I set out to make a healthy, homemade breakfast option for whirlwind mornings. Really, I did. But somehow what I ended up making were these delicious, slightly decadent but also light enough to have one without feeling guilty, coffee cake muffins. The muffin itself is light and airy and just a little sweet, and the crumb topping is its perfect crunchy, buttery, brown sugar-y counterpoint. Are these the healthiest option in my breakfast arsenal? No. But serve it with some fruit and a little yogurt, and you can totally talk yourself into having one for breakfast every day until they’re gone. Trust me.
The idea for these muffins came to me in an airport, of all places. We were traveling home with the whole family, and I had a whole recipe calendar set out for the next few weeks, starting with a healthy and delicious granola (stay tuned for that one!) . But then my oldest daughter needed a snack, and since she could sense that we were weak-willed from waiting in lines and had limited options, she got a giant muffin with a crinkly crumb cake top. And it was great. And so I cleared the calendar deck, so to speak, to create something similar in a more reasonable size. I have no regrets.
I adapted this recipe, barely, from a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book for crumb cake. I used sour cream in place of milk to add richness to the muffins, and dialed down the amount of crumb topping so that it didn’t overwhelm and topple the muffins. And, obviously, I made muffins instead of a cake. But the taste is still there, and these muffins are a sweet breakfast treat with just the right amount of crunch. And it’s all in a reasonably sized, portable package just perfect for treating yourself on a busy morning.
- 2 ½ cups cake flour
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- 2 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour
- Preheat the oven to 325°F and butter 2 muffin pans (or line them with cupcake liners).
- To make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cake flour and stir until the mixture is like a thick dough, then set it aside to cool while you make the muffin batter.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a hand mixer on low speed. Mix for about 2 minutes, until you can't see any chunks of butter. Add the sour cream, eggs, and egg yolks, and vanilla and increase the mixer to medium high, beating until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup about ⅔ of the way full. Sprinkle the crumb topping over each muffin, pressing down gently. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crumb topping is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.