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. claire

    This is how I am going to get my little sister to love vegan baked goods! Honestly, this looks and sounds fantastic. I can not wait to try it!

  2. Nasreen

    I failed! As soon as I saw your post today I *had* to make these. I didn’t have enough Natural Balance so had to use the Smart Balance Light that I had . . . bad choice! The crumbs weren’t crumbly enough! This will teach me not to take shortcuts. Also, I baked for about 35 minutes, the tops were getting brown and my toothpick came clean from the middle, but the cake was too sticky and I could taste the soy milk/vinegar mixture. I followed all the measurements and I have a good oven.

  3. Dana V.

    do you have a cookbook in the works? ’cause I would buy it. as it is, I make one of your recipes probably once a week. at least. seems like I ought to compensate you for that!

    my dairy& egg allergic kids will be THRILLED with this! thanx!

  4. Erin

    I made this today, followed the recipe to the letter. It turned out perfect. It’s soooo tasty! I’m going to make it for a potluck I’m having at work next week. I have a co-worker who says she “hates” vegan food because it lacks flavor. I’ll show her!

  5. Gabriele

    We made this tonight. It was perfect. The topping formed crumbs while I was stirring, but I think the cake was really the best part. It was light, airy, and had the right hint of vanilla.

    My only suggestion would be that measuring out eight tablespoons is kind of tedious. Eight tablespoons = 1/2 cup, so I did it that way.

  6. Pingback: Vegan Bites: the Humane Myth, 30 Days, & More
  7. in2insight

    I wonder if this would work using oil rather then the melted Earth Balance?

    I’m not sure! I suspect it could work, but the crumbs will be firmer and hold their shape better with the Earth Balance.

  8. Sara

    You read my mind! I’ve been looking for a great crumb cake recipe! I want to put a layer of fruit preserves (or maybe just thick-sliced strawberries) between the cake and the crumb.

  9. Ann

    i just made this last night…let me tell you, my husband devoured half of it in one sitting. yikes! really delicious! thanks, lolo!

  10. Linzi

    i just made it for a pot luck and i was the only vegan one. no one knew it was vegan and everyone loved it!!! they could not stop eating it. when i told them it was vegan, no one believed me.

  11. sk

    My crumb cake is in the owen right now. I hope it will be tasty. I had some difficulties with the crumb. The crumb looked and felt like sand, so I had to add some water to moist it. Also I didn´t know what is Earth Balance, so I used plain vegan margarine, which is sold here in Finland :)

  12. Tracy

    This was amazing! I have not had crumb cake in years! I made it for my mom’s birthday and everyone thought it was wonderful. Thank you for this recipe!!!

  13. sk

    Had to make another comment.. This is my first crumb cake ever and I must say that the taste is very interesting and peculiar. I like it a lot though. The crumb tastes like christmas cookies and I´m sure my family would love this dessert at christmas.

  14. aissa

    I just made this and it is amazing, so simple to prepare…I once worked at a bakery that produced similar yumminess, but it was from a box. Thank you so much…it will definately be the star at the next potluck brunch.

  15. Jain Bonifice

    Gross. Makes my teeth hurt to look at it. Whatever happened to friggin’ fruit for sweetness?

  16. Joann

    I was so excited to see this recipe, as It is hard to find really good recipes that do not require dairy. This was excellent. The texture of the cake was perfect and the crumb topping was even more delightful.

    I look forward to seeing what new yumminess you have posted. Thank you so much for sharing!

  17. jill

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe! I looks like one I use to eat when I was little (pre-vegan days!). I made this Saturday and it was yummy. I baked it for 45 minutes and I think the crumbs were a little too hard. Next time I may just add the crumbs after it has baked for 10-15 minutes.

  18. Kathleen

    If you over mix the cake batter, does it get play-doughy? That’s what mine turned out like! I’m not sure what I did wrong–maybe I shouldn’t have melted the Earth Balance in the microwave?? Yours looks absolutely wonderful though! I will be giving it a second try for sure! Funny I made mine in the same bowl, but yellow!

  19. Jennifer

    This was AMAZING!

    I followed the recipe perfectly (the pictures were very helpful) and mine came out looking just like the final picture! It was a huge hit, and when i made it the second time, i put a layer of jam between the crumbs and the base…this was also very delicious!!

  20. Marisa

    This crumb cake is great! I had to use a lot more earth balance to get the crumbs the right consistency, but it came out amazing!

  21. Lisa

    Thank-you soooooo much for this recipe. I made this the other night and it came out wonderfully. It brought back lovely memories of when I made crumb cake from the McCall cook book as a kid. I think your recipe tasted even better. It seemed like my husband downed the last slice before I could blink twice. I’m a new and now very enthusiastic fan of your recipes.

  22. Pingback: Cookthink: Crumb Cake And Pickles: 5 Things To Do This Weekend
  23. Ashley

    This looks amazing! However, I’m not a Vegan and I was wondering if I could use regular butter and milk instead of Earth Balance Margarine and Soy milk?

  24. Sara

    Thank you for this recipe– it was really delicious! The crumbs were perfectly crumbly. I had to add a little more margarine to get the right consistency on them, however. And it might be easier to write 1/2 c. of it rather than 8 tbsp., since some don’t think to convert and it’s easier to measure.

    My only complaint is that the cake part has a funky smell to it. I think it might be from the vinegar. Is this normal? It doesn’t seem to affect the taste, but it’s unpleasant when consuming it. I’m wondering if it’ll calm down when the cake cools, but even as it was baking it smelled weird. It only made the cake good instead of outstanding. I’ll still try this recipe again, but I’m wondering if you know what could have caused the smell, and if there are any alternatives? I think it’s the vinegar– would it be dangerous to omit that part? Maybe use flax seed instead of the corn starch and/or vinegar (I’m assuming that’s what’s holding the cake together, although I’m not very knowledgeable on baking). It might have been something I did; I can’t quite figure it out!

    Hi Sara! I’ve never had an issue with smell… how strange! Is your vinegar still good? Did you use too much by accident? I’d use lemon juice next time if you think it’s the vinegar. Strange! And I personally think the 8 tablespoons of EB is easier, since the smaller pieces of Earth Balance melt quicker. Just a preference thing, obviously you’re right; 1/2 cup is the same!

  25. Josh

    Not all brown sugars are white sugar + molasses. Wholesome Sweeteners’ brown sugars are evaporated to different concentrations… and they’re vegan, unlike most commercial sugars.

  26. ML

    I’m not vegan but I was very excited to try and make this. I think I messed up the topping because mine was flat and gooey instead of crumbly like yours. I’m not sure why — I think it’s either because I didn’t fold in the flour slowly with a spoon (I just whisked it all together at once) or I didn’t use Earth Balance margarine. I couldn’t find that where I live so I used a Smart Balance 50/50 butter blend.

    I took it to work and it was a huge hit! (That’s a first!) Everyone was asking for the recipe. I felt all proud even though I hadn’t come up with it. ;) I gave them the address to this blog. Next I’m going to try the Smoky Miso Tofu, though I’ve never worked with tofu in my life, so wish me luck on that one! Thanks for these fantastic recipes!

  27. Pingback: may cause drowsiness » Blog Archive » Cross-posting Recipes
  28. erica

    i made this and it came out awesome! i added fresh peaches [about 1.5 small ones] to it and cut the soymilk/lemon juice mixture in half so that it wouldn’t be soggy. it came out absolutely delicious.

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>