When it comes to crumb cake, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had an “authentic” crumb cake, nor one that really excited me. But it still seemed like a good pairing for ice cream.
You see, a friend of ours gave us a gift of Trader Joe’s Speculoos “Cookie Butter.” It sounded delicious — in fact, the label describes it as “a deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits.” I pondered what I could do with it, thought, “This would probably make a really tasty ice cream!” … and then promptly got too busy to do anything with it.
Flash forward to the holidays when I was tasked with making dessert for family dinner. I started with the idea that I wanted to finally make that Speculoos ice cream. I suppose realistically you CAN just serve ice cream alone for dessert, but I’m an overachiever. In trying to think of something to serve with the ice cream, I turned to one of my favorite dessert cookbooks, Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.
I had a couple basic criteria for what I was looking for: it had to be a good pairing for ice cream, and it couldn’t require me to have to go out and buy a bunch of crazy ingredients, or even more than a couple non-crazy ones. (I’d already done my holiday grocery shopping, and there’s little I hate more than grocery stores during the holidays.) Voila, New York-Style Crumb Cake.
I remembered every crumb cake I’d ever had as needing some ice cream to go with it, and the description of ginormous crumbs appealed to me:
First and foremost, New York crumb cake is all about the crumb topping. It is obscenely large in proportion to the cake. In fact, the topping is nearly identical in thickness to—or even thicker than—the cake.
And the only ingredient not already in my kitchen cabinet? Sour cream. Sold.
My dad wasn’t a huge fan of the cake — he thought it was too dry — but my mom took the leftovers to work and reported back that it was extremely popular and a couple people had asked for the recipe. I thought the crumb topping was a wee bit too crunchy, probably due to some mishap of my own, but that the cake itself was decently moist, though dense.
In other words, a perfect cake for ice cream.
I started with the basic French-Style Ice Cream recipe from Food & Wine and simply added in a cup of the Cookie Butter and mixed it in thoroughly right before pouring it all into the ice cream maker.
I’m pretty sure that adding this stuff into any dessert goodie would take it from good to good-er. It’s like Nutella, but instead of chocolate and hazelnuts, it tastes like cinnamon and gingerbread and holiday tastiness.
The friend who gave it to us informed us that, “apparently, it’s *the* omiyage gift to bring home.” Or so another friend had told her. I don’t know if that’s true or not — I haven’t heard anyone clamoring for it, although I could easily plonk down on the couch and eat the whole jar — but it does seem to have a devoted following. There’s even a Facebook page devoted to it.
In case you’re wondering what, exactly, speculoos is, it’s a Dutch cookie, sometimes spelled “speculaas” and sold in the U.S. as “Biscoff cookies.” Irvin Lin at Eat the Love has an amazing post about making the cookies. The ingredients list reminds me of Moravian Spice Wafers. Anyway, Trader Joe’s, in all their wisdom — (?) I don’t know, maybe it’s more wisdom in knowing what Americans dig — has taken speculoos cookies, smushed them up and turned them into batter-y, buttery, spreadable goodness. ‘Cause there’s nothing we like better than rich foods we can lick off a spoon.
Have you tried Cookie Butter? While you discuss, excuse me while I go find a spoon…