Christmas Crumb Coffee Cake (gf)

Our six-year-old son, and his three-year-old little sister, were wide-eyed with anticipation of Santa coming to our house. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we had assembled our obscenely huge tree, adorned our home’s exterior with lights, seen Santa at the local shopping center, purchased gifts, decorated cookies, and now the big day was upon us. Christmas Eve mid-day Mass led to a special meal with family, then finally, bedtime.

I had emotionally prepared myself for bedtime being filled with joyous anticipation. Mentally reminding myself to have more motherly patients than usual, and fondly remembering my youthful excitement at their age.  Bath time was my first clue that this evening was not shaping up like I had envisioned. For one, my daughter was so tired from the day’s activities; it seemed she likely forgot about the possibility of a fleeting overnight guest, and became a sleepy noodle right before my eyes. I think she was dreaming before the last words of bedtime prayers were muttered.

My son was warm. This wasn’t really out of the ordinary, because he is my warm kid. But… he also had that ‘look’ about him. I can’t explain the look, except to say every parent knows what their child looks like on the brink of a fever. Pushing some water his way and feeling his head, I determined, or perhaps it was wishful thinking, that he was tired like his sister and just needed to sleep.

Around midnight, just before heading to bed, I snuck into their rooms for one last check before I retired for good. (It’s a habit from the beginning of my motherhood journey.) The girl was snoring away. The boy was hot. Very hot. Looked like he just got out of the shower hot. His hair soaking the pillow, his Christmas flannel pajamas damp to the touch, I fetched a fever reducer and water and returned. I woke him up and he immediately started whining he was hot and I helped him out of his pj’s, down to his underwear. With the fever reducer on board along with a good amount of water, the fever came down rather quickly and I finally – utterly exhausted – fell into bed.

I heard my bedroom door creak first. I cracked my eyes open to determine the time. Morning already. I shut my eyes again, playing possum.  Soon, I felt the presence of a little body standing on my side of the bed. They never wake their Dad up. It’s always me. I waited for the eventual tap-tap-tap of tiny fingers to wake me, and little whispers of “mama?”



I groan, “uh huh?”

Six year old, “Santa came!”

… and just as I opened my mouth to reply “Oh really?!”

He continued, “…and I think he undressed me!”

My eyes flew open and I saw him standing there, in his underwear. No fever.

It’s not Christmas in our house without this crumb coffee cake, and a re-hash of this amusing story…

Christmas Crumb Coffee Cake (gf)

Serves 8-10

Topping Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 1/3 ounces sugar
  • 2 1/3 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ounces gluten free flour blend

Topping Method*

Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, or a medium bowl with a whisk, combine all topping ingredients except flour. Whisk until smooth. Fold in flour with rubber spatula until flour is no longer visible. Set aside.

*It’s important to make the topping first. The rest time allows the flour to absorb moisture, which prevents a grainy mouth-feel in the finished product. Topping can be made hours to 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate if making in advance.

Cake Ingredients                                                                         

  • 6 ounces gluten free flour blend                                                             
  • 3 1/2 ounces sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Cake Method

Adjust oven rack to one slot higher than the middle, and preheat to 325 degrees.

Prepare 8” or 9” square baking pan by lining with parchment paper, making a ‘sling’ with several inches of over-hang on two sides for easy removal later. Spray with vegetable oil. For more instruction on parchment slings, visit

(Pictured: crumb coffee cake made in mini loaf pans in lieu of 8” square baking dish.)

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix flour blend, sugar, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum on low until well combined, about 30 seconds.

Adding butter about one tablespoon at a time, mix until this batter resembles crumbs, and chunks of butter are no longer visible. This will take 1-2 minutes on medium/low speed.

Add the remaining cake ingredients (sour cream, eggs + yolk, and vanilla) and adjust the mixer setting to medium/high. Blend for 30 seconds, scrape down the bowl, and blend for another 30 seconds.

Transfer the batter to prepared baking dish and smooth evenly. Crumble the topping in pea to marble size pieces over the top of the batter. This will be a thick layer of crumb.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes. Crumbs should turn golden brown and cake tester should come out clean.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove from pan using the parchment sling for assistance. Cut with serrated knife and (optional) dust with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Leftovers should be wrapped in air tight plastic. Remove plastic and warm each serving individually in microwave for 15-20 seconds.