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My Copycat Entenmann’s Coffee Cake recipe is a classic New York dense vanilla cake laden with divine brown sugar and cinnamon streusel.
With Great Appreciation, This Recipe Recreated from the original by One of My Favorite Fellow Jersey Girls, Erren Hart of Erren’s Kitchen!
The New York crumb cake famous since its invention in 1898 is known to millions as the perfect complement to a cup of coffee. This family favorite has generations of fans. At our local bakery the smell of cinnamon sugar permeated the air. It was noisy with ladies shouting out their orders and maddened bakery attendants stuffing big white boxes that would be tied off with that familiar red and white bakery twine. I recreate this treat from childhood whenever I want thanks to Erren’s method.
Delicate cinnamon crumbs rest atop a base of moist, dense vanilla cake, the only elements making it even more perfect being a piping hot morning coffee and the crossword. Copycat Entenmann’s crumb cakes are the gauge by which recipes for New York-style crumb cake is measured. Who doesn’t love a copycat recipe??
Copycat Entenmann’s Coffee Crumb Cake Ingredients
There are no mistaking the obvious pantry staples required to assemble this cake, but I have made some notes behind ‘why’ these ingredients are required.
- Dark brown sugar – the molasses in brown sugar helps to create a moist and tender crumb topping.
- Ground cinnamon – the key flavor in the dish, cinnamon is warm and sweet, pairing perfectly with the buttery, crumbly topping.
- Kosher salt – helps to balance out the richness of the butter and the buttermilk.
- Unsalted butter – salted butter can vary in salt content, so using unsalted butter gives you control over the flavor of the cake.
- All-purpose flour – has a moderate protein content, which gives it the ability to hold both air and moisture, ideal for crumb cake, as it helps to create a tender and moist cake base.
- Baking powder – the leavening agent that helps the cake to rise.
- Baking soda – an additional leavening agent, it reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to produce carbon dioxide gas, which causes the cake to rise.
- Granulated sugar – a sweetener that helps to balance out the flavors of the cake and the crumb topping.
- Eggs – help to bind the ingredients together, add moisture, and create a light and fluffy texture.
- Buttermilk – adds a tangy flavor, tenderizes the cake, and helps to create a light and airy crumb topping.
- Vanilla extract – adds a rich, sweet flavor that complements the other ingredients while acting as a natural preservative, which helps to keep the cake fresh for longer.
- Powdered sugar for serving – a touch of sweetness and a tempting visual garnish atop the cake – highly recommended!
Substitutions and Variations
- Butter – You can substitute shortening for butter in the crumb cake batter. Shortening will give the cake a slightly different texture, but it will still be moist and flavorful.
- Sugar – You can substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar in the crumb cake batter. Brown sugar will give the cake a richer flavor and a slightly chewier texture.
- Spices – You can add other spices to the crumb cake batter, such as nutmeg, ginger, or cardamom.
- Topping – You can add other ingredients to the crumb topping, such as oats, nuts, or dried fruit.
Non-negotiable Equipment Needed
There is no compromising on the need for a 13 x 9-inch cake pan …as in you have to have one. Anything smaller will result in cake batter overflowing the bake. Ask me how I know this…
Additional helpful, but not required kitchen equipment:
If you have neither, fear not. Neither did William Entenmann but he still managed to invent this cake that we’re still talking about 100 years later!
Step by Step Instructions
A question that arises when baking this cake which pops up every once in a while: sinking crumbs. When scattering the crumb topping, spread placement of the largest clumps first, then begin at the outside edge of the pan and work your way to the center scattering the remaining crumbs.
Make the Crumb Topping
Step 1. Melt two sticks of unsalted butter (1-cup or 226 grams) in a saucepan. As the butter slowly melts, use a silicone pastry brush to grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch cake pan with just a bit of that butter. Then place the pan into the refrigerator while preparing the remaining parts of the cake. This way, the butter sets on the sides rather than pooling on the bottom. (Image 1) See my NOTE in Step 10 regarding flouring the pan.
Step 2. In a small bowl, combine 2 cups brown sugar, 2 tablespoons cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt stirring well. Scrape into the barrel of a food processor. Add the two melted sticks of butter. Pulse until mixed, about 6 to 8 pulses. (Image 2)
Step 3. Add 3 1/2 cups flour in increments and pulse until large clumps form, about 4 to 6 pulses. Spill the cinnamon sugar clumps out into a bowl and use your hands to squeeze bits of the mixture together. (Image 3)
Step 4. The mixture will clump easily but add additional melted butter in tablespoon increments if necessary. Aim for a variety of sizes of crumbs. I like to say make a handful of ‘cherry tomato-size’ crumbs. Spread out when you top the cake. There will be many pieces of cake with that coveted ‘monster crumb!’ (Image 4)
Make the Cake Batter
Step 5. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the prepared cake pan from the refrigerator. By this time, the smallest dash of butter used to grease the pan should be set. Combine the remaining 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Whisk to combine. Set beside your stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. (Image 5)
Step 6. In the bowl of the mixer, add 1 1/2 sticks softened butter and whip until light. Add in 1 ½ cups granulated sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add both eggs one at a time, blending after each addition, then 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Blend until just incorporated, followed by the flour mixture in two separate additions. (Image 6)
Step 7. Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to ensure you scrape ALL of the batter into the pan. (Image 7)
Step 8. I cannot emphasize enough that using anything smaller than a 9 x 13-inch pan or 33 x 23 cm (14 cups or 3.3 liters capacity) means you are toying with overflow disaster. (Image 8)
Assemble the Layers and Bake
Step 9. Spread the batter into the corners using the back of a wooden spoon or an offset spatula. The batter will be thick making it necessary to push the mixture into the corners. Smooth the top. (Image 9)
Step 10. There is no need to flour your greased pan UNLESS you are using something other than non-stick or aluminized steel. Here I am using an antique copper baker with an insert. The insert is not non-stick, so I’ve chosen to flour AFTER my butter set under refrigeration, tapping out as much excess flour as possible after dusting. (Image 10)
Step 11. The cinnamon crumb topping is considered the pinnacle of this bake, so it’s important to evenly distribute so that each cut square will have a few BIG lumps. Add the cherry tomato-sized lumps you made in each corner, and a couple on the sides and middle. Then, working from the edges in, follow with remaining crumbs. Working your way from the outside edges to the center prevents the crumbs from sinking. (Image 11)
Step 12. Bake until the insertion and removal of a toothpick comes out clean. The streusel topping will be golden brown and slightly crunchy in spots. Cool the cake in the pan atop a wire cooling rack. Cut into thirds lengthwise and into fifths from side to side to yield 15 ‘squares.’ Dust with Confectioners’ sugar once completely cooled. Plate cake squares and dust with more powdered sugar to serve. (Image 12)
How To Serve Coffee Cake
As the name implies, serve New York style with a HOT cuppa joe! But seriously, serve slightly warm or serve completely cooled, it’s your choice.
Jenny’s Recipe Pro Tips
- When adding crumb topping, start at the edges and work your way to the center. This will prevent the crumbs from sinking.
- Don’t press the crumbs down! It will push out the air and prevent the cake from rising.
- Bring refrigerated items to room temp for smooth batter.
Buttermilk is the single ingredient in this method that offers the exquisite tangy flavor to the crumb that Entenmann’s products are known for. It is strongly recommended that buttermilk be used, and a handy homemade buttermilk ratio has been added to the notes in the recipe card for this purpose.
Brown sugar, heaps of cinnamon, salt, and flour. Melted, unsalted butter is used to bind or clump the mixture into streusel.
Streuselkuchen in Germany and known in English-speaking countries as crumb cake.
Copycat Entenmann’s Crumb Coffee Cake (Classic New York Recipe)
- 2 cups dark brown sugar packed
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ teaspoons Kosher salt divided
- 3 ½ sticks unsalted butter divided; 2 sticks melted, 1 1/2 sticks softened to room temperature
- 5 ½ cups all-purpose flour divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk *see notes at the bottom of the recipe card if you need to make buttermilk in a pinch
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Melt two sticks of unsalted butter in a saucepan. Use a pastry brush to grease the bottom and sides of a non-stick 13×9 cake pan with just a bit of butter. Place the pan into the refrigerator while preparing the remaining parts of the cake so the butter sets.
- Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt in a small bowl, stirring well. Add to the barrel of a food processor. Add melted butter. Pulse until mixed, about 6 to 8 pulses. Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour and pulse until large clumps form, about 4 to 6 pulses. Spill the cinnamon sugar clumps out into a bowl and use your hands to squeeze bits of the mixture together. The mixture will clump easily, but add additional melted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary. Aim for a variety of sizes of crumbs.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the prepared cake pan from the refrigerator. If using anything other than non-stick, dust lightly with flour, tapping out as much excess as possible. Combine the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk to combine.
- Add the remaining 1 1/2 sticks of softened butter and whip until it's light in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Add buttermilk and vanilla extract and mix until just incorporated, followed by flour mixture in two separate additions. Scrape the sides of the bowl down. Again, beat just until incorporated but no more.
- Transfer cake batter to prepared baking pan spreading it into the corners using an offset spatula if necessary to push the mixture. Smooth the top.
- Evenly distribute the crumb topping so each cut square has a few lumps. Add large lumps of the streusel topping in each corner and a couple on the sides and middle. Then, working from the edges in, follow with the remaining crumbs. Working your way to the center prevents the crumbs from sinking.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the insertion and removal of a toothpick comes out clean. The streusel topping will be golden brown and slightly crunchy in spots.
- Cool the cake in the pan atop a wire cooling rack for 1 hour, longer if you prefer to eat it completely cooled. Cut into thirds lengthwise and into fifths from side to side to yield 15 'squares.' Use a fine mesh sieve to dust with Confectioners' sugar once cut, then use a spatula to remove individual pieces from the cake pan.
- Plate individual squares and dust with additional powdered sugar to serve.
- For every 1 liquid measure (1 cup) of 2% or whole milk, add either a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice (no pulp).
- Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes at room temperature. During this time, the acid will curdle the milk slightly.
- Scale these ratios up or down depending on how much buttermilk you need for your recipe. In particular, use 1 1/4 cups whole milk with 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar for this crumb cake recipe.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.