Recipe Flash: Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

Full Breakfast Menu: Frittata with Asparagus, Scallion, and Fontina; Orange Wedges; Hot Tea

As I explained in my cupcake post the other day, I’ve become a really big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s new cake book. Everything I’ve made from it has turned out beautifully–in other words, the reason for my affection is quite simple.

For a morning meeting having to do with very cool things to come for the blog, I toted this cake to Phoebe’s. I don’t have a container big enough to carry things like cake (Christmas gift, anyone?), and so I left it in the pan, covered it with foil, and loaded it, still warm, into my strong Sea Bag, which, the more I need to carry large amounts of food around town, the more it becomes the object of my obsession.

I changed the recipe slightly–nervously–using applesauce in place of sour cream. I told myself it was for heightened apple flavor, but really it was all I had in my fridge. It’s a cake that is great fun to cut into because of the surprise layer of apples in the middle, and it is a great cake to eat with morning coffee–or tea, which is all that Phoebe’s pantry supplied.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,


We made short work out of that.

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake
Makes 1 cake
Adapted from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes


For the crumb topping:
1 cup pecans
1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cake:
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 eggs
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at soft room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

First, make the crumb topping and filling: Combine the nuts, sugar, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop, then remove about 1/2 cup and set aside. Add the flour and butter to the processor and pulse until it resembles crumbs. Refrigerate while making the cake batter.

Make the cake: Combine the apple and lemon juice. Toss to coat and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, 3 tablespoons of applesauce, and vanilla until combined. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add both the softened butter and the rest of the applesauce and mix for about a minute and a half, until the dry ingredients are really well absorbed. Add the egg mixture in two parts, beating for a minute in between. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more.

Scrape most of the batter (about 2/3) into a 9″ cake pan prepared with a circle of parchment at the bottom and buttered on both sides and bottom. Sprinkle the batter with the 1/2 cup of reserved nuts/sugar.
Top with overlapping apple slices. Spread the remaining batter across the top.

Bake the cake for 35 minutes. Then, remove the crumb topping from the fridge. Sprinkle it over the top of the cake, pinching the crumbs to form a variety of sizes. Bake for another 20-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then loosen the sides and cool completely on a rack.

  • Kate

    Oh my goodness! I just finished breakfast, but this is all I want right now! It sounds light and yet equally satisfying as the full fledged coffee cakes that are usually too heavy!

  • Anonymous

    Anxiously awaiting your post about the Barefoot Contessa. Quite honestly, I was shocked when you said you would "maybe" post her recipes–what on earth were you thinking?!

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    haha, don't worry, it's coming. Check back on Saturday :)

    Or join our newsletter for an update in your inbox!

  • Holly

    oOOoOo! Did you find that book on NPR's 10 Best Cookbook of 2009? I was considering getting it but wanted someone's opinion first. Now, after reading your current 2 blog entries and seeing the results I think Rose Levy's book might just be the perfect gift to myself!

  • shayma

    apples are one of my fave things in the world- i dont have a huge sweet tooth, but some things, like sticky toffee pudding, custard, pumpkin-and APPLE-related desserts, are on my fave list. i like the way you used applesauce instead of sour cream. love the end results, now only to have been able to taste it! buon appetito, girls.

  • Helen

    No need to post, Food Network already has it online….go to

    Why anyone would diss Ina on her own show is beyond me. Grow up!

  • Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks

    Hi Helen,

    I'm sorry that you feel I was in any way unappreciative on Ina's show. I promise you my actual feelings are quite the opposite.

    If someone takes issue with our recipes on the blog, we welcome the constructive criticism. But if they simply do not like us, we ask that those opinions be aired in another forum.

    This blog is in many ways an extension of us, and we reserve the right to remove any mean-spirited, hurtful comments that have no place at our tables and in our homes.


  • Giovanna

    making this immediately! looks so delicious! thanks!

  • LuLu

    I'm always game for a good cake recipe. I have a few posted up on the blog my best friend and I created ( and I'm about to post my chocolate cake soon. Take a look @ ours, we'd appreciate the feedback.

  • Chef Chuck

    First time, I like your blog! I love apple crumb cake! Your recipe has has a nice blend. Know a little coffee and we are on our way! Thanks for sharing :)

  • Megan

    This recipe looks fantastic, but I am a bit confused by the directions… the ingredients lists makes no mention of sour cream, but in the directions it says to add sour cream with the butter. Can I just omit sour cream? If not, how much do I add? Thanks!

  • Phoebe and Cara, the Quarter-Life Cooks

    Megan–you're so right. I'd subbed apple sauce for the sour cream, but then I wrote sour cream in the recipe. Thanks for catching! Directions should be clear now.

  • Stephanie

    Yummy – what a great apple coffee cake recipe and I think the applesauce substitution sounds fine. Obviously, it worked great.

  • Lacie

    I have made this cake twice now, and it has come out wonderfully both times!  I’d like to say a big thank you for all of your hard work.  As someone who is living in Morocco with limited ingredients and a quirky buta gas oven, your recipes make it easy to cook delicious and creative recipes with few substitutions.  

  • Lacie

    I have made this cake twice now, and it has come out wonderfully both times!  I’d like to say a big thank you for all of your hard work.  As someone who is living in Morocco with limited ingredients and a quirky buta gas oven, your recipes make it easy to cook delicious and creative recipes with few substitutions.  

    • BGSK

      So glad to hear it! And in Morocco, too–wow!

  • L Baeder

    Made this for a brunch I hosted yesterday (along with Baked eggs with tomatoes and smoky potatoes) – it was the hit of the morning (right after the bloddy marys of course)! I’m not big on pecans, so I only used about 1/4 cup but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. It came out perfect! Thanks BGSK!

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