Crumb Cake

Crumb Cake

I’ve been looking for the perfect vegan crumb topping for a while now. Before today, my crumb toppings had always been sort of soggy, sort of greasy; more crummy than crumby. I wasn’t sure how to fix the problem.

About a month ago, I subscribed to Cook’s Illustrated. My mother used to get a subscription years ago that I loved, and but it’s taken me this long to finally get my own. Along with the magazine, they sent me their new cookbook The Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2008, and in it is a recipe for crumb cake. I read a little closer, and saw a technique for crumbs that I’d never tried before. I ran into the kitchen to try it out, and oh my, it worked! Perfect crumbs!

This is a veganized version of the recipe found in The Best Of. It’s easy to throw together with few simple ingredients (no specialty egg replacers), making it perfect for a weekend treat or a quick dessert or teatime cake for guests.

Crumb Cake

Crumb Cake
Serves 9 (8×8″ cake)

Crumb Topping
8 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine, melted
2/3 Cup Granulate Sugar*
1 tsp Molasses
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
1 Pinch Salt
1 3/4 Cup Flour (cake flour or all-purpose)

*The original recipe calls for 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/3 cup brown sugar.  I was out of brown sugar, so I used only granulated sugar with added molasses.  Afterall, that’s how brown sugar is made commercially–they simply add molasses back into the sugar after processing.

1 1/4 Cups Flour
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1/3 Cup Canola Oil, or 6 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine, softened
1/3 Cup Soymilk + 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 Tbs Cornstarch mixed with 1/4 Cup Water
1-2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Powdered Sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350º F.

Whisk the still-warm melted earth balance with the sugar, molasses, cinnamon and salt.  Mix in the flour with a spoon, or your hands, until a thick dough forms, similar to the texture of cookie dough.  Let sit to cool for about 10 minutes.  It should be ready when after you’ve put together the batter for the cake.

Before making the crumbs

Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil (two sheets in a cross formation, leaving excess draped over the edges to help you remove the cake later).  Spray with vegetable oil.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add oil, soymilk mixture, cornstarch mixture and vanilla extract.  Whisk until smooth, but do not overmix.

Add the batter to the lined pan.  Begin to break apart the crumb mixture into smaller, pea sized pieces.  You want to take chunks from the bowl and gently break off the crumbs, like so:

Making the crumbs

Cover the batter evenly with all the crumb mixture. It will seem like a lot! When I thought I had enough, I wasn’t even half-way through the mixture. Use it all, as the cake will expand and the crumb mixture is tasty. After all, this is crumb cake. Don’t be shy!

Crumbing the cake
Crumb cake has a lot of crumbs!

Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350ºF, or until the crumbs are slightly browned and a toothpick in the center of the cake comes out clean. Use the toothpick to push over a crumb or two in the middle an make sure the top doesn’t look gooey (I went the whole 50 minutes).  Grab the aluminum foil and gently lift the cake out to cool for 20-30 minutes on a cooling rack. Give it a nice dusting of powdered sugar, slice and serve.

Crumb Cake, dusting

Wrap up any leftovers in plastic wrap. If there are any leftovers!

Crumb Cake


  1. Char

    This looks amazing! Crumb cake is so wonderful… the look, texture and taste. Do you think it will work if I use whole wheat white flour?

  2. Amandah Povilitus

    I’ve been dying for a good coffee/crumb cake for the longest time, and when I came across this I made it immediately. It turned out AMAZING- looked (past tense as my roommates and I devoured it with soy mochas) and tastes delicious! Thanks !!

  3. jayn

    This is in the oven now. Couple things I’ll have to play with tho- the hazards of living waaaay at the top of the mountain w/ 25% average humidity. The cake batter was more like a dough, so I got to smoosh it into the pan- next time I’ll try some abbasauce or extra soymilk, don’t think it’ll last long enough to need the abbasauce for moistness, tho…. prolly have to tweek the temp/ cook time too…. but later. Woot! altitudy-ness. Thanks!

  4. Emily W

    My crumb cake is in the over right now…counting down the minutes!!!!
    I’m not vegan so I used melted butter…wish me luck it turns out!!! The crumbs were so tasty though, I ate the ones that fell out of my bowl, hehe!

  5. jessy

    my spouse and i made this crumb0cake for breakfast this morning – we wanted to report it’s the best we’ve ever had. thank you! i’m going to make this again when we have guests for thanksgiving – it will make a perfect treat for brunch! thanks again!

  6. Shilpa

    Hi! I was wondering- if I only have a 9-inch square pan, should I increase the batter for the cake by a small smount? What do you think?

  7. Jen

    I just made this tonight with high hopes and my topping came out soooooo dry! I used a cup and 3/4′s flour. Did I misread this? Was it supposed to be 3/4 cup??

  8. Chelsea

    I had the same problem with the topping. Is it supposed to be 3/4 cup flour, not 1 3/4 cup flour? When I used 1 3/4 cup flour it was dry and powdery, definitely not like the picture! Is this a typo?

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  10. Sara

    This was SO delicious! It was my first Vegan dessert to make and even MIL loved it! I wish I knew the nutrition facts…. or maybe I don’t, LOL! Thanks for sharing.

  11. IDK

    DELICIOUS! added a thin layer of sliced pears in between the cake and the crumble ( the soft yellow type,”marinaded” with a bit of sugar and cinnamon for about 20 minutes) and it tasted absolutely wonderful ! keeps for a few days too and actually was better on the following day, so great if you want to bake in advance. ! think I will try to add a thin bed of vegan cheesecake mix as a creamy base for the pears when i bake this next. PS: i CAN’T cook and hardly ever bake so if I can do this and it turns out this good than anyone can. THANKS for the recipe !

  12. Tony Blum

    I haven’t put mine in the pan yet, but my batter is extremely thick, like that of a cookie batter, and my crumbs have the same sand consistency i’ve seen a few people mention. I’ll add more earth balance, but at the time being, it resembles nothing of your picture. I’ll also add a little soy creamer and apple sauce to the cake mix to smooth it out a bit. All in all, after following the recipe relatively closely, I’m left with a batter consistency I’ve never experienced. Lets hope it turns out well.

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  14. Lisa

    Hi Lolo – this looks delicious! – do you think the cake mixture for this cake would work made into vanilla cupcakes? Thanks very much!

  15. Katelyn Vonfeldt

    mmm it is in the oven right now! I’m making it to take to a “peace, love and vegan dinner party” tonight! if the batter tastes good and the crumbs taste good.. SURELY it will taste good, yea?

    thanks for the great recipe.

  16. erica

    I made this, but sadly I put the 1 3/4 flour… and now the crumbs are rock hard. I’m so confused. Well I’ll try again!!

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  19. Jennifer Grant

    Made the crumb cake for my husband this morning – his eyes lit up when he took a bite:) It was fantastic!!!!!!!

  20. Val

    I started out on this cake with great excitement but was bitterly dissapointed with the final result . The crumb topping was ok , but the cake was a tough , rubbery layer . I followed the instructions carefully , as I know vegan cakes can be a little tricky ……still not a good experience overall.

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