I needed a super fancy name for this post, hence the word “buckles.” Although in all reality, these are buckles. Buckles. Buckles. Buckles. I just really like saying “buckles” for some reason. Like that one very popular song I used to love as a kid. One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, close the door….wait, where was I? Oh that’s right, I was talking about how much I love these crumb cakes. That’s basically what buckles are, just really good coffee cake-like dessert. The perfect dessert or breakfast for autumn. Is it a problem that it’s been 80 plus degrees here in Los Angeles, and I’m baking for fall with the air conditioning running on full blast? I think it’s a problem. Clearly, Southern California didn’t get the whole changing of the season memo. Get it together LA! You’re way behind, it’s almost Thanksgiving. This is the part where you change the colors of your leaves and drop them to the ground. This is when you’re supposed to start pouring down on us all of this autumn rain. You’re doing it all wrong, California. You need to be more like the East Coast, or like Seattle. I’m all about Seattle weather.
You know what I’m also all about? These salted caramel apple and pear buckles. AKA apple and pear spice cakes with a crumb topping. Even though it’s still hot as summer during the day in the West Coast, I still get a craving for a warm apple spice cake every November. I decided to take this recipe over the edge with a little (okay more than a little) salted caramel and of course let’s not forget about the cinnamon and oatmeal crumb topping. It’s like the world’s best coffee cake had a baby with the world’s best cobbler or fruit crisp. It’s like the universe is trying to tell me I should be spending my days eating all of the apple spice crumb cakes in the world. Hey, what can I say? When the world talks to me, I listen. Especially when there’s cake involved.
Speaking of cake, I’m having a really difficult time establishing if this cake is actually a breakfast or a dessert. Of course, if this is my mother or my doctor asking, I have most definitely decided that this is in fact not the perfect breakfast. Wink wink. Shhhh don’t tell anyone yet. This all stays between you and I. Although I did actually make these with the idea on my mind that I need more breakfast recipes. So it can really go either way on this folks. I don’t care about what time during the day I eat it, just as long as I get to eat it. Am I right ladies and gentlemen? Of course I’m right. So now let’s go out and celebrate by making and eating these apple and pear buckles. It’s the only way to celebrate!
If you’re fortunate enough to have an apple orchard close by your home and actually go apple picking everywhere, then this is the perfect recipe for you. Or if you’re like me and there isn’t an apple orchard close by, then “apple picking” just refers to going to the grocery store and feeling up the produce to pick the perfect fruit. Some people can only be so lucky.
We’re going to start by making the crumb topping. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, oats, lemon zest, salt and cinnamon.
Toss to evenly combine and then throw in the softened butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas.
**Tip: You can use your hands to do this, or two butter knives, a pastry blender or even a potato masher! I just used my fingers because I didn’t want to dirty anything else, and also I was too lazy to go looking through my drawers for the right tool.**
Set the crumb topping off to the side and forget about it for a while. We won’t need it again until later on. Turn your attention to the cake batter itself. Start by whisking (or sifting) together the dry ingredients for the cake. Flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, all-spice and cardamon.
**Note: There are a lot of spices going on in here because I like the idea of a fall spice cake with fresh apples. There’s just something so festive about it, you know? So they’re not all necessary. If you only have one or two of them, that’s okay. Just use whatever you have on hand. Or you can add a teaspoon and a half of pumpkin pie spice or apple pie spice, if you have that on hand instead!**
Okay, in a separate bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar. Beat on high until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then add the vanilla extract, almond extract, honey, and eggs. Mix until evenly combined.
**Note: Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, a couple of times in between mixing to ensure it gets evenly combined. Also, after this stage the mixture will appear curdled and not totally combined, that’s okay! Don’t worry! You didn’t do anything wrong!**
Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternating between the two, and making sure to mix until just incorporated after each addition. You don’t want to over-mix the batter at this point. That’ll result in dry tough cakes. That’s no bueno.
**Tip: To ensure a perfectly moist cake, start and end with the dry ingredients. So you want to make sure you do, dry, mix. Buttermilk, mix. Dry, mix. Buttermilk, mix. And then dry, mix one last time.**
Peel the apples and pears and then thinly slice them into small chunks. Add them to the batter and gently fold them in. Again, do not over-mix.
Divide the batter evenly among 7 or 8 individual (disposable) tart liners. I found fluted cake/tart liners at the grocery store that required no pan! They were sturdy enough to hold the batter and bake without any support. They’re about 4 to 5 inches in diameter and shallow.
**Tip: If you can’t find those disposable baking cups, you can use individual tart shells as well. Or you can bake it as one large cake. Dump the batter into a 9-inch spring form pan instead. Or a 10-inch round baking sheet, or a 10-inch square baking dish.**
On top of the batter, drizzle each with lots of salted caramel. About 2 to 3 tablespoons on each…or as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. Don’t overthink it, just do it. No one is passing judgement. This is a judgement free zone.
**Note: Rather than waste your time by showing you again how to make salted caramel for like the 100th time…If you don’t know how to make salted caramel, you can learn how to make it here on this old post, Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies!**
Finally, you can top each one with the crumb topping. I love the crumb topping, it’s my favorite part to any crumb cake or pie, so I made sure to pack them with lots of topping. Don’t be shy.
You can add chopped pecans or walnuts to the topping mixture if you’d like. That would make a great addition, texture wise. I didn’t add any because I knew my sister was coming over for a visit and she doesn’t eat nuts so I left them out.
Bake in a preheated 350ºF for about 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Make sure to rotate the baking sheet, half way through baking, to ensure even cooking and browning.
Allow the buckles to cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely if you’re storing for later (but that’s crazy talk talkin’) or until warm enough to eat without burning your mouth off. Which I guess is impossible. You can’t really burn your mouth off.
I like to serve these warm because the cakes are best when they are. The fruit is soft and the topping is still crunchy….there’s nothing better. And that’s not even including the amazing apple aroma these buckles give off when baking. There’s something so crazy about apples and spices baking, it smells like autumn. The official autumn scent, I’m sure.
You can serve these simply with a dusting of powdered sugar. That makes them look bakery fancy without being too much. Or you can serve it with a dollop of whipped cream, that sounds appealing too. Some people even like a dollop of sweetened sour cream. Crazy? I don’t know, I don’t like to judge until I’ve tried it. (I haven’t tried it though).
So you can totally do those options above for serving/garnish, OR you can live on the wild side and just go all the way. Go ahead and add that giant scoop of ice cream on top, you know you want to. Since you’re doing that, you might as well just proceed to drizzling some of that extra salted caramel on top. No one is looking. I won’t say anything.
Yeah this just went from breakfast to dessert in a flash. In the blink of an eye. I like to think of most desserts as being perfectly acceptable to eat first thing in the morning. These salted caramel apple and pear buckles with ice cream and extra caramel on top………are just as acceptable.
Whether you eat them for breakfast (sans ice cream) or if you share one for dessert with a few friends, these buckles are the real deal. If you’ve never had a buckle before or have never heard of it, then this is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Don’t go any living your life without knowing the true pleasure of this cake. Mostly I’m being melodramatic, but really? You know should make these this weekend. Enjoy!
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- ½ cup oats
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- ⅛ teaspoon all-spice
- ⅛ teaspoon cloves
- ⅛ teaspoon cardamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cups buttermilk
- 1 large granny smith apple, peeled and diced
- 1 large gala (or red skinned) apple, peeled and diced
- 1 large red pear, pealed and diced
- 1 cup salted caramel (see recipe in archives)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- To make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the butter. Mix until evenly combined. Add the diced butter and crumble with your hands or pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas. Set aside.
- To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the honey, zest, vanilla, almond extract and eggs. Mix until evenly combined. It'll look curdled, that's okay. Add the dry ingredients, alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined after each addition. Do not over-mix! Fold in the chopped apples and pears.
- Divide the batter evenly among 7 individual 8oz tart pans, or spread into a 9-inch springform pan that has been greased and floured. You can also use a 9 or 10-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the tops of each with the salted caramel. Top with the crumble from earlier. Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center, comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool down about 15 minutes before serving. Dust with powdered sugar or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Leftovers can be well wrapped and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days. Enjoy!
- yield: 7 mini buckles or 1, 9-inch round buckle