Blueberry Buckle Cake

September 13, 2009


Breakfast, Cakes, Crisps and Tarts, Crumbles, Dough & Desserts, Local Eating, Recipes, Seasons, Summer

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Waning blueberries are always my  first sign of summer slipping away. I would be sad about it, except that there are so many of my favorite things coming up now, in quantities much larger than I can accommodate… I’m known to overzealously load up on Italian eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini and basil, so watch out for gazpacho and roasted eggplant recipes aplenty. And anyway, fall is my favorite season, and I like that it comes on its own terms–Labor Day aside.

In fact, just last week, Mom and I found some spectacular Maine blueberries on a trip up north, and I thought I would share this recipe with you in case you happen upon a similar trove. Perhaps you have some tenacious bushes in your backyard. Maybe a lucky farmer at the market. Maybe even, you’re climbing to the high end of the Appalachian trail, and will find some of these along your route. If so, I can confidently recommend the following recipe as a worthy blueberry send-off.


Inspiration for this came three years back, when Christopher and I went blueberry picking in Connecticut and came home with 5 fecund bags. We made a lot of pancakes, and a lot of muffins. We also made a buckle—his favorite childhood dessert. And because his timing is generally perfect, it has become something of a tradition that every August, for his birthday, another one gets made.

This year’s rendition came alongside a meal at his request: au gratin potatoes with caramelized onion and Poblano peppers, Ribeye with béarnaise sauce and sautéed spinach with shallots. I spent a nice afternoon in the kitchen, but after all of that whisking of butter and eggs for the béarnaise; the grilling of peppers and caramelizing of onion for the gratin and the searing of a rather large hunk of meat in a rather intimidating pad of butter, I was happy to dip my spoon into a fluffy yellow batter and fold in some perfect, little bluettes—the final round of the season.


Let me say one thing for this powerhouse ‘buckle:’ it’s not really a buckle. It’s more of a cake-crumble, which I like because it keeps the berries suspended and contained in its batter, rather than leaving them to spill out each time you lift a piece of dough from the top. That is not a bad thing, mind you: I love oozy blueberries, barely clinging to the times of my fork in their syrupy, deflated way. But I also like them a little bit pert—sweet, surprising bursts that pop out of a bite of dough.

On top of that, cobblers and traditional buckles are hard to serve for breakfast. It can be done, but you will most definitely look like you are eating last night’s dessert in the morning hours. This rendition, however, hints of a rustic loaf—especially if you cut it into squares instead of the traditional cake-angle. It’s amazing what presentation can do for your entire perception of a meal.


Anyway, if you can do this, do it now. If not, wait for next summer, or substitute the blueberries for something that remains in season… I hear there are some exquisite huckleberries in Wyoming these days. Blackberries, another personal favorite, are still very much gracing their needly bushes.


Blueberry Buckle Cake

Adapted from Gourmet

Serves 6-8

For the Top

1/4 cup soft, unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup flour (whole wheat or all purpose)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

For the Batter:
3/4 cup soft, unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 c all-purpose; 1/3 c whole wheat) plus 1 tbsp
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
4 cups blueberries, clean and stemless
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a round 10″ x 2″ cake pan.
Make the topping:
Blend butter, sugar, flour cinnamon and nutmeg until incorporated and pearl-sized balls form.
Cover and store in the refrigerator while preparing batter.
Make the batter:
Toss blueberries with 1 tbsp flour, set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer. Add vanilla.
In another bowl, stir together baking powder, flour and salt.
Beat flour mixture into butter mixture alternating with the eggs, one at a time.
Pour batter into cake pan and bake from 40-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean and the topping is golden.
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