pumpkin new york style crumb cake

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“Even with a recipe, a dish can never be recreated exactly. It will always be filtered through the hands of the cook, her memory of taste, the ingredients available, the weather, and a hundred other factors. Eating Madame Lea’s salad was a little like reading the Odyssey and straining to hear the voice of an ancient Greek poet — evident in some sports, in other maybe not at all.” — Ann Mah’s Mastering the Art of French Eating

This weekend and the five weeks that follow will be intense. Plan writing, meetings, flights to San Francisco for client presentations, and a litany of conference calls. But know that I’m not complaining, that I chose this, because come December I can spend two weeks in Fiji without feeling the tug of my inbox. A month of hard work that allows for space, time, to create. In yoga, our teacher invited us to wake each morning, and before we yank the covers off and slouch about our day, she asked that we remember three things for which we’re grateful. Because the memory brings humility, and suddenly the conversation in our heads is altered, albeit in the smallest of ways.

I’m grateful for Felix, the precocious, loving cat that gave my life some order when I was content to sit in darkness. I’m grateful for my health, even if a visit to the doctor yesterday revealed that I have allergy-induced asthma {do I miss health insurance}. I’m grateful for my life, the one that I’m fighting for, every day. The one of my own design. The one where I can step out in the middle of the day to buy flowers and work all the way into the night.

When I grumble, which I’m sometimes prone to do, I’ll play these words back in my head like a song, and feel honored to be living this great life.

So I’ve about an hour until I have to get cracking on a presentation. Knowing that, I spent the day in yoga, with my kitty, and baking these divine pumpkin crumb cake. It fell apart a little because I didn’t wait long enough for it to cool, but rest assured this cake is worth making.

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INGREDIENTS: Recipe courtesy of Anedible Mosaic, with minor alterations
For the spice mix
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Alternatively, you can use pumpkin spice mix (sold in most grocery stores)

For the topping
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure almond extract
12 tbsp unsalted butter, slightly softened, diced

For the cake:
1/3 cup safflower oil
3/4 cup coconut cane sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (homemade or canned)
1 tsp pure almond extract
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda

Other
Butter, to grease the dish + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, for topping

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 325F. Generously grease a 7 by 11-inch rectangular baking dish or 10-inch round pan with butter. I use coconut spray, as I love the taste of it.

Mix together all spices for the spice mix; set aside.

For the topping, whisk together the brown sugar, flour, half the spice mix (or 1 3/4 teaspoon pre-made pumpkin pie spice mix), salt, and almond extract in a large bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the mixture, then once the dough forms pieces the size of peas, use your hands to work it until it forms large wet crumbs. I like the crumbs a bit cold as it tends to cook better, so place your crumble mixture into the fridge for five minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the oil, coconut palm sugar, egg, pumpkin puree, and almond extract. You can use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a simple whisk. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and the remaining half of the spice mix (or 1 3/4 teaspoon pre-made pumpkin pie spice mix). Slowly mix the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined. You don’t want to see any of the flour mixture, but make sure you don’t overmix or gluten will start to develop and you will cry your little eyes out.

Spread the batter out in the prepared pan and sprinkle the crumble topping on top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out slightly moist with just a couple crumbs, about 25-35 minutes. Cool completely (for at least 45 minutes to an hour, or the cake will break apart, like mine did), and then sift the powdered sugar on top of the cake.

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