake is an exception. More of a snack or breakfast than a showy dessert, a homey crumb cake doesn’t need the “oohs” and “ahhs” of any guests. At the ready whenever the urge for brown sugar and butter hits, it’s the kind of thing a small family can devour in a few days, and a single person can freeze in slices. (Wrap each one up separately and store them in a container in the freezer; a slice will thaw in under an hour on the counter.)
Crumb cakes are also very adaptable. You’ve probably got all the ingredients in your pantry. To make one, butter an 8- or 9-inch pan (square or round, it doesn’t matter).
First, prepare the topping. In a bowl, mix together 4 tablespoons melted butter, ¼ cup each flour and rolled oats, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and a teaspoon of cinnamon or other spices. I used cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom and loved the combination. If you don’t have oats, use more flour or chopped nuts.
Now, whip up the cake batter. Using an electric mixer, beat ½ cup (1 stick) of softened butter with ½ cup granulated sugar. Add 2 eggs and ⅔ cup fermented milk product (sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, crème fraîche, milk acidified with a tablespoon of lemon juice, nondairy yogurt, whatever you’ve got). Beat in 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 ½ cups flour until smooth. If you want to, you can fold in a teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest, and ½ cup fruit, (fresh, frozen and thawed, or canned). I used fresh blueberries, but another favorite is canned chopped pineapple. Spoon batter into the pan, scatter the crumb mixture over the top. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Let it cool completely before you dive in. It will be gone before you know it.
In this series, Melissa Clark will teach you how to cook with pantry staples. Check back Monday for another installment.