A homey recipe passed down for generations
Vail, CO Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
Even if you’ve never been anywhere near a farm, one bite of this summer berry buckle will make you think you’re on one, sitting at the kitchen table. Yup, it’s American farmhouse baking at its best: simple, unassuming and homey.
Fresh berries are sprinkled into, and baked on top of, a vanilla cake batter. The resulting taste is fruity and sweet, and the texture is moist, dense and soft enough to be almost, though not quite, gooey. One tester described it as “rich in taste but light enough that you don’t regret your second piece.”
The recipe has been around for generations, which is further proof of its success. My copy had been passed through at least two generations of my family before settling in my collection. I often disregard it, thinking it’s too old-fashioned for today’s palate, and every summer, when my husband specifically requests it, I’m proven wrong. Its simplicity seems to bestow it with a timeless appeal.
The buckle is at its very best on the day that it’s made, but is still pretty darn good the following day. Just cover and refrigerate it, and then cut and rewarm the pieces before serving. Like many desserts of its type, it cries out to be served with a topping of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
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(Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. Make in an 8-inch springform pan with 21⁄2- to 3-inch sides.)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), at room temperature
3⁄4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s Superfine Sugar, plus another tablespoon or two for sprinkling over the buckle.
11⁄4 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup mixed, fresh berries, divided (I used half blueberries, half raspberries); don’t use frozen berries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease or butter the pan. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, and whisk to combine them well. Set this aside.
Beat the room-temperature butter with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until it is light and creamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar and vanilla, and beat until the combination is fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top of the batter, and stir only until it is absorbed.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, leveling and smoothing it. Scatter half of the berries (1⁄4 cup of blueberries and 1⁄4 cup of raspberries) over the batter, and gently push them into it so about half of each berry is beneath the batter. Sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of granulated sugar. Bake until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean (40 to 50 minutes).
Remove the buckle from the oven, and cool it completely on a rack in the pan. As it cools, the center will sink just a bit, creating a shallow indentation which will hold the rest of the berries when you serve the buckle. Run a knife around the sides of the pan, pressing against the pan, not the buckle. Gently remove the pan sides. When you are ready to serve the buckle, reheat it (or pieces of it) in a 325-degree oven until warm to the touch. Remove it from the oven, place it on a serving platter, mound the remaining half-cup of fresh berries in the center, and serve with an accompaniment of vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.
Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.