Sex and the City and muffins

I was at the gym the other day watching Sex and the City on Closed Caption while toiling away on the rowing machine.  I think it’s funny that I get most of my pop culture via subtitle while at the gym.  Of course this can lead to confusion like the time I was watching VH1 while on the treadmill and spent an entire music video thinking Menudo were the Jonas Brothers (all the while opining, ‘hey, these Jonas Brothers are way cooler than I thought…what with the retro-vibe and all’) only to find out that the subtitles were on a two-minute delay.  In this case Menudo really was Menudo.

Anyhow, as a West Coast girl, my impression of New York City is almost entirely derived from a combination of Sex and the City, the Sopranos,  SNL and old episodes of Felicity.  Oh, and of course, the season finale of Glee.

I loved S.A.T.C.–though will  admit I was a late-comer to the show. In fact, I may have missed it entirely if I hadn’t started dating TD who, on our first Sunday evening together casually said, “hey, don’t you want to watch Sex and the City.”  Which really meant, “I want to watch Sex and the City but as a manly man need to use you as my beard.”  By then, the show was in its third season.  One episode and I understand what the big deal was…even if the 27-year-old in me thought those old-broads were acting a little immature for their age.

Fast forward just over ten years to my recent time on the rowing machine.  They were showing Catch-38–the episode where Carrie realizes that at 38 she should or should-not be making some important decisions about her life.  Wait…I just turned 38…when did I catch up with the S.A.T.C. girls?  You know, those “old broads.”  Oh dear.  Oh crap.

Existential crises aside, that episode motivated me to try a recipe for New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins from Cooks Illustrated (January 1, 2008).  If I can no longer have the fashion S.A.T.C. brought me, at least I could have a vaguely reminiscent baked good (what…I’ve stretched it too far?).

I have a weakness for crumb-topped coffee cake.  But really, who doesn’t?  You start this recipe by making the topping.  And, let’s be honest, this is the most important part.  While tasty, the muffin is just the delivery method for these buttery, sugar-cinnamony crumbles.  Melted butter, sugars and cinnamon (duh) are combined.

Until they form a dough which is then set aside to cool.

Then the muffin dough is pulled together.  Butter is added to the dry ingredients little by little until crumbly sand forms.  Then the eggs and buttermilk are added until the mixture is light and fluffy.

The beauty of this recipe is that it only makes 12 muffins–which is great for a Sunday morning treat.  After portioning-out the dough into lined cupcake molds, the topping gets broken into large pieces and arranged on top of the muffin batter.  You’ll feel like you’ve got too much crumble dough–do not worry, just pack-in-on, the muffins will rise in the oven.

Once out of the oven, you are supposed to wait 20 minutes before removing them from the pan and another 20 before eating.  Good luck with that.

These were fantastic for brunch.  And, even better,  I’m going to “transform” this recipe in a couple of weeks for a bridal shower by adding an icing and calling them cupcakes.

New York-Style Crumb Cake Muffins

Posted verbatim from Cooks Illustrated, January 1, 2008

Makes 12 muffins

Don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, as doing so will make a dry, tough muffin. If you can’t find buttermilk, you can substitute an equal amount of plain, low-fat yogurt. When topping the muffins, take care to not push the crumbs into the batter. Cooled leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.


  • Crumb Topping
  • 1/3cup granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 1/3cup dark brown sugar (2 2/3 ounces)
  • 3/4teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8teaspoon table salt
  • 8tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), melted and still warm
  • 1 3/4cups cake flour (7 ounces)
  • Muffins
  • 1 1/4cups cake flour (5 ounces)
  • 1/2cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4teaspoon table salt
  • 6tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3cup buttermilk
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Whisk sugars, cinnamon, salt, and butter in medium bowl to combine. Add flour and stir with rubber spatula or wooden spoon until mixture resembles thick, cohesive dough; set aside to cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. 2. FOR THE MUFFINS: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  3. 3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt on low speed to combine. With mixer running at low speed, add butter one piece at a time; continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no visible butter chunks remaining, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg, yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping once if necessary.
  4. 4. Using 1/4-cup measure or ice cream scoop, divide batter evenly among muffin cups; using small rubber spatula, spread batter into even layer. Following photos below, break apart crumb topping into large pea-sized pieces and spread in even layer over batter (about 1/4 cup of crumbs per muffin), beginning with edges and then working toward center. Bake until crumbs are golden and wooden skewer inserted into center of muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack at least 20 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.