Recipe Spotlight

Switch Up Your Coffee Cake Routine with New Jersey Crumb Buns

Enriched cake supports a gargantuan layer of decadently crumbly streusel.

Published Apr. 25, 2023.

Is there a better pick-me-up than a sweet, roasty coffee cake? Combining two of our favorite morning go-tos is a no-brainer. But if your regular recipe is becoming a little humdrum, this cake—perfumed with warm cinnamon and stacked with crumbly streusel—is set to become your new favorite.

Meet New Jersey Crumb Buns.

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Bringing this favorite breakfast pastry into the test kitchen took a little explaining for test cook Katie Leaird. The traditional 3:1 ratio of topping to cake made other cooks certain that the cake would be too sweet and too crumbly. But it didn’t take long for them to see that the very best part of the New Jersey Crumb Buns was, in fact, the crumbs.

By creating a bready, enriched cake that is strong enough to support a sky-high layer of cinnamon-infused crumbs, the cakey-crunchy textures of this dessert are plentiful and splendid. They’re truly splentiful.

As Katie developed the recipe, she found herself learning about how sugar affected the different layers of this sweet treat. While granulated sugar worked well in the cake’s base, the topping seemed dry, pale, and lacking in complexity when she used only granulated sugar. Using only brown sugar added too much extra moisture, rendering the crumbs too soft. A combination of half granulated and half brown sugar provided the best flavor and texture for the crumb topping.

Then onto the flour, which was unexpectedly complicated. There are significant differences in protein content and absorbency among all-purpose (the variety most common in home kitchens), cake, pastry, and bread flours, and each of these factors matter. The key to light, airy crumb buns? Using all-purpose flour for the cake and making a special trip to the store for a box of cake flour for the crumbs. 


New Jersey Crumb Buns

When it comes to crumb topping, New Jersey says go big or go home.
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While all-purpose flour, which has a moderate amount of protein (10 to 12 percent), develops enough gluten to give the yeasted cake structure and just a bit of chew, using cake flour to make the crumb topping gives it a moist, tender, delicate texture. That’s because cake flour is more finely milled than all-purpose flour, making it better able to absorb fat and liquid. Cake flour is also lower in protein (6 to 8 percent) than all-purpose flour and therefore has less ability to form toughening gluten.

Since 1948, B&W Bakery in Hackensack, New Jersey, has been at the center of the crumb bun universe. At the bakery, staffers use industrial-size baking sheets to bake the cakes before sprinkling them with a thick layer of streusel (they go through 2,000 pounds of crumbs a week) and cutting them into slabs or squares, depending on your order. Fans from across northern New Jersey make it a weekly stop.

Katie may have developed the perfect New Jersey Crumb Buns recipe, but there are still a few tips to getting this recipe just right.

First, once you’ve combined the ingredients for the cake layer, make sure you dust your hands with flour to prevent the dough from sticking when spreading it across the bottom of the baking dish . . . but don’t handle the dough too much. The air pockets from all that mixing will allow for an impressive rise in the oven for a light, fluffy texture that you don’t want to deflate.

Also be sure to let the crumble mixture sit for about 10 minutes after you make it, as the resulting dough is very dry and could taste dusty and raw if you don’t let the flour hydrate properly.

And finally, once the whole cake has come out of the oven and been left to cool, space out the sliced buns a little to ensure that when you dust them with confectioners’ sugar, the powder covers as much surface area as possible for a sweet tooth’s dream bite.

Now you’ve learned everything you need to know to make the perfect New Jersey Crumb Buns. Go forth and bake; you won’t regret it!

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