Dessert

Your New Go-To Weeknight Dessert Is Fruity, Crumbly & Available All Year Long

by:
October  8, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland

It’s hard not to fall for a dessert with a name like buckle.

An old-fashioned, buttery snack cake studded with fresh fruit and topped with streusel, its name comes from the way the batter “buckles” under the weight of the fruit while it bakes. Think fruit-filled coffee cake, if you’ve never had one. Buckles classically sport blueberries and a thick, crumbly streusel made from softened butter, white flour, and sugar (oats, nuts, and a touch of spice aren’t uncommon additions).

But (as you know) blueberries aren’t the only fruit that can buckle. Any ripe, juicy fruit will do: blackberries, raspberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, or plums (or a mix of the above). The batter can be crafted out of different types of flours, fats, and sugars, and even the streusel can be changed up. (But remove it and you’ll have a cake named boy bait!)

And this Plum & Sour Cream Skillet Buckle shows just how versatile the dessert can be. I came up with the recipe earlier this summer as a way to celebrate the gorgeous, juicy plums showing up at the market—and, in the process, reimagined it from crumb to streusel to reflect exactly the type of cake I like to make and eat. It fashions a new list of ingredients, different steps, and even a new ride (a cast-iron skillet). But it’s still a buckle through and through—simple enough to bake whenever the mood strikes, impressive enough to outshine much fancier and fussier cakes.

Here’s what I did:

  • The flour: I swapped a portion of the all-purpose flour for rye flour to add more flavor, texture, and personality. Plus, malty rye flour complements sweet plums so well.

  • The sugar: I opted for brown sugar for its rich, caramel notes. I tested versions with a mix of white and brown sugar, but the 100% brown sugar version won on flavor, hands down.

  • The fat. I replaced the butter with olive oil. I’m crazy about the subtle savoriness that olive oil imparts to cakes (Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake is the standard bearer for me) and its ease: no creaming needed, just measure and go!

  • The liquid. Instead of traditional buttermilk or heavy cream, I turned to sour cream since its tangy-sourness is perfect with sweet plums.

  • The fruit. For my plums, I took a cue from Marian Burros’ Plum Torte by gently pressing plum wedges into the batter (vs. chopping and folding them in). Any type works: Italian prune, Damson, and Mirabelle—or hybrids like plumcots, pluots, and black velvet.

  • The streusel: I opted for a light, craggy rye-olive oil streusel (a heavy, thick one would conceal those gorgeous plums underneath). And I froze it while assembling the cake so it’d keep its texture (not melt into the cake), a little tip I picked up from Cory Schreiber & Julie Richardson's ‘Genius’ Rhubarb Buckle with Ginger Crumb.

The result is a tender-crumbed and richly flavored cake that’s perfect for any time of day, any season of the year. Make it exactly as written, or change up the flour, fruit, or other ingredients just as I did. I included weights in the recipe to help you on your way. Reach for apples and pears this fall (sauté them first in a little butter or olive oil until tender, then cool and fold them into the batter) and frozen, unthawed fruit all winter long.

And given how quickly and easily this buckle comes together, there’s no need to wait for a special occasion or lazy weekend day to make it! Your weeknight deserves a slice of buckle, too.

What's your favorite weeknight dessert? Share recipes in the comments below!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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