Learn how to make crumb topping with this easy, four-ingredient recipe. These crumb cake crumbs aren't just for crumb cake - they make a perfect topping for all kinds of quick breads, cakes, and fruit desserts. Top with powdered sugar for a classic touch.
One dessert (or occasional brunch sweet treat) that's hard for me to resist is crumb cake. Where I'm from, crumb cake is more crumb than cake, with a moderately-sized bottom layer of simple vanilla cake topped with a huge layer of crumbs. Sweet and buttery crumb cake crumbs.
It's all about the crumb topping. The cake layer is almost an afterthought.
While there are a million and one crumb cake recipes out there, equally deserving is a post dedicated to the crumb topping itself. Besides gracing traditional crumb cake, it's an incredibly versatile recipe to have on hand for whenever you're making quick breads, snack cakes, fruit crisps, etc.
Crumb topping banana bread? Spiced peach crisp with crumb topping? Yes and yes, please.
If you've ever wondered how to make crumb topping, you'll need four ingredients: brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and flour. First the brown sugar and cinnamon and combined together in a bowl. You won't need a huge mixing bowl or anything. I used a cereal bowl (the white one in the photos here) and it was the perfect fit for this batch of crumb topping.
And don't worry about the cinnamon adding too much of a spiced flavor here. One half teaspoon adds just the right amount of flavor without being the center of attention.
Once the brown sugar and cinnamon are combined, you'll mix in melted, unsalted butter. It'll look preeeeetty liquid-y and not much like crumb topping at all at this point, but it will solidify perfectly once the flour is added.
I tend to use all-purpose flour, but sometimes I'll switch it up and use white whole wheat flour. In my experience it tastes and behaves just the same as all-purpose. To note, I haven't experimented with gluten-free flours in this recipe, so I'm unsure if it would turn out the same.
Two-thirds cup plus one tablespoon of flour seems like a pretty finicky measurement, but it's the perfect amount that I've found to produce a crumb topping that's, well, crumbly while not being too dry. Your goal is to have a crumb topping with a texture that can hold its shape when scattered over a dessert, yet isn't too dry that larger crumbs disintegrate into sand.
As far as servings go, this batch of crumb topping covers an 8" x 8" baking dish completely, seen in the first photo in this post. However keep in mind that it may be best to double this recipe if you'd like a topping closer to the crumbs on a traditional crumb cake. This recipe as written below won't get you quite that layer of crumbs on its own.
- Curious to see the process of how to make crumb topping in action? Head on over to this spiced peach crisp with crumb topping recipe and scroll down to watch a quick recipe video!
- To measure flour, I first stir the flour up in its canister or bag. Then with a large soup spoon I spoon it into the measuring cup, taking care not to pack it in. Once the measuring cup has a heap of flour in it, I'll place it over top of the flour canister opening and using a straight edge (usually the handle of the spoon so as not to dirty another utensil), level off the flour with the excess falling back into the container. This way prevents too much flour from being added to a recipe from being packed into the measuring cup, leading to dry baked goods.
See how to make crumb topping in this video below:
How to Make Crumb Topping
- ⅓ cup brown sugar, packed
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- ⅔ cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.
- Pour in melted butter and stir in.
- Add flour and stir until evenly combined. The mixture should be forming crumbs and hold together when pinched.
- Scatter over top of cakes, breads, and fruit desserts before baking. Top with powdered sugar for serving.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer
Jerianne Closs says
I have been looking all over the Internet for a recipe for JUST THE CRUMB TOPPING. Thank you so much for putting it out there!!!
I too have been looking for a crumb to compare w my moms- she’s past and I never got recipe from her 🙁 So where do we go when we need a recipe ? So i went online and there it was, THE BEST CRUMBS EVER- btw I put it on banana bread and muffins,,,, Mmmmmm
Thank you for sharing it.
This recipe was perfect amount for my 9in Pie. I measured and filled the directions and it was perfect I did not need to make any adjustments whatsoever and the flavor is perfect.
So glad this worked for you, Cynthia! Thanks for letting me know how it went.
Thank you so much for this post! I'm using your recipe this early Thanksgiving morning 2021. I'm in Michigan awaiting the rest of my family to fly in from Tennessee at my daughters house. Unfortunately my husband is quarantined with a covid scare his other employees have it. Thank god so far he does not. And all my recipes are at home with him. And low and behold when I went on safari your post popped up first and I have to admit I was sceptacale at first but I went let's just try it. The cereal bowl won me over. So easy recipe. And so good. Perfect amount. I am sure my family will love it. I'll post a picture as soon as it's out of the oven. I made a large pie so I did make a double batch for it but had I made a 9 inch One would of made plenty. I started with one then made another. If you follow people I would suggest to follow this lady here. Have a wonderful Holiday!
Hi Nicole, I'm so glad you liked this crumb topping recipe, and thank you for letting me know how it went! Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday! 🙂
Liz Czerewaty says
Would making a triple batch and freezing it be an option? Uncooked? I put fresh fruit in ramekins top with a crumble and bake for a healthy sweet. Spur of the moment I need something sweet but healthy and quick.
Hi Liz, I haven't ever frozen crumbs by themselves (cooked or uncooked) so I'm not sure how they would hold up. My concern would be that they would sog up and not get fully crisp when it's time to bake.
R. Miranda says
I freeze crumble mix all the time. I always make extra so I can have some on hand ready to put on top of crumble/crisp whenever guests pop by or I want a quick midnight snack. The idea isn't mine. Jaime Oliver suggested it and it has worked wonders, No sogginess, I guess cause it's frozen. It doesn't need to be defrosted either.
So glad you liked it, Brandi!
I’ve been trying the same crumb on my overnight French toast and every time it melts, no matter what I adjusted. Finally I said enough and ventured from the original recipe and found your crumb recipe. It turned out Perfect and it was super easy!
I'm so happy it worked for you! Thanks for letting me know how it went. 🙂
Ken Pinc says
Why do they use "unsalted" butter for crumb topping? Can you use regular butter?
Unsalted butter is commonly used in baking so you have more control over the total amount of salt in a sweet recipe. If you like the combination of salty + sweet you can use salted butter if you prefer. The recipe would work the same consistency-wise, it would have a slight impact on the flavor.
Tamela Hawley says
Wonderful and simple for my blueberry muffins. Thank you!
So glad you liked it, Tamela!
Kelli Telch says
thanks for sharing
You're very welcome!
Victoria J. Chandler says
Wow this looks easy and delish
I’m about to make an apple quick bread which requires an hour bake time. When should I put the crumbs on the loaf?
Excited to try this
Hi Victoria, I've put this topping on recipes with a 40-50 minute bake time without issue, so I'd say an hour would be just fine if you wanted to add it at the beginning. I wouldn't recommend adding it partway through as opening the oven door and taking the bread out can interfere with it rising properly. I hope you enjoy!
Kitty Larkins says
I live near the ocean in the humid south and used this recipe on a rainy day. It required a heaping cup of flour but turned out beautifully. Just wanted to let others know about this.
Thank you for sharing your experience, Kitty!
Lori Duncan says
Can you store in an air tight container? How long?
Yes! If baked separately from an underlying dessert, these crumbs should hold their crispness for at least several days. I'd hold off on dusting them with confectioners' sugar (if doing so) until just prior to serving.
This is the simplest recipe to make crumb topping I have ever tried! Delicious addition to pumpkin muffins. Thanks!
You're welcome, Dawn! So glad you like it. 🙂
Just trying these out now! Thanks for the recipe 🙂 I recently found out I am allergic to dairy, even butter. Any idea how to substitute margarine or lard or a mixture of the two? Thanks so much! House smells awesome! 😀
You're very welcome! While I haven't subbed them into this recipe myself, I think either margarine or lard (or a mix) would work here. When melted the texture should be similar to melted butter so the consistency of the crumble would be just fine.
I use the country crock plant butter sticks in almost all recipes as I also don’t do dairy. They work great. I like the almond oil ones for baking!
Great tip! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Did I miss the temperate to bake the topping? I didn't see an oven temperature given.
Hi Bonita, this crumb topping is meant to be scattered over top of a dessert before baking, so it bakes and crisps up along with whatever it is you're making. That said I have baked this topping "as-is" and it's worked out! I scatter the crumbs on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes, depending on how large/clumped together the crumbs are. The crumbs will crisp up a bit more as they cool. If you are on Instagram, I have a saved story highlight "crumbs" where I baked these crumbs by themselves. My handle is @ mysequinedlife -- I hope this helps!
I realized the moment I submitted the question that you didn't state a temperature because it would depend on what we were baking. In my mind, I needed crumble separately. I felt so silly for not fully understanding your recipe/post. Thank you so much for the response. It was really helpful. I'll be baking these "as is." Thank you again for the lovely response.
Please don't feel silly at all! I've been asked that question multiple times, so that tells me that I can be clearer in my instruction. 🙂 I hope you enjoy!
I often use a Bundy pan to make my cakes. Therefore the top of the cake is at the bottom of the pan. Is there a way to make this recipe work for that?
Hi Casey, I haven't made a bundt cake with crumbs so I couldn't say for sure how it would work. Please let me know if you give it a try, though!
Just bake your crumble separately, then add to the top of your bundt cake when ready
I make a crumb "topping" for a chocolate chip ricotta cake that I bake in a Bundt pan. After spreading the batter in the pan, I pack the crumbs on top. When the cake is still somewhat warm, I turn it out so that the weight kind of presses into the crumbs. It turns the topping more into a crust. We like it 🙂
That sounds delicious!!
Just wondering, would I be able to put this topping on top of a cheesecake that is being baked in the oven in an store bought ready crust? And if so, when do I add the topping onto the cheesecake?
Hi Portia, I've regularly baked this crumb topping on desserts that bake for 40-45 minutes without any issue. I haven't tried it on a cheesecake (yet! sounds delicious) but I think it would be fine, even with the longer bake time, as it's usually not at a high temperature. I would caution against trying to add it partway through the bake time as opening the oven door when baking cheesecakes can interfere with it rising and lead to cracks. I hope that's helpful!
Crumbled this on top of my mini strawberry rhubarb tarts. When cool, sifted a bit of icing sugar on the tops.Pretty,delicious bite size treasures! Great topping!