An easy, seasonal dessert for fall
Chilly weather and short days can be a downer. So whip up some cranberry cheer.
Cranberries are the iconic autumn fruit, arriving in our markets just as winter threatens. And they’re a staple on Thanksgiving tables in the US.
But they’re also wonderful in baked goodies (like this Cranberry Buckle), where their tart edge cuts through sweet, cakelike surroundings like a happy surprise.
So buckle up.
Recipe: Cranberry Buckle
A “buckle” is a dessert that features fruit baked in cake batter and topped with streusel. We posted about Blueberry Buckle a while back (see that post for information on buckles and other baked fruit desserts).
We like to serve buckle slices neat. But you could add whipped cream, ice cream, powdered sugar, or fruit topping if you want to fancy up the serving plates.
Mrs. Kitchen Riffs is the dessert maven in our household, and this is her creation (which she adapted from a recipe for Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb that she found on Epicurious). Among other changes, she substituted her own streusel topping (see Notes).
This recipe takes about 30 to 35 minutes to mix up, plus another 45 minutes or so of baking time.
This recipe serves 8 to 12. Leftovers keep well for a day or two at room temperature (covered with cling wrap). Or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Leftovers also freeze well for a few weeks.
For the batter:
- ~10 ounces cranberries (fresh or frozen)
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt (see Notes)
- 1½ sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- zest of 2 oranges
- 3 large eggs
- 8 ounces sour cream
For the streusel topping:
- ½ stick unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup brown sugar (packed)
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- ~½ cup chopped walnuts (optional; see Notes)
- ~2 ounces cranberries
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- or 10-inch square baking pan, then line it with parchment paper (see Notes). Set aside.
- If using fresh cranberries, wash and drain them (we generally do this in a colander or a large strainer placed over the kitchen sink).
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 2¾ cups flour, along with the baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), cream the softened butter. Add the granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and orange zest, then beat until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until well combined, then mix in the sour cream. With the mixer at low speed, add the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add about 10 ounces of cranberries and mix until just combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- Now make the streusel topping: Melt the butter in a lidded, microwave-safe container. Pour the melted butter into a small mixing bowl. Add ¼ cup flour, along with the brown sugar, cinnamon (if using), chopped walnuts (if using), and cranberries. Mix until the ingredients form a coarse meal. Spread the streusel mixture evenly over the batter in the baking pan.
- Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the buckle is set and a knife inserted into the middle comes out barely moist (about 45 minutes).
- Remove the Cranberry Buckle from the oven and cool it on a rack until ready to serve.
- If you use a 9-inch square baking pan, you may have some extra batter left over. Just bake it in a small dish and have an extra snack for the cook.
- You can also bake Cranberry Buckle in individual ramekins. We suggest using ones that hold about 6 ounces each.
- Be sure to use high quality (pure) vanilla extract in this recipe. Its flavor is so much better than the imitation kind.
- Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol. If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers — or from coal extracts. How appetizing (not).
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
- A traditional streusel topping contains nothing more than flour, butter, and sugar — plus maybe a bit of spice. It’s tasty, but it tends to melt into the underlying batter. So some recipes add oats to streusel in a bid for texture. Unfortunately, oats are flavor-challenged — not to mention tough. So we don’t recommend them. Chopped nuts make a much better streusel extender.
- We use kosher salt for cooking and baking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend, then add more if needed.
- How did buckle get its name? Nobody knows for sure. The best guess is that it refers to the “buckled” look the streusel topping gets when it’s baked.
- Most cranberries are grown in the US, Canada, and Chile. Because they ripen (and are harvested) in the autumn, they tend to be associated with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Cranberries are most often frozen whole, canned as sauce, or commercially processed into juice.
- In the US, fresh cranberries tend to be available only during the autumn months.
- If you have extra fresh cranberries, you can just pop them into the freezer. They freeze well and keep for several months.
“Yum,” I said. “This is what I call my just dessert!”
“And easy to make,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “You might say it’s a piece of cake.”
“That sounds like one of my lines!” I said.
“Half baked, you mean?” said Mrs K R.
“My jokes might improve if I get seconds on this Cranberry Buckle,” I said.
“Coming right up,” said Mrs K R. “And my expectations are high.”
So I’m taking up my fork with purpose. Don’t want to buckle under the pressure.
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