Bless Your Spoon: Cakes, cobblers, grunts and buckles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 26, 2023

By Stephanie Williams Dean

When the spirit wakes you to words of crisp, crumble, cobble, grunt, slump and buckle, you know it’s time to take a break from writing or get busy typing. I chose the latter.

I’m in full pie-like “a la mode” focused on my favorite wintering fruit desserts. These vintage classic desserts are as trendy today as ever, topped with cool scoops of whipped or iced cream. Recently, there’s been a revival of sorts with updated ingredients and new-fangled, flavorful sauces. The desserts are not fussy ones, a good reason why everyone still loves them.

Warm. Bubbly. Gooey. Fruity. Crunchy. These are mighty sweet words. We’re talking the same language here but with varying accents. Think of them as related but different families — and the crisps, the crumbles, the cobblers, the grunts, and slumps are all relatives of the buckles. I can’t fail to mention the Sonker family. The common ingredient of all — any combination of berries or other diced, sliced fruits.

The crisps are baked with a sugary streusel-like topping that usually contains oats and nuts. Their cousins, the crumbles, favor crisps in appearance — having a streusel topping but without oats and sometimes, nuts. The cobblers, often in pie-like form with pastry or batter on the top or bottom, we’re now seeing more biscuit and shortcake-styled toppings. Grunts and slumps are the same desserts, consisting of berries or diced fruit that slumps when cooked. Baked under a rolled biscuit or dolloping spoonfuls of biscuit dough, piles of wet snuffles can resemble animal grunts. A buckle is more of a cake texture with cut-up fruit folded into the batter or spread over the top, giving it that “buckled” appearance. The sonker family has thick batter — similar to a pancake — poured over a base of hot stewed fruit.

So now you know, and now take all those names and scramble them in your kitchen skillet. These days, the names are used interchangeably. That gives you culinary artistic license to dress these babies any way you want. In keeping with good fashion, you’ll have lots of tops and bottoms to choose from. One thing’s for sure — you’ll find comfort in these homespun fruit desserts served warm right from the oven.

Today we live during trying times and in a world where folks feel confused and fearful. Sometimes we feel like our lives are crumbling all around us. When we work ourselves into an emotional slump or find ourselves in a buckle with other folks, we long to feel safe, protected and comforted. We’re faced with so much loss, tragedy and painful stuff that it’s easy to find oneself down in the dumps. Many folks are stumbling just trying to find mere satisfaction in living. Quite frankly, it can be difficult to put life in the rearview mirror and stay focused on what’s ahead.

But God has promised through his covenant that he will restore people if they listen and return to Him. In Psalm 82, Asaph tells us it is our God who presides and gives judgment — not some other rulers, called “gods” who execute judgment on others.

The psalmist Asaph speaks out, “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed, Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hands of the wicked. They (the wicked) know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken (crumble).

But often, we continue in stubbornness. We are to follow God. And not those who execute judgments like they think they’re god. People have nothing over you. In turn, God will answer you with His promises.

Part of Psalm 81, a holiday hymn, celebrates the exodus from Egypt — a portrayal of God’s goodness vs. our wanderings — and God as the ultimate deliverer and promise keeper.

“If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him, and their punishment would last forever, but you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” — Psalm 81:13-16.

Like honey, those words are edifying — worth eating. Words that fill us and are sweet to the ear. Did you hear?

“I would satisfy you.”

Apple Cherry with Oat Crisp

Oatmeal Streusel

• ½ cup quick-cooking oats

• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

• ¼ cup packed brown sugar

• 3 Tbsp. cold, salted butter


• 20-ounce cherry pie filling

• 20 ounces drained apples in syrup

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ tsp. almond extract

For the crisp topping, in a bowl, combine oats, flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside. For the filling, in a bowl, combine cherry filling, drained apples from the syrup and extracts. Pour filling into bottom of a butter-greased baking dish. Evenly top with half the oat mixture. Pour remaining filling on top of oat mixture. Evenly sprinkle top of filling with remaining oat mixture. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

Banana Crisp with Oatmeal Streusel

• ¾ cup fresh orange juice

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 4 peeled, ripe bananas

Oatmeal Streusel Topping

• ½ cup all-purpose flour

• ½ cup quick cooking oatmeal

• ¾ cup brown sugar

• ½ tsp. nutmeg

• ½ tsp. cinnamon

• ½ tsp. salt

• 6 tbsp. cold, salted butter

In a bowl, combine orange juice with vanilla and set aside. In a buttered baking dish, slice bananas lengthwise and place cut side up in the bottom. In a bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Add cold butter and use a pastry cutter to blend until the mixture resembles small crumbs. Drizzle bananas with the orange juice mixture. Evenly sprinkle oatmeal mixture over fruit. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 20 minutes or until top is golden.

Sugar Top Peach Crumble

• 28-ounce can cling peaches

• 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

• 1 cup brown sugar

• ½ tsp. cinnamon

• ¼ tsp nutmeg

• 2 tbsp. honey

• 2 juiced fresh lemons

• ½ cup raisins

• ½ cup chopped pecans

• 3 cups sliced peaches

Sugar Streusel

• ½ cup melted salted butter

• 1 cup all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

In a saucepan, drain and heat the syrup from canned sliced peaches. In a bowl, combine cornstarch, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey, and blend well. Add mixture to the hot syrup. Cook while stirring until syrup is thickened. Add lemon juice, raisins, pecans and peaches. Mix well. For the topping, combine melted butter, flour and sugar. Evenly sprinkle topping on peach mixture. Bake in a butter-greased deep baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool and top with ice cream. You can use other drained canned fruits.

Pear-Raspberry Crumble

• 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

• ½ tsp .ground nutmeg

• 1 tsp. ground cardamom

• Pinch of salt

• 2¼ pounds peeled, cubed, Bosc pears

• 2 cups thawed frozen unsweet raspberries

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Brown Sugar Streudel

• ¾ cup all-purpose flour

• 2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar

• 3 tsp. grated lemon peel

• 1 tsp. ground cardamom

• 1/3 cup slivered almonds

• 6 Tbsp. pieced, chilled, salted butter

For the filling, in a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, spices and salt. Add pears, berries, and lemon juice and toss to coat. Pour into a butter greased 8 x 8 glass baking dish and evenly sprinkle topping over the filling. For the crumble topping, in a processor, combine flour, sugar, lemon peel, cardamom and nuts. Process until nuts appear finely chopped. Add butter and process until it forms small clumps. Evenly spread over top. Bake crisp in a preheated 350-degree oven for 55 minutes or until thickened and golden. Serve with whipped cream.

Peachy Biscuit Drop Cobbler

• 2 (28 ounce) cans undrained, sliced peaches/fruit

• 2 cups sugar

Biscuit Topping

• 1 cup softened, salted butter

• 1½ cups self-rising flour

In a mixer bowl, combine sliced peaches with juice and sugar together. Mix well. Pour into bottom of a butter greased 10 x 14 baking pan. For biscuit topping, in mixer bowl, combine softened butter with flour. Evenly distribute topping in dollops over peaches. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 1 hour or until topping tests done.

Lattice-Topped Blackberry Cobble

• 1 quart fresh/frozen blackberries

• 1 cup sugar

• 2½ heaping Tbsp. cornstarch

• ¼ cup sugar

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ¼ cup apple juice or sherry

• 2 9-inch deep dish pie pastries

In a saucepan, barely cover blackberries with water. Bring to a slow boil and add sugar. Reduce heat and continue to cook. In a mixer bowl, combine cornstarch, sugar, salt, and sherry and mix well. Mixture should be a thin consistency. Add water if necessary. Combine cornstarch mixture with the cooked berry mixture. Continue to cook until mixture thickens. Cover bottom of deep dish bottom with a pastry crust. With remaining crust, cut shapes out of pastry or strips to form lattice and place over pie filling. Bake in a preheated 275-degree oven for 15 -25 minutes or until browned.

Raisin and Pear Cobbler

• 5 cups peeled, sliced pears

• ½ cup raisins

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

• ½ cup water

• Biscuit dough

Hard Sauce

• 3 Tbsp. softened, salted butter

• 1 cup brown sugar

• 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

• 1 Tbsp. white wine

• 1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg

In a saucepan, combine sliced apples, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon and water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Pour into a butter-greased baking dish. Arrange clumps of ½-inch biscuit dough over top. Bake in a preheated 450-degree oven for 30 minutes or until browned. Serve with hard sauce. For the sauce, combine butter, sugar, juice, and wine and stir until creamy. Grate nutmeg over top when serving.

Fresh Apple Buckle with Butter Sauce

• ½ cup Crisco shortening

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 eggs

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

• 4 cups chunky chopped apples


• 1 /2 cup melted butter

• 1 cup sugar

• 5 ounces evaporated milk

In a mixer bowl, cream Crisco and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in flour, soda, soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Fold in chunky apples. Mix for 1 minute. Bake in a butter greased 9 x 13 baking dish in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until tests done. For the warm sauce, in a saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar and milk and mix well. Bring a boil for 1 minute while stirring. Pour sauce over warm cake.

Blueberry Coconut Buckle

• ½ cup softened, salted butter

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 egg

• 1¼ cup all purpose flour

• 1 tsp. baking powder

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ½ tsp. cinnamon

• ½ cup whole milk

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• 2½ cups fresh blueberries

• ½ cup flaked coconut


• ¼ cup all-purpose flour

• ½ cup sugar

• ½ tsp. cinnamon

• ¼ cup cold salted butter

In a mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add egg and beat well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt while alternating with milk and vanilla. Evenly pour mixture into bottom of a butter greased 9 x baking dish. Evenly top with blueberries and coconut. In a mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Evenly sprinkle over berries. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 40-45 minutes or until browned and buckled. Other small or thinly sliced fresh fruits may be substituted.

Apple Cinnamon Slump

• 6 cups peeled, cored Granny Smith apples

• ½ juiced lemon

• 1 cup brown sugar

• ¼ cup cornstarch

• 1 tsp. apple pie spice

• ½ tsp. salt

• 2 cups water

• 12-ounce package store-bought cinnamon rolls

In a bowl, cube apples. Add lemon juice and toss to coat. Set aside. In a large oven-proof dish, combine brown sugar, cornstarch, spice, salt and water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes while constantly stirring. Add apples. Reduce heat and cover and simmer 10 minutes or until apples are tender. Uncover and evenly top with cinnamon rolls. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 15 or more minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle with flavored icing.

Favorite Fruit Sonker

• 5-6 cups sliced/diced fruit

• ½ cup sugar

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• ½ tsp. nutmeg

• 8-10 large buttermilk biscuit doughs


• 1 stick melted, salted butter

• 1 cup sugar

• 4 beaten egg yolks

• 12 ounces evaporated milk

• 1 tsp. vanilla extract

• ½ tsp. almond extract

In a bowl, combine small pieces of fruit with sugar and spices. Roll out biscuit dough and cut to line sides of the baking pan. Pour uncooked or steamed fruit into pan. Roll out remaining dough and cover top with thin, wide layers. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 40-50 minutes or until crispy and golden on top. For the topping, in a saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Beat egg yolks and add to mixture with milk and extracts. Bring to a boil for 1 minute. Evenly pour sauce while warm over hot sonker.

Butter-Rum Dessert Sauce

• 1 stick softened, salted butter

• ¾ cup sifted confectioners sugar

• 2 Tbsp. rum

• 1 tsp. ground cinnamon

• ½ tsp. grated nutmeg

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Slowly add rum and stir until incorporated. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg. Spoon mixture into a clean jar and refrigerate. Allow to sit overnight to allow flavors to develop. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and stir until soft and smooth. Good for all fruit pies, cakes and cobblers.