Cupcakes and their exotic French cousins macarons fill Garden State bakery cases, and it’s possible to have a cannoli freshly-piped and dusted with sugar as early as five in the morning. The very special occasion dessert that I knew growing up in Paterson was sheet cake filled with strawberries and cannoli cream.
Nothing, however, beats a New Jersey favorite breakfast, a raft of doughy yellow cake topped with cinnamon streusel and powdered sugar. Store-bought crumb cake is a Friday-morning staple in every office I’ve ever known, but the real deal is made in a nearby bakery on massive aluminum trays. It’s sliced into rectangles with a pizza cutter. Warm hunks of cake are slid onto squares of bakery wax paper then boxed or bagged.
A close second can be made at home, and I’ve tweaked my recipe to resemble bakery-style Garden State crumb cake as much as possible. It makes a good breakfast from ingredients that you’re likely to have on hand. And nothing says New Jersey to me like that telltale dusting of confectioner’s sugar on the driver’s seat of a car. Well, in my car, at least.
Garden State Crumb Cake
Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a baking pan larger than 8X8, smaller than a cookie sheet, but it’s your preference how thick to make the cake.
Sift: l-1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup white sugar, 2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. King Arthur flour is ideal; the salt is essential.
Mix together in separate bowl: 2 eggs, l/2 cup milk. Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Combine the contents of both bowls. Spread batter in the baking pan and let it settle while you make:
Stir together with a fork or by hand: 1 cup soft butter, 1 cup brown sugar, 2-1/2 cups flour, and 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. This will be lumpy and there will be a lot of it.
Spread crumbs on cake batter, pushing some into the batter with your hands.
Bake cake for 25-30 minutes, keeping a close eye on it. Remove from oven and let the cake cool before sprinkling it generously with confectioners’ sugar. Eat.