A coffee cake with a buttery crumb topping is hard to resist. Most crumb toppings include cinnamon or other spices, both because spices add a great aroma to a cake while it is baking and because darker spices give a crumb topping a darker color to contrast with the rest of the cake. This Vanilla Crumb Cake is for vanilla lovers and you won’t find any spices in sight besides a generous measure of vanilla, which is used in both the cake batter itself and in the crumb topping.
This cake is easy to make, but it has a slightly unusual mixing method because it is made in the food processor. First, some of the ingredients are mixed together – including the butter and sugar – to form a base. A portion of this is removed and set aside to become the crumb topping. Leavening, eggs and liquids are added to the ingredients remaining in the food processor to form a batter, which is poured into a cake pan and topped with the crumble mixture. It may not be the way you usually make coffee cake, but it’s a great method to use. The crumb topping has just the right crispness to it after baking and you can really taste both the butter and the vanilla in it. The cake is extremely tender and moist, with a very fine crumb. It’s not too sweet, and as in the crumb topping, you get a nice dose of vanilla along with the butter and buttermilk flavors that are also found in the cake.
I baked this cake in a 9-inch deep fish pie plate, which gives the cake a lovely rustic look. I serve it right out of the pan. You could bake this cake in a 9-inch springform pan instead of a pie plate, but I would not recommend using a regular cake pan because it can be difficult to get a crumb cake out of a straight-sided pan like that without damaging the crumb topping – and you want there to be as much crumb topping as possible!
After being cooled, the cake should be stored in an airtight container or wrapped with plastic wrap. It should stay moist for at least 2-3 days after baking and it can be baked a day or so before you intend to serve it. That said, the cake is so easy to make and comes together so quickly that it doesn’t require a lot of advance planning to make it. I can whip it up for a late evening treat just as easily as I can prepare it for a lazy Sunday brunch – and who wouldn’t love that in a coffee cake recipe?
Vanilla Crumb Cake
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup butter, cold and cut into chunks
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a deep dish 9-inch pie plate (or 9-inch springform pan).
In the bowl of a food processor, combine sugar, butter, flour, salt and vanilla extract and pulse until mixture becomes sandy and butter is well incorporated, with no large chunks remaining.
Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into a medium to form the crumb topping. Squeeze the mixture together in your fingers to form chunky crumbs. When the mixture is well-crumbed, refrigerate for a couple of minutes while the rest of the batter is prepared.
To the remaining mixture in the food processor, add in the baking soda and baking powder. Pulse to combine. Add in eggs and buttermilk and whizz until batter comes together. Scrape down the sides with a spatula and pulse a few more times just to ensure that everything is combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Take the crumb mixture out of the refrigerator and sprinkle evenly, squeezing to form more crumbs as needed, over the batter.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow cake to cool completely before slicing.