“I can’t stop eating this!” exclaimed AJ as he took another bite of my Cherry Buckle with Cocoa Cinnamon Crumb Topping. I looked inquisitively at him as he sat at the round wooden table in his parent’s tiny kitchen. He explained himself, with his mouth half full and crumbs in his beard “You KNOW I love coffee cake!” which, strangely, I did not know. If I had known, perhaps I would have made them more often. I told him as much but he just shook his head and told me it was a good thing that I didn’t as he didn’t need that sort of thing in the house. Then he helped himself to another slice.
I was staying in Indiana, at AJ’s parent’s house for the week. We were smack in the middle of our extended cross-country #RoadTripUSA and had come to Indiana as a resting point, at the end of the first third of our trip. We had just in from St. Louis, my hometown, a few days ago. AJ and our friend Alic (who’s in St. Louis for school) decided to cycle from St. Louis to Indianapolis. I politely declined to join them on their two-day 250 mile cycling ride and instead stayed back, hung out with friends and went shopping for antiques instead (a wise choice if you ask me). A trip to the St. Louis Art Museum, where my friend Stephanie works and where I got to see their new contemporary art wing (complete with a Wishing Tree installation by Yoko Ono and Andy Goldsworthy’s site specific Stone Sea installation), a little shopping excursion down Cherokee Street where there are cute antique shops and an adorable bakery called Whisk, then a short solo road trip for me was perfect.
Once I got into Indianapolis, AJ’s family had organized a family reunion with all of AJ’s siblings, kids and friends. I woke up early to cook and bake for the event and ended up making the cherry buckle on a whim after looking at all the ingredients that AJ’s mom had in her pantry. As always, I bought cherries at the local store and hadn’t used them all up for another baked good. It’s been awhile since I’ve made a buckle, so I decided to go with it, and boy was it a hit. AJ and his family seemed to enjoy it with whatever little was leftover quickly consumed the next day by AJ.
The rest of the trip in Indiana involved plenty hanging out with friends, some waterskiing, and a few stops at antique shops. I seem to have a slight obsession for cake stands and vintage plates and this trip did not help that obsession. In the end, I shipped home boxes of plates and stands, knowing that I might have to do that exact same thing again later in the trip. Thankfully it all arrived safely back home. And with cherries just barely still in season, I can still make this buckle one more time, in the comfort of my own kitchen.
Cherry Buckle with Cocoa Cinnamon Crumb Topping
By Irvin Lin
A buckle is basically a coffee cake with a streusel crumb topping that gives the cake a buckled or crumbled topping. Occasionally you find the same recipe called a crumble but that name just confuses me so I stick with buckle. Plus a “buckle” is such an old fashioned name, one that you expect your grandmother or great aunt to use when they make it and offer it to you along with tea (well, not my grandmother, as she’s more likely to have offered me a tea egg but that’s neither here nor there). But there’s something warm and comforting getting served a slice of warm buckle made with fresh fruit. If fresh cherries aren’t available or are out of season, feel free to substitute frozen cherries that you thawed, or use the same amount of another fruit like blueberries or peaches. It’s a fairly versatile recipe that way. The absolute best thing about this recipe though is how easy it is. Dump all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the melted butter and eggs and your cake/buckle batter is pretty much done!
3/4 cup (105 g) all purpose flour
3/4 cup (165 g) brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 g) white granulated sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/4 cups (315 g) all purpose flour
1 cup (200 g) white granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 cup (2 sticks or 225 g) unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 lb cherries (about 4 cups or 450 g), pitted and halved
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and generously grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and set aside.
2. Make the crumb topping first by placing all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl together. Using a fork stir until the ingredients are blended and uniform in color. Drizzle the melted butter over the dry ingredients, tossing with the fork to blend. The streusel should start clumping up. Keep stirring until all of it is moist and the butter has been incorporated. Once done, place in the fridge while you make the buckle batter.
3. Make the buckle batter by placing the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Vigorously stir the dry ingredients with a balloon whisk until well blended. Stir the vanilla and almond extract into the melted butter. Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a large rubber spatula until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring to make sure each is incorporated before adding the next one. Add the cherries and fold to incorporate.
4. Scrape the buckle batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly with the spatula. Take the crumb topping out from the fridge and sprinkle evenly over the buckle batter, breaking up the large chunks (but leave some small chunks together). Bake in the oven 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes one 9 x 13 cake, serves 12