MAY IT PLEASE THE PALATE: You had me at buttertop

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In transporting our mouseling* (*she hates this nickname, but fortunately doesn’t read this column) back and forth to college in Boston, my wife and I have taken a shine to the West Stockbridge Public Market on the western edge of Massachusetts. They offer soups, sandwiches, salads, baked goods, coffee, all manner of snacks, and my must-have cinnamon tea tree oil toothpicks.

On the trip to Boston, I spied a “buttertop crumb cake” in the pastry case and took it with me for the trip. It was the most amazing baked good I’ve had in a long time – barely half cake base, and finished with a massive layer of a butter/flour/brown sugar/cinnamon topping, with a whisper of salt, that had me babbling happily all the way to Beantown.

On the return trip, we stopped again. There were four of them in the case. “I’ll have the lot,” I said, as did the “one thin mint” diner in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” I also insisted on the recipe.

“We don’t make those here,” the clerk confessed. She literally made a couple of phone calls to find out the purveyor, so that I could follow up, do an interview, persuade them to part with the recipe, and if appropriate, make a marriage proposal. She wrote the information carefully on a slip of paper for me, which I folded and put into my wallet—and then promptly lost it!

I Googled in vain, stalking this dream that was rapidly disappearing. Heck, wasn’t even sure it was called buttertop crumb cake. All seemed hopeless, until my bleary eyes landed on a recipe for New York Crumb Cake—on of all places, a blog called “the “optimistic househusband.” He wrote, “I found this recipe from 2002 … It came from food.com, and it’s a delicious cake ….. The best part is, there is more topping than cake!”

More topping than cake. I had found it!

I also uncovered the 2002 food.com recipe, which claimed the recipe came from “Recipezaar,” and that the previous owner alleged it came straight from Martha Stewart. Whoa, I was getting into pretty heady stuff. This was practically the Dark Web. Furtively, I copied the recipe, and reprint it below.

NEED:
1 9x13 pan
2 TBS canola oil
4 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
2 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup light-brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, the granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

4. In a second bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla.

5. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

6. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside.

7. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

8. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form.

9. Top batter evenly with crumb topping.

10. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake tests done. Turn the pan once during baking.

11. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool, then dust with confectioners’ sugar.

12. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares, and serve. Note: This cake can be stored, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
So here you have it, straight from Martha Stewart, to the West Stockbridge Public Market, to me, to you. Enjoy it as I have, for three straight days, from Stockbridge
to Boston, and back.
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Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil rights litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor. He occasionally updates his blog at http://mayitpleasethepalate.blogspot.com/.