Long Reads

A Very Good Reason to Make a Mess

February 23, 2015

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. 

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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

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Carolina Villela
    Carolina Villela
  • Crispin
  • Barb McWethy
    Barb McWethy
  • Sarah Marx
    Sarah Marx
  • Catherine Lamb
    Catherine Lamb
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Carolina V. February 25, 2015
Are there any substitutes for buttermilk and pomegranate molasses? I would like to make it with what´s currently available in my country! :)
Crispin February 24, 2015
You misspelled Pomegranate in the title!
Barb M. February 24, 2015
Where can I find Pommegranate Molasses?
Sarah J. February 24, 2015
It's available at Whole Foods, Middle Eastern grocery stores, speciality food markets, and on the Internet!
Sarah M. February 23, 2015
<3 crumbs so much. goes well with my OCD.
Catherine L. February 23, 2015
i'll come over and eat this cake with you then we can clean up with some compressed air.
LeBec F. February 23, 2015
sarah, my very favorite thing about this recipe is the 52 name you have given it. BRIlliant!! It BEGS to be the title of a cookbook (followed by a colon and a descriptor.) You really should patent it, because it is just too good to not use! i.e.
A Really Good Reason to Make a Mess: Crumb Cakes from Around the World
Millie |. February 23, 2015
Oh my this cake sounds out of this world!