Blueberry buckle is the squintingly bright day that you’ve been waiting for all April. The first bite delivers at once the initial chill and then the subsequent warmth that comes when the midday sun hits your bare shoulder on the first no-sleeve day of late spring. I could go on and on, and I will!
For those of you who have not yet tasted a buckle, I have no idea what you’re waiting for. Hurry up and make it. It’s easy. For all you new or non-bakers, the is the one that will fool your family and friends into thinking that you know what you’re doing. Incidentally, it is also the dessert that will make you love baking and want to know what you’re doing. That’s what I call killing two birds with one stone.
As for the history of the buckle: as far as I know, it’s one of those desserts that has been around forever. It’s of the crumble-grunt-cobbler-crisp family, and in my opinion, it may be the best of the bunch. Here’s why: a buckle, in my opinion, is exactly like a well written story. It is simple, elegant, and to the point: cake, fruit, streusel. There are no complex flavor combinations (prose, if you will) to cloud the palate: everything in the buckle is necessary, nothing is extra. And like a good story, this dessert is indescribably satisfying.
Serve the buckle after a relaxed meal with good friends or family. It’s best at room temperature or slightly warm under a big scoop of the best vanilla ice cream you can find. Make sure that you’ve made more than you need, so that you can leave the left-overs out on the kitchen counter to be eaten with fingers as a secret midnight snack.
Now, for the recipe. Normally I tweak and change recipes, scoffing at the original for some omission or addition that is not up to my standards. But I have to say, this is one recipe to leave exactly as it is. If you can get the batter into the pan without spooning most of it directly into your mouth (well, maybe you should taste just a little) you will remove from your oven a gorgeous cake, hinting of lemon zest and vanilla and crowned with a generous layer of crunchy, buttery struesel. Don’t mind the viscous blueberry juice dripping down the side of your pan and creating sticky puddles on the bottom of your oven.
One note: One of the best things about this buckle is that it’s so flexible. Although blueberries are the old standard, and are arguably the best fruit to use here, I have made this dessert with plums, blackberries, peaches, rhubarb, and cherries, all with great success. Just don’t use anything too wet, and fresh is better than frozen, as always.
Makes one 9-inch cake, serving 8 to 10
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch table salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick), cut into 8 pieces, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( 7 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/4 stick), softened but still cool
2/3 cup granulated sugar (about 4 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs , room temperature
4 cups fresh blueberries (about 20 ounces), picked over
1. For the streusel: In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, combine flour, sugars, cinnamon, and salt on low speed until well combined and no large brown sugar lumps remain, about 45 seconds. Add butter and mix on low until mixture resembles wet sand and no large butter pieces remain, about 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer streusel to small bowl and set aside.
2. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides with nonstick cooking spray, line bottom with parchment or waxed paper round, and spray round; dust pan with flour and knock out excess.
3. Whisk flour and baking powder in small bowl to combine; set aside. In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, cream butter, sugar, salt, and lemon zest at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes; using rubber spatula, scrape down bowl. Beat in vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer running at medium speed, add eggs one at a time; beat until partially incorporated, then scrape down bowl and continue to beat until fully incorporated (mixture will appear broken). With mixer running on low speed, gradually add flour mixture; beat until flour is almost fully incorporated, about 20 seconds. Disengage bowl from mixer; stir batter with rubber spatula, scraping bottom and sides of bowl, until no flour pockets remain and batter is homogenous; batter will be very heavy and thick. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries (or whatever other fruit you’ve chosen) until evenly distributed.
4. Transfer batter to prepared pan; with rubber spatula, using a pushing motion, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Squeeze handful of streusel in hand to form large cohesive clump; break up clump with fingers and sprinkle streusel evenly over batter. Repeat with remaining streusel. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Cool on wire rack 15 to 20 minutes (cake will fall slightly as it cools).
5. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place upside-down plate (do not use plate or platter on which you plan to serve the cake) on top of cake pan; invert cake to remove from pan, lift off cake pan, then peel off and discard parchment. Re-invert cake onto serving platter. Cool until just warm or to room temperature, at least 1 hour. Cut into wedges and serve.
One last note! The other thing you can do to switch it up a little is to change the meltedness of the butter. Once, we accidentaly melted the butter to be used in the cake batter, but to our delight, the resulting buckle ended up with an almost pudding-like consisency that was surprisingly luscious.