There will come a time in your life when you may feel that you are…
This is the bouldered and dramatic intersection of two of my favorite things: cinnamon baked apples and a thick crumb cake. I don’t know how they make crumb cake where you are, but here in New York, and where I grew up in New Jersey, crumb cake isn’t a genteel cinnamon-ribboned or finely streusel-ed coffee cake, but a hefty square that’s 50% crumb topping and 50% a golden, sour cream-enriched cake and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Thanks to brown sugar and cinnamon, the crumb topping is always a dark stripe, and a snow-cap of powdered sugar isn’t optional. Fruit is, but this is too good with fresh apples to skip them.
For such a loud and attention-demanding cake (I’m still talking about cake, I think?), no delicate slice or dice of apples will do so I use here a full pound of thick wedges snugged so tightly they barely fit in their confines, an all-too-accurate New York real estate story. Squeezing your crumbs in small handfuls before breaking them over the apples created more boulder-like pieces. Baking this cake for almost an hour at a slightly lower temperature gives the apples enough time to get tender, their juices bubbling. Your kitchen will smell, at minimum, like a blissful epiphany of apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and at peak melodrama, the absolutely best decision we’ve made yet in October.
I’m back! I’ve missed you. I never intended to take such a long break, or any at all, but I was pulled under by a vacation (too short), a manuscript deadline for my next book (too quick), and then the two-week photoshoot for it (100 recipes in 10 days, oh and btw, I’m the photographer) and when I emerged, because I only like sparkly new things, I didn’t want to share any of the recipes I already readied but new ones that had piqued my interest while I was buried. One of the things that’s different about SK, sometimes for the better but occasionally for the worse, is that there’s no editorial or recipe development staff and just one me, and life gets busy. But my central dedication to this space — which turns 15 this fall! — remains unchanged. Good luck ever getting rid of me for good. 😉
Big Apple Crumb Cake
Cakes with fresh chunks of fruit taste good on the first day and fantastic on the second day, when everything has a chance to settle. In this case, the topping adheres better on the second day. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it as soon as possible, just that it will reward you for planning ahead.
- 1 pound apples (3 medium or 2 large), peeled if you wish, cored, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup (65 grams) light or dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup (80 grams) sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Heat oven: To 325°F (165°C). Lightly coat an 8-inch square or 9-inch cake pan with butter or nonstick spray. For extra security, line it with parchment paper.
Prepare apples: Toss apples with lemon juice, then cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Make crumbs: Whisk butter, sugars, cinnamon, and salt together until evenly mixed. Add flour and mix until it disappears. It’s going to be very thick; set it it aside.
Make cake: Beat butter with sugar until lightened and fluffy. Add egg, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until combined. Sprinkle surface of batter with with baking powder and salt, and beat well to combine. Add flour and mix only until it disappears.
Assemble: Scrape batter into prepared cake pan and smooth it flat. Arrange apples on cake, slightly overlapped. I usually fit all but 2 wedges; those are cook’s snacks. Pour any cinnamon-apple juices in bottom of bowl over apples. Sprinkle crumbs over apple slices. For bigger crumbs, squeeze the crumbs into small fistfuls and break these up into a couple bigger chunks over the cake.
Bake: Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the apples doesn’t hit any crisp spots and if you look closely, you’ll see juices bubbling around some apples, about 50 to 55 minutes.
Cool to room temperature, if you can bear it, before cutting into squares or wedges.
Cake keeps at room temperature loosely covered (in an airtight container, the crumbs eventually soften) for 3 days or in the fridge, well-wrapped, for 6 days.