Sunday, May 20, 2012

New York Style Crumb Cake

So this New York Style Crumb Cake is for three of my friends, Brian, David, and Carmel, who are some of the sweetest people I know. It’s kind of a long story, involving blood, needles, awkward questions, a frappacino from Starbucks, a stolen sweater, a boat, a group of immature teenage boys, karaoke-ing, and a fly.

*          *          *

It is entirely likely that I will never become a doctor. Aside from the miniscule possibility that I might decide to write the MCATs in a couple years after a sudden change of heart, my current career path tends to veer away from bones, needles, and blood. I’m that girl who can’t stand pain or the sight of any of my fellow human beings (or fellow animals) in pain. Donating blood for fifteen minutes? Scarier than a three-hour university-level music history exam.

But I also like to think that I’m confident enough to be brave, to try new things, to open myself up to new experiences. That’s why I decided to conquer (or at least confront) my fear of needles and blood when a blood clinic stopped by our school last week. After three years of not being old enough (or heavy enough, for that matter), I’m finally seventeen (and 115 pounds) and can donate blood with parental permission.

The highlights of donating blood:
  • all those awkward questions that the nurses ask you about sex and drugs
  • finding out from an overenthusiastic nurse that apparently I have a good iron levels in my blood
  • having to take blood from my right arm because apparently none of the veins on my left arm were visible
  • my friend Grace telling me that it didn’t hurt, not in the least bit, and finding out that she lied, that the initial puncture hurts like hell
  • imagining what it would be like to lie on a hospital bed (similar to the cot I laid on while donating blood), squeezing my husband’s hand (similar to how I nearly cut-off circulation in David’s hand), and deciding that I would probably end up adopting. 

At the end of the experience, I concluded that donating blood was akin to strategically bleeding to death through a needle. But to hell with all my petty complaints; just half a litre of my blood could save up to three lives (or so they tell me). I think that’s pretty darn amazing.

That Friday I donated blood also happened to be the dragonboat team’s second lake practice. Since I had skipped the first lake practice, I felt compelled to go to the second one. I know exercising after donating blood isn’t recommended, but I figured I would be fine after a rich, sugary frappacino from Starbucks.

 I skipped out of last period early to make it to Starbucks before Happy Hour started and ended up meeting a couple of friends. (It turns out that great minds think alike and that I’m not the only person on the dragonboat team who craves sugar before a workout.) While I sat outside, enjoying the cool spring breeze and my math homework, my friend Brian and a couple other guys stood in line to buy the drinks.

After dragonboat practice, a group of friends and I went out to eat. While sitting in the restaurant, a couple of other friends walked by and invited us to join them in a karaoke lounge and somehow I got roped into it. I won’t lie—I had an awesome time—but I was pretty much dead tired by the time I got home. All I wanted to do was take a shower and hit the hay. The fly in my room had a different idea. Literally just as I was about to get into the shower, it emerged from the depths of darkness and began buzzing around in my bathroom and bedroom. After trying to kill it with no avail, I gave up and decided to take a shower in my brothers’ bathroom.

David, ever the gentleman, offered to hold my dragonboat bag for pretty much the whole night since I had donated blood and felt pretty weak. During the excessively long walk from the beach back to the streetcar station, during which a group of friends and I were arguing (intensely) about where to eat, during which all I really wanted to do was sit down, David carried my bag.

Brian ended up paying for my drink, so in reciprocation for the frap (and a sweater which I’d borrowed from him a couple weeks ago and never intend on giving back because it’s just so darn comfy), I baked him a New York Style Crumb Cake. This recipe makes enough cake to feed an army (or a small group of teenage boys), so I split the batter into three pans and gave one of the cakes to David. And because my other friend Carmel recently lent me a pair of pants when I needed them most, she got a share of cake too.

What better way to say "thank you" than with a New York Style Crumb Cake.

New York Style Crumb Cake

Source: Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Crumb Topping:
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350F. Butter and flour 9-by-13-inch pan. (Or if you owe people favours or want to show someone a gesture of kindness, butter and flour either 2 8x8inch square pans OR 4 6-inch round cake pans. Or an equivalent.) 

In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Add melted butter and whisk until combined. Fold in flour until absorbed. 

In another medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. 

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, beating until just combined. 

Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle chunks of topping over the cake. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes (30-35 minutes in an 8x8inch pan), or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before serving.

The cake will last 3 days, tightly covered, at room temperature.


  1. I could never be a doctor either. It's way too much pressure for me - and too much work! Haha! Congrats on donating blood for the first time - I'm not of age for it yet, but considering I'm generally pretty good with needles I'd totally want to do it in the future!

    Oh, and this coffee cake looks amazing! I'm a sucker for anything with streusel!

  2. Yes, congratulations...I can´t donate myself...I´m not brave enough, everytime I have a blood analysis I faint.....
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a very noble thing to do... I have always wanted to donate blood but because I come from the Philippines, Red Cross here won't take my blood. Snobs! Can I lend you my sweatshirt too so I can have an entire cake to myself? What an awesome friend you are!

  4. Yum! The crumb topping looks great.

  5. Great looking cake Kyleen! I don't mind needles and blood, though I'll be damned if I can watch needles going into skin, which they always insist on showing close-ups of on TV! :(

    Charles @


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