Coffee Cake

Aunt Agatha's Blueberry Buckle

Aunt Agatha's Blueberry Buckle

So here’s the thing about old family recipes – you start asking too many questions and you find out the recipes you know and love from childhood are first, not that old, and second, not from any family you know. My mother is known for her Blueberry Buckle. Made with fresh blueberries – it is her go-to brunch/dessert dish for the summer. She makes it so often she could probably make it in her sleep – but no matter where she takes it, the Buckle always garners rave reviews. Growing up, I often glanced at the worn, yellowed recipe card she used and I noticed that the Blueberry Buckle was attributed to Aunt Agatha. Now I come from a fairly large extended family, so I figured the recipe was handed down from a great or great-great aunt I had simply never met. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was back home in Rochester and copying down the Buckle recipe, having found I needed to be able to prepare this dish on my own.

“Now who was Aunt Agatha again,” I asked my mother.

“Honey,” she said with a smile, “you don’t have an Aunt Agatha.” She proceeded to tell me that the recipe had been given to my grandmother by her next-door neighbor, who had picked up the recipe from an Amish woman in Pennsylvania Dutch country. So while the Buckle recipe was used by my mother and grandmother, in my family it only dates from the 1960s. It’s a retro recipe rather than an old family recipe.

Putting aside my slight disappointment at the loss of the fictional Aunt Agatha, I set out to do my mother proud and make a grand blueberry buckle. In essence, a buckle is a coffee cake. The method of putting together the batter is similar to what you would do when making any quick bread or muffin mixture. It’s the topping that sets it apart. Made with melted butter, it sort of melds with the batter while baking. Once baked, this results in the ‘buckling’ of the topping, creating crevices and caverns across the landscape of the cake.

Unbaked Blueberry Buckle

Unbaked Blueberry Buckle

The resulting cake is extremely moist and tender, but it also lets the ripe blueberries be the star of the dish. I suppose you could make a buckle with just about any kind of berry or even stone fruits, like peaches and plums. I (and as far as I know my mother) have only ever made buckles with blueberries – it seems almost sacrilegious to Aunt Agatha to do otherwise. Whoever she may be…

Baked Blueberry Buckle

Baked Blueberry Buckle

Aunt Agatha’s Blueberry Buckle


For the Cake –

3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. butter

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

2 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

2 cups drained blueberries

(note – there is no vanilla in this recipe. You can definitely add it if you prefer the vanilla flavor in your baked goods.)

For the Topping-

2/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/3 c. melted butter

(note – I added a a bit of freshly ground nutmeg – but as has previously be established, I am a nutmeg addict)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix together sugar, butter and egg. Stir in milk. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this mixture to the sugar mixture. Blend in blueberries. Spread batter into a well greased and floured square pan (I used a 9×9 pan).

Combine all the ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle the topping onto the batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top.

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

After the disappointing Pear and Ginger Muffins, I was left with a hankering for some good, sweet, crumbly breakfast foods. I was craving coffee cake. Months ago, I had seen this recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog and had been looking for a reason to try it out. But when I announced my intention to my husband C, he protested. Apparently, he thinks that all the baking I’ve been doing is causing him to gain weight. I assured him that this coffee cake would be taken in to my workplace to feed grateful co-workers and that it need not grace his lips, but he still seemed skeptical.


I didn’t have any rhubarb, but I did have two apples, so I chopped them up and set them aside. I then moved on to the crumb part, and that’s when I knew this would be a good recipe. One stick of melted butter combined with the sugars, spices and flour made a crumb topping unlike any I’d ever seen. The topping was thick, almost like play dough. And by having melted butter, it was more thoroughly incorporated into the topping than it would have been if it was cold butter. Once the cake batter was done, and the apples added, the topping was applied by tearing chunks off of the buttery mass. The topping was basically as high as the batter itself, and since the best part of the coffee cake is the crumb topping, this was a very good thing.

Crumb Topping

Once the cake was in the oven, the cinnamon and spice aromas permeated our apartment. C began wandering into the kitchen, and asking when the coffee cake would be out. When I reminded him that that the coffee cake was destined for my co-workers, the begging began. In the end after making him smell the cooling coffee cake for 30 minutes, I relented and cut him a piece. ‘Mmm… better than Starbucks’ coffee cake’ – which he assured me was high praise.

Baked Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

So if you like your coffee cake heavy on the crumbles, and better than that Seattle chain, this is the recipe for you!

Apple Crumb Coffee Cake

With apologies to Smitten Kitchen and Adapted from The New York Times 6/6/07

2 Apples – peeled and chopped into a ¼ dice.

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. Peel and chop the apples and set aside.

2. To make crumbs, in a large bowl, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula. It will look like a solid dough.

3. To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and set aside.

4. Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon apples over batter. Dollop set-aside batter over apples; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. They do not have to be uniform, but make sure most are around that size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean of batter, 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.