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A Very Good Reason to Make a Mess

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Would you like a piece of cake right now? For Goodness Cake is here for you. Every week, we'll be sharing recipes that prove why cake should be its own food group.

Today: Eating this crumb cake is going to be a messy experience. Embrace the crumbs -- it's worth it. 

Crumbs make me uncomfortable. I can’t concentrate when there are crumbs on the table (even if that table is in the next room) and just the idea of the number of fossilized bits hiding in the fissure between my oven and the wall makes me shudder. I’m at my most anxious when the crumbs are approaching my computer, threatening to fall into the cracks of my keyboard where they will be trapped forever. I must always be within arm’s distance of a can of compressed air. Holding down the trigger and hearing the air hissing out does more good for my psyche than any type of yoga or psychotherapy ever could.

I can’t leave crumbs on the plate either. I’m one of those people who surreptitiously licks the pad of my index finger so I can use it as a sponge to grip all of the remaining bits of broken bread: It’s half greediness, half obsessiveness. It’s not the most polite table etiquette, but when I was growing up, my mom used her index finger and thumb -- in a move I liked to call the pincer -- to snag any bits of food that were too challenging to pick up with a fork (corn kernels, peas, shrimp, lasagna?). 

Do not make this cake unless you’re willing to resort to these types of utensil-free techniques. When you cut into this dessert -- a light, simple cake topped with enough pebbly topping to resemble a rock garden -- crumbs will fly everywhere. Don’t even try to contain them. You’ll need your fork and your opposable digits to capture all of the buttery, sugary boulders you’d sacrifice if you were to limit yourself to proper utensils.  

What makes this cake different than a classic New York crumb cake is the addition of pomegranate molasses, which adds a tangy, fruity, and slightly acidic flavor to both the cake and the crumb topping. The pomegranate molasses (which you’ll use faster than you expect) steers the cake away from the common crumb cake Entenmann's downfall of bland, dehydrating butteriness and makes it brighter and sharper. The cake’s sweetness is subtle enough that you’ll want to have many, many pieces. Invite your closest, most low-key friends over and ready your forks -- and your hands. 

Pomegranate Molasses Crumb Cake

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated and How Sweet Eats

Serves 8 to 10

For the crumb topping:

1/3 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 3/4 cups flour

For the cake:

1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons butter, slightly soft but still cool
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 to 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses 

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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Tags: Dessert, Bake, Long Reads, Comfort Food