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New Jersey Crumb Cake



Cake with a brown sugar crumb cut into squares and dusted with powdered sugar.
Photo by Travis Rainey, Food Styling by Liberty Fennell

Is there a marked difference between New Jersey–style crumb cake and New York–style crumb cake? Not really. But as someone from the Garden State, I’ll always think of this style of cake as the former. “Crumb cake” is a moist vanilla cake topped with a thick layer of cinnamon-scented brown sugar streusel. Unlike “coffee cake,” crumb cake is always baked in a rectangular pan—never a round or Bundt pan—and does not include any swirl or fruit filling. Likely originating from German streuselkuchen (a yeasted cake topped with a light layer of streusel), New Jersey crumb cake has evolved into a ratio of at least half, if not more, moist crumb topping to cake—the defining characteristic of this regional bake.

To properly nail the soft, almost cookie-like texture of the crumb topping (as opposed to the more crisp streusels you’d find on other cakes or fruit crumbles), the mixture requires quite a bit of butter and dark brown sugar. Though many New Jersey bakeries still make the cake layer from a yeasted dough, I prefer the versions that rely on a simple batter without any proofing time. My ideal crumb cake base is a thick sour cream and vegetable oil batter that bakes off moist and tender, but not as plush as buttery pound cake, ensuring the topping remains the star of the show.

When I say to let this cake cool completely, I mean it. If you don’t, you’ll risk cracking the cake as you pull it out of the pan (the crumb is heavy), and if you apply powdered sugar to a warm cake, the sugar will melt. This cake is even better after sitting wrapped overnight as the crumb topping moistens even further. Make sure to save yourself at least a piece, if not the whole batch, for breakfast tomorrow.

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What you’ll need

Recipe information

  • Total Time

    1 hour 10 minutes (plus cooling)

  • Yield

    12–16 servings



3 cups plus 2 Tbsp. (391 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (packed; 200 g) dark brown sugar
¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled


Nonstick vegetable oil spray (for pan)
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt
1 large egg, room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar
½ cup sour cream, room temperature
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for serving)


  1. Topping

    Step 1

    Using a fork or your fingers, mix 3 cups plus 2 Tbsp. (391 g) all-purpose flour, 1 cup (packed; 200 g) dark brown sugar, ¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar, 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt, and 2 tsp. ground cinnamon in a medium bowl to combine. Add 1¼ cups (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted, slightly cooled, and mix until large crumbs form and no dry streaks of flour remain. Let crumb topping sit while you make the cake batter, at least 10 minutes.

  2. Cake

    Step 2

    Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Lightly coat a 9x9" metal cake pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and line pan with parchment paper, leaving at least a 2" overhang on 2 sides. Whisk 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk together 1 large egg, room temperature, ¾ cup (150 g) granulated sugar, ½ cup sour cream, room temperature, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract in a second medium bowl until smooth. Add to dry ingredients and gently whisk until almost completely combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter a few times to combine completely (it’s okay if there are a few lumps). Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.

    Step 3

    Using your hand, squeeze a palm-size piece of crumb topping together. Starting from the sides of the pan, crumble mixture in your hand over batter, aiming to create about ¼" pieces. Repeat process, working your way toward the center, until you’ve used about two thirds of topping. (The surface of the cake should be completely covered with crumbs.) Crumble remaining topping over entire cake, aiming for larger, about ½" pieces. (It will seem like too much crumb, but that’s the point.)

    Step 4

    Bake until cake starts to pull away from edges of pan, a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, and topping is set a little but still looks moist in places, 36–42 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan, about 2 hours.

    Step 5

    Using parchment overhang, remove cake from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Dust generously with powdered sugar, then slice into a 4x3 grid for the classic rectangular slices you’d find in a Jersey bakery or deli, or a 4x4 grid for more modest squares. (If you’d like your topping to be extra-tender, wrap cake in plastic wrap and let sit 8 hours before serving.)

    Do Ahead: Cake can be baked 4 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

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  • The crumb buns we experience in northern we Jersey I has a yeast base…never cake.

    • Saffy

    • OC California

    • 6/15/2024

  • I grew up in New Jersey and eating this style of crumb cake. I’ve lived lots of places since then and nothing compares. This recipe is perfect. I made it as written and baked for 36 minutes. It got rave reviews from guests and I cannot wait to make it again, perhaps with a thin layer of fruit (blueberries, peaches…) between the cake and crumb layer.

    • Anonymous

    • Maine

    • 6/18/2024

  • I too use a yeast dough ... just going back to old recipes now that I am using King Arthur's gluten free bread flour and experimenting with traditional family baked goods. My personal recipe was based on one from the NYT with tweeks. Have to experiment with that and Philly style sticky buns.

    • Anonymous

    • Guilford VT

    • 6/16/2024

  • This is the absolute best crumb cake ever! I have been baking/buying crumb cake for decades. None better than this! Buttery and thick with the perfect amount of crumb to cake ratio. Note to Saffy….how can you rate this a three without trying the recipe?

    • B Smith

    • Hillsborough NJ

    • 6/16/2024

  • I’ve always been a bit disappointed in most crumb cake recipes I’ve found in the past. I ALWAYS had to double the amount of crumb mixture I added to the cake in order to achieve a more perfect ratio. This one nails it! The sour cream addition is something I learned a long time ago for a dense moist cake so again, this is my go-to recipe whenever I need a bit of Jersey in my life!

    • Pamela Winter

    • Ocala, Florida

    • 6/17/2024

  • Just made this and as a New Jersey born and bred native, it's just what you saw in delis and diners all over NJ. Everyone raved about it. Made it exactly as per the recipe, but with all the topping and the parchment hiding the small cake under the topping, it was hard to discern whether the cake was done. I ended up cooking it about 41 minutes and probably needed another couple of minutes, but it's so delicious! Very rich. I cut it in 12 pieces but everyone cut them in half because it's so rich.

    • LSFinFL

    • Boynton Beach, FL

    • 6/18/2024

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