A Piece of Crumb Cake or A Crumb Bun Equals Love

15 Mar

Crumb cake and crumb buns, I can still taste them. Eating a crumb cake in my family is like eating love.   As the powdered sugar drips and the crumbs fall, we see and smell happy memories. I can not tell you how many important family discussions were held while we sat around eating crumb cake, but there were many. Crumb cake kept us together and talking.

My Grandpa Nat was a baker. My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in West New York, New Jersey. And among my favorite foods were the crumb buns. I say among my favorites, because I liked other items as well: chocolate chip cookies, black and white cookies and rye bread. But for my Mom, there was really just one love: the crumb buns were always the number one item for her.

She told me that as a little girl she were go down to the bakery in the morning and check out the tray of crumb buns, looking for the best one: the one with the most crumbs; the one with the biggest crumbs. And then my grandmother would cut that crumb bun out for my Mom to eat.

I would like to say that she outgrew this need. But she never did. Even after my grandparents closed their bakery in the late 1960s, my Mom still needed a crumb bun fix. When she could no longer find them in bakeries, she turned to Entenmann’s crumb cake to get her fix! Yes, my Mom was a crumb bun/cake addict.

She would share anything with her children and grandchildren, but when it came to crumb cake, she still had to choose the best piece with the best crumbs for herself. We sometimes ‘fought’ over the best piece, but in the end Mom would get it.

Mom loved to eat crumb cake on a paper towel or napkin. She would put the cake upside down on the paper, and eat the cake first. Saving the crumbs for last, she would eat the biggest crumbs first and slowly work her way to the smallest crumbs. Near the end she would fold the paper towel so that the crumbs would gather together. Then when she had picked up all the pieces she could, she would lick her finger to pick up the last crumbs. I still eat my crumb cake that way.

Her children and grandchildren learned early on that Grandma would steal their crumbs when they weren’t looking. Yes she would. If she saw a crumb on your piece of cake that was extremely large, she would just reach over and take it. In fact, sometimes we would notice that the cake in the box would be missing a few crumbs. Mom had secretly taken those crumbs when no one was around.

But the ‘stealing’ went two ways. Sometimes, after my Mom chose her perfect piece, she would leave the room for a minute. Then my Dad would pounce, and hide her cake. He would act surprised and say something like, “That was yours? Sorry I already ate it.” But she knew it was close by.   And he would give it back to her like a guilty teenager.

Finding the piece of cake with the best crumb ever was an important goal. My sister and I soon realized it was best to be up early in the morning to look for the best piece of crumb cake. But it did not matter, Mom usually beat us to the best piece.  As my sister remembers, and it is true,  sometimes the crumb cake was missing a piece from the middle!  Mom had been there first, claiming the piece with the best crumbs.

Entenmann's Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

Entenmann’s Crumb Cake hidden on top of the refrigerator.

The tradition took on new meaning when the grandchildren arrived. It was wonderful fun eating crumb cake together. The crumb cake, which was kept high on top of the refrigerator, would be taken down. Everyone would gather around to look at it, trying to figure out which piece they would get. The corners, of course, were the best pieces. Mom always got one of those.

In the summer time, the crumb cake tradition was not only for mornings. In the evenings, as we had our tea, someone would always bring the crumb cake down from the refrigerator. The grandchildren would come running to participate in the feast. Sometimes it was just all the girls eating with Grandma. But other times, the boys would join in as well. In my mind’s eye, I see them all giggling around the table having tea and crumb cake.

When I moved to Kansas, I was so excited to see Entenmann’s crumb cakes at the grocery store. I bought one every time my parents came to visit. But more important, I bought one whenever I felt homesick. Having a piece of crumb cake with my children, always made me feel closer to my Mom.

Even when my Mom was at her sickest, she could usually eat a piece of crumb cake. She would get a look of childlike delight when the cake would be put on the table. She still analyzed every piece, looking for the piece she wanted to eat.

For a month, when my Mom was sick, my daughter lived with my parents. My daughter told how each evening, my Mom would ask for her cake. “Find the most crumbs,” my Mom would say. And my daughter would cut my Mom the best piece of crumb cake and bring it to her. It lightened the day.

When my Mom passed away, eating a piece of Entenmann’s crumb cake became even more important. I felt close to her when I ate the crumbs from the paper towel. Sounds silly, I know. But in those first months it did help. However, about six months after she died, the grocery stores in the Kansas City area, where I live, stopped selling the crumb cake. I felt crushed. I was devastated. I no longer could have my crumb cake fix. I no longer could feel that connection with my Mom.

I can still get crumb cake when I go back east to New Jersey and visit my siblings. My sister almost always buys a crumb cake for us to enjoy during my stay.  It helps. That bond with crumb cake is part of our existence.

IMG_1663

I actually had a lamp made after my mom died that has some of her favorite sayings on it. The Sticks campany, which makes painted furniture, will personalize their items. And so I had something made in memory of Mom. On one side, I had them engrave, “Crumb cake ❤ Love.”

 

 

 

http://www.entenmanns.com/op-prod.cfm/prodId/7203001994#.VQWQLmTF_Ao

 

www.sticks.com

 

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