The Best Topping Isn't Always on Top: Buttermilk-Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

While Tom was watching the NFC championship game on Sunday night and screaming at the TV (having grown up in Wisconsin as a Packers fan, Tom has a strong sentimental attachment to Brett Favre), I was flipping through cookbooks looking for a new recipe using buttermilk. I had an open quart in the fridge after making a red velvet cake and some corn-cherry scones last week. I settled on "Buttermilk-Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake" from Lisa Yockelson's Chocolate Chocolate.

This recipe is a tender buttermilk cake (all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, miniature chocolate chips, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk) that is sprinkled with a butter crumb topping (flour, sugar, brown sugar, salt, cold butter, and vanilla) before baking. Yockelson describes the topping as "a mixture of butter-bound flour and sugar, with a little vanilla extract added as a fragrant seasoning." The recipe makes a lot of topping, enough to generously cover the entire surface of the cake. The final steps in the recipe are to sprinkle the hot cake with more miniature chocolate chips right after it comes out of the oven, and then dust the cake with powdered sugar after it's fully cooled.
I was very surprised by the way this cake turned out. The surprise was that a significant portion of the topping sank into the cake and migrated randomly throughout it. I'm not sure if this was supposed to happen, because Yockelson doesn't mention this phenomenon anywhere in the recipe, and in the picture of the cake in the cookbook, it appears that all of the topping stayed right on top. But in the pictures of my cake above (these are actually the front and side view of the same piece of cake), you can see the tan topping running throughout the entire cake. Intended or not, this was the best feature of the cake! Every bite of cake was permeated with the sweet topping's delightfully crunchy texture.

A minor annoyance with this cake is that the chocolate chips sprinkled on after the cake is done baking don't really adhere and there were quite a few loose chips rolling around as I was trying the cut the cake. I wonder what would happen if you sprinkled on the chips before baking -- if they would also get sucked down into the cake. I might give it a try the next time I make this cake, because I'd love to make this tasty treat again!

Recipe: "Buttermilk-Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake," from Chocolate Chocolate by Lisa Yockelson.

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