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Fresh blueberries in a buttery batter and crisp topping, doused with tangy lemon syrup, make this buckle recipe extra-delicious. Try it with fresh berries!

Blueberry buckle with lemon syrup

We sure do have some goofy-named foods in America. Britain has their “fools” and “messes,” and France has “bêtises,” which translates to “stupidities” – as well as pêts de nonne, which, because I’m polite, will only say that refers to the wind that comes out of the backside of nuns – and leave it at that. Stateside, we have our grunts, buckles, and pandowdies, as well as burgoo. And it’s hard to explain to foreigners, but we also drink mules. Go figure.

But most of our quirky dessert names reference baked fruit or berry desserts, which seem a little tame in comparison to our bolder European counterparts. But I’m fine with that, as I’m not sure I want to eat anything with “flatulence” in the title. 

There are a couple of theories for the name “buckle.” One is that the berries “buckle” under the weight of all the topping. Another is that a young woman made this in a Pillsbury Bake-Off, claiming that it was so good that it made boys “buckled under” when they tasted it.

Blueberry buckle with lemon syrup

This particular buckle is adapted by Rustic Fruit Desserts, a friendly little cookbook by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson that came out a while back, which I’m revisiting now that it’s blueberry season. It’s the kind of baking book you want to keep handy, especially when fruits like blueberries, nectarines, and even rhubarb is in season. It’s compact, but filled with home-style fruit recipes, the kind we all want to make. No matter what you call them.

Blueberries are something we get, when we find them, in small, measured doses in Paris. If you do come across them, they’re usually from some distant land and sold in small paper or plastic barquettes with about a dozen berries lolling around in it. So when I’m in the states during the summer, I hoard blueberries and buy ’em at least 2 pints at a time, eating half of them by the handful right from the basket.

Blueberry buckle with lemon syrup

Fans of less-sweet desserts, especially those who like the tangy taste of lemon, will like this buckle a lot. The syrup that’s doused over the top when the buckle comes out of the oven takes it in a less-traditional direction than the usual fruit-baked-in-batter buckle, although there’s nothing wrong with that. If you prefer, you can omit the lemon syrup.

If you have slightly sweet Meyer lemons, those would work wonderfully although I used regular lemons and found the contrasting pucker interesting, as well as a good way to dial-up the moisture of the buckle. (Although I’m still on the fence about it, because as a New Englander, I don’t always cotton to people messing with tradition.)

Blueberry buckle with lemon syrup

I also dialed up the amount of blueberries used in the original recipe because, well, that’s how I roll. So here’s to summer blueberries, in all their juicy splendor, dotting and swirling their way through a buttery batter, topped with a crunchy topping, finished with a flavorful lemony syrup. In spite of the funny name, I think you’ll find yourself doing something else other than laughing after you taste it. In fact, you might just buckle, too.

Blueberry Buckle with Lemon Syrup

Adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson Adding the lemon syrup is an intriguing idea that was part of the original recipe. It’s tangy but does take some of the spotlight off the berries. If you want to omit it, you might want to increase the amount of cinnamon or nutmeg slightly in the batter to give it a little more pizzazz. Other fruits can be used, such as sliced or diced plums, nectarines or apricots. Avoid fruits that are extra-juicy, though, as they may interfere with the batter setting. Raspberries or blackberries can be used in place of the blueberries, or mixed with them. (Blackberries are rather seedy, so I’d definitely mix them with other berries.) If you want to swap out other fruits, use the same amount by weight or volume as the blueberries listed in the ingredients. You can use frozen berries if you’d like. Just don’t defrost them first, since they’d get too juicy. Add them frozen, right to the batter. If you don’t have buttermilk handy, you can put 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup and add enough whole or lowfat milk to equal 1/2 cup (125ml). Stir gently, then let sit for ten minutes until it curdles slightly, and use that.


  • 4 tablespoons (55g) unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (45g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • 6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • zest of 2 lemons (use the same lemons for the syrup, below)
  • 1 1/2 cups (230g) + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 3 cups (1 1/2 pints, 475g) blueberries

Lemon Syrup

  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
  • juice of 2 medium lemons (about 6 tablespoons, 90ml)
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) square cake pan.
  • Make the topping by crumbling together the butter, sugar, flour and cinnamon with your hands or a pastry blender until the pieces of butter are broken up and are about the size of small peas. Set aside.
  • To make the batter, in the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or by hand in a bowl using a spatula or wooden spoon, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer a few moments after you add each egg to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon or nutmeg into a medium-sized bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture, then stir in the buttermilk.
  • Add the remaining flour mixture, mixing just enough so it’s barely incorporated (there will still be dry bits of unincorporated flour), then remove the mixer bowl from the machine and using a flexible spatula to gently fold in the blueberries in, just until they are incorporated. Do not overmix – you don’t want to smash the blueberries and stain the batter.
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top. Strew the topping over the blueberry batter and bake until the buckle is lightly browned on top and feels just set in the center; it’ll spring back lightly when you touch the center. It’ll take about 55 minutes.
  • When the buckle is almost finished baking, make the syrup by heating the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, cooking it until it thickens. It’s done when the bubbles get larger, and when removed from the heat (which you might want to do a couple of times while it’s cooking, to check), the consistency will be like warm maple syrup. It’ll take about 5 minutes.
  • 8. Remove the buckle from the oven and pour the warm lemon syrup over it, letting it soak in. Serve the buckle when it’s cool enough to slice. It’s good warm or at room temperature. Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream make nice accompaniments, although none are really necessary.


Storage: The buckle can be kept for up to three days at room temperature, if well-wrapped. It can be frozen for up to two months. Not sure if I would pour the syrup over the buckle if I was planning on freezing it, though. You could defrost and rewarm it in a low oven, wrapped in foil, then add the syrup before you plan to serve it.


    • Seanna

    This looks wonderful. I find your site and story inspiring. I especially admire your courage to begin again in Paris. Wishing you all the best with every post I read.

    • Danielle

    I spent summers with my aunt outside Memphis. We picked blueberries and she taught me to make a buckle very similar to this. She was also very generous with the blueberries and said that’s what makes it ‘buckle’. I think the lemon syrup sounds like an excellent idea.

      • Susan

      Made this today and served it to a very apprecaitive group. I love that the cake is not too sweet and the amount of blueberries to batter is high. The lemon syrup made this dessert. Eager to try it later with chopped apples and nutmeg and cardamon in the crumble topping. Merci, David.

    • Nadia

    Looks delicious. I have not seen any blueberries here in Dordogne yet, but am going to try it with raspberries.

      • Veronica

      Hey Nadia,
      Raspberries would be really a nice substitute of blueberries. Thanks for letting us know about this option :)

    • -SP

    Can this be done in a cast iron pan (10-inch)? If so what adjustments should be made?

    • Shell

    Just made a similar cake with fresh plums. Definitely gonna make this next with blueberries.

    I often substitute yogurt if no buttermilk.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Nadia: I’ve rarely come across plentiful baskets of nice fresh blueberries in Paris. (Ditto with raspberries.) I think it may be because bushberries are so labor-intensive. Although I was at a friend’s apartment once for dinner and she had a big, generous basket of fresh blueberries. When I asked how she found them, she said they were from a producteur at the Batignolles market. Of course, I ran over there the following week and bought as many as I could carry. I suspect they’re more widely available in other regions, so perhaps you’ll see some soon in the Dordogne!

    Shell: I love plums in this cake/buckle, as they’re nice and tart. Yogurt is a good substitute for buttermilk although I usually thin it a bit with milk so it mixes easier into the batter.

    SP: Yes, although I’ve not done it so can’t say the baking time, which you’ll likely have to adjust. Start checking for doneness about 10 minutes or so before the recommended baking time. And I don’t know the volume of your pan so would not fill it more than halfway full; this batter rises and you don’t want to have any overflows in the oven.

    Seanna: Thanks! : )

      • Bebe

      I would think those dark purple-skinned Italian prune plums would be fabulous. Tart, not too juicy. We get them in Southern California for just a few weeks in October.

      • Kristen

      I currently live in Alsace and used to live near the Haute Savoie. Both areas are known for their blueberries, but neither have the type we find in the US, and when you find them in markets, they’re very expensive. This summer I learned why: European blueberries are actually bilberries, which aren’t cultivated. They grow wild (and abundantly) in the mountains – the Alps in Haute Savoie, and the Juras and Vosges in Alsace. So everything I would find in the markets was hand picked in the mountains. I haven’t been able to find American bush blueberries grown anywhere in France. (Although they must be gorwn elsewhere in Europe: I’ve seen them on sale in grocery stores in Switzerland, for example).

    • Beth

    Your timing is perfect! I had forgotten the proportions for my mother’s wonderful, but unwritten, recipe for blueberry buckle and spent the past two days on the web looking for something close.

    Then your recipe arrived in my inbox this morning. I am going to make it this afternoon. Blueberry buckle reminds me of delicious end of summer childhood days. Thank you!!

    • Cynthia Carter

    You reminded me of the story about a cake called “Blueberry Boy Bait” that was the 1954 winner of the Pillsbury Bake-off. I’ve always loved the name of that recipe, and I think it deserves a place among the lexicon of colorful American dessert names.

    • laline

    Hi, would you make adjustments to the recipe when using firm peaches instead of blueberries? thanks.

    • soozzie

    You only eat HALF on the way home? Perhaps with this recipe waiting… I have bookmarked your recipe on the very, extremely unlikely, improbable, never-gonna-happen event that enough blueberries will ever make it home to my house (and I buy them at Costco!) that there are any left to make into anything…bisous!

    • Judy Taylor

    I’ve been reading your posts for a long time and enjoy them. Often I’d like to print out a recipe. Can you add an option to print recipes? I’d really like that. Love the Blueberry Buckle recipe.

      • Ping

      Judy, you may want to try evernote. I’m using it crazy to collecting recipes and other notes from websites. It’s free and you can access it from browsers, tablets and phones. You can also print it out from Evernote :-)

        • Barbara

        Oh, yes! Evernote is the best thing since blueberries! It syncs between PC and tablet, too. Just highlight the recipe and choose “share”, then “Evernote” and you’ve got it! Brilliant app.

    • Donna

    Oh my…WHY do I only find fresh blueberries in the tiny barquette category of 125 grams at 2-3 euros a POP?….Would I destroy the blueberry bait aspect of this recipe using ‘Myrtilles’ surgelées????

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    laline: You could use peaches but am not sure you’d need to make any adjustments.

    Judy: There was no print option available when I started the site and now that there are hundreds of recipes, I’d have to go back and reformat all the coding for those posts to add a print option for them (as well as a bunch of other behind-the-scenes stuff that’s not as interesting as baking), which, as much as I’d love to do, it’s a huge time commitment. There are print-on-demand websites, like – where you can drop the URL in and you can print things out.

    Donna: I hear ya. Those tiny baskets of blueberries (and not especially good ones) are irksome, and expensive. Yes, you can use frozen blueberries in this. Check the headnote before the recipe for advice on using frozen berries.

    • Eva

    I LOVE that book! I was delighted to meet Julie in Portland (where she runs a great bakery and kitchen shop) a few years ago when I still lived there, and I think of her each time I open Rustic Fruit Desserts to make something.

    If you haven’t made it, I highly recommend the chocolate pear cake from the Fall section.

    • Dr. Stu (stu borken)

    I finally am receiving your blog once again after replacing your address in my contact folder…how it ever got out of there I have no clue…now my knees can buckle after I make this wonderful fruit buckle.

    • Anne

    that looks amazing ! I’ll try :)

    • Arthur in the Garden!

    Yummy and classic!

    • Bebe

    I have long copied-pasted your recipes into TextEdit. Works great. Also good is Print Friendly.

      • Bebe

      I don’t know where that stuff after the .com in the printfriendly link above came from. ??? It makes link useless.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Bebe: I fixed the link. (Comments with links go into a moderation queue to thwart spammers, so I recoded it.) Thanks.

    Stu: If you’re an AOL subscriber, they routinely put “bulk mailings” like newsletters and emailed blog posts, into spam folders or block them. I’ve been working to unblock many of them, manually, since there are a lot – but also a good idea to put “” on a “Safe” list if the AOL email dashboard does that.

    • Vera Marie Badertscher

    I was going to mention that I wrote about the various fruit dessert names used in early American cooking, because they have always intrigued me, too. But after your explanation of what your e-mail program does to links, I’ll just say it is at Ancestors in Aprons (dot com). Anyone interested can put buckle in the search box on the right and find the article.
    Lemons and blueberries are a divine combination. I have a blueberry muffin recipe that puts lemon zest in the crumb topping and it makes the best thing I’ve ever eaten.

    • Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    Rustic fruit desserts are the best – leftovers are always breakfast at my house! Love that lemon syrup with the blueberries.

    • Annabel Smyth

    Blueberries are widely available in the UK, and my grandsons both like them, but I find them tasteless.

    Incidentally, could you clarify the consistency of “warm maple syrup” for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with this condiment?

    • Ping

    Thank you so much. My family has been following you for a while. Everytime I make a dish following your recipe, people will tell me “it’s a keeper ;-))
    Here in San Francisco, we are blust with all kind of seasonal organic produce from farmers markets all over the city. Unfortunately, blueberries are just out of season (that’s ok since we REALLY enjoyed alot in the past few months), however strawberries are so tasty now. Can I use strawberries instead? If not, I will try the yellow peaches or prunes.

    • lisa @

    I recently made a pineapple buckle, which was devoured in less time than a snapchat can disappear. Why do I think those blueberries in the fridge don’t stand a chance???

    • italiangirlcooks

    I make light Lemon Blueberry Muffins and love them, but this buckle looks out of this world…reminds me of coffee cake, loaded with blueberries and a crisp yummy topping!

    • Lariska

    Thank you for the recipe! I will definitely bookmark it and try it in a couple of months (now it is the end of winter here in New Zealand).
    In France, blueberries grow wild and are popular in the mountain areas. Cultivated blueberries are considered as tasteless and not worth buying, so very few producers actually grow them (they would not sell them!). Same for blackberries (nothing can beat the berries you pick yourself along the countryside roads, ruining your clothes in the process). Maybe blackcurrants or redcurrants could be a good “French” substitute!

    • Patty Campbell

    Sounds good but you should try “blueberry boy bait” on Smitten Kitchen. It is the best blueberry dessert ever.

    • Allyson

    This buckle looks divine, especially with the lemon syrup. I’ve always wondered what the distinction between buckle, crumble, grunts, and such are. Perhaps one of these days I’ll find a definitive explanation, but until then I will eat them all happily and without discrimination.

    • Lori

    i think you’ve missed the salt in the directions for the batter — it’s only in the ingredients.

    Thanks, fixed! – dl

    • Domenica

    The Buckle looks wonderful. Have you tried this recipe with Rhubarb? I love Rhubard and wonder if I would need to adjust the recipe at all.

    • nbm

    Made with success today in Portland, OR, its native home (and home of famous berries). No lemon syrup by hostess’s request, but the lemon in the batter comes through. I used circa two cups blueberries with some fantastic, giant blackberries thrown in. The topping puzzled me a little since it’s not a streusel, but it turns out to make a wonderful crunchy top layer that takes the whole thing to the next level, so to speak. Thanks.

    • Parisbreakfasts

    At the Sunday Raspail Bio marché there is one guy at one small table selling only blueberries + blueberry jam and juice. Must be the same producteur at Batignolles. I always wonder about the difference between a buckle and a crumble. Either way, one of the best desserts on the planet.

    • marlena

    My grannie would be proud of you. This is such good stuff and totally amenable to almost any fruit. Juicy ones are better, but it’s all good. In our family we always doubled the topping, putting half on in the beginning and the other half on about 1/2 way through the baking.

    • Martha in KS

    I freeze blueberries when they’re $.99/pint. I’ve got about 20 pts in the freezer now to get me through the year. I’ll be making this recipe soon. I’ve ordered the book from the library.

    • Pauline

    I made this to day and it tasted wonderfull (heavy on the nutmeg). But although I didn’t go for the syrup I suffered a bit of a soggy bottom. Maybe because I used half blue, half red berries? But I noticed that the fruit sinks to the bottom. Anything that can be done about that.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Mine didn’t sink to the bottom but you can either toss the berries in a small amount of flour, before folding them in, or else reserve about 1/3 of the berries and strew them over the top, before adding the topping and baking, so there will be some up there when it’s done baking.

        • Brandie

        Great tip here about tossing blueberries in flour! Plus I’m excited to use up my buttermilk in the fridge! Preheating my oven now!!!

      • judi

      Pauline – I made this buckle yesterday and although delicious I had the same problem you did, all the blueberries sank to the bottom. This unfortunately resulted in a ‘soggy bottom’ . Thank you David for providing a solution. I used all blueberries by the way and a few leftover blackberries.

    • La Diva Cucina

    HI I know this will sound a bit stupid but do you have a “print” button for your recipe? I am browsing in Chrome and can’t see one and always have to cut and paste recipes from your site into a document and then print. Thank you very much. PS: I’ve been getting your newsletters and recipes for years and I think you are very generous for sharing them, thank you.

    • Jennifer Jo

    I made this cake (but with nectarines instead of blueberries). The cake is delicious, but the lemon syrup was too much. Because of the sugar cap, it only was able to soak in so far, thus creating a crunchy, tart, and teeth-jarringly sweet top. Next time I’ll skip either the top OR the syrup. The cake, however, was perfect.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      The lemon syrup is pretty up-front, flavor-wise, which is why I gave a heads-up on that in the post and recipe. However it does mellow if it sits overnight. I think Meyer lemons are great, if you can get them, for the syrup – but as you mentioned, the cake is very nice on its own, too.

        • Jennifer Jo

        Yes, I saw the heads-up about the syrup, and I contemplated heeding your warning. But I love lemon syrups!!!! I just hadn’t anticipated that the top crust would prevent the syrup from soaking into the cake. (And no, sadly no Meyer lemons here…or at least not on hand.)

    • Maureen

    Hi, David. I love your posts. This buckle looks almost identical to the one I make from Cooks Illustrated. 4 cups of blueberries! Divine. Also made blueberry boy bait from Americas Test Kitchen. (Same people). That was the Pillsbury contest winning recipe. Also excellent. Looking forward to your next post!

    • bc

    Hi David,
    I made today this buckle, with frozen bluberries (no fresh ones here).
    It tastes DELICIOUS !
    Thanks for sharing,
    bc from Israel

    • Liz

    Am watching my local PBS station. They will air a new show in September called I’ll Have What He’s Having. Was that you in one of the soon to air episodes?

    • Deirdre

    I just made this and it is so good. The lemon syrup made it. Next I will try it with some white nectarines. Thank you!

    • anna@icyvioletskitchen

    what a lovely little dessert…i have a surplus (like that’s possible) of peaches at my house right now. i wonder if i could do this with peaches?

    • Rochelle

    Blueberries are native to North America. They are now cultivated all over, of course. One interesting fact about their habitat is their NEED for highly acidic soil. So they love growing where tons of pine needles have moldered into a rich soil over the decades. They love unadulterated peat moss!
    While the Sinking Berry or Raisin Syndrome can be treated with tossing them in flour or sprinkling them on top, here is another method. Try subbing part of the flour for bread flour. The higher percent of gluten means that the batter will be stronger, so the berries won’t be as likely to sink down.

    • Cass

    I really enjoy your energy and how you write. I adore blueberries, the moment I saw your blueberry buckle I knew I would be trying it out. Well it just came out of the oven and it’s very delicious, moist and definitely repeat worthy. Thank you for sharing and the mini education as to what a buckle is. I had never heard of this term.
    Moist, blueberryiest cake ever. I did hold back on the sugar in the streusel, I thought the batter was sweet enough. I also held back in sugar in the lemon syrup.
    Thank you for such a delicious recipe and for weekly good reading.

    • Betsey

    David, this is one of my all-time favorites! So easy, and so delicious.

    I love reading about your eating adventures.

    • cate

    Just made this with half blueberries and half apricots (we still have both at our farmers’ market). The lemon syrup really made the crust special. I poked holes into the top with a fat toothpick so the syrup would soak into the cake before I poured it on – so it never got too thickly sweet. It really adds a nice sparkle to the crunchy top. Thanks for a great recipe!

    • Lien

    I’ve made this one yesterday. We still have a lot of blueberries here I’ve been making blueberry muffins, buckles and cakes a lot lately. This one is the winner. Supermoist, the berries spreaded through the dough (instead of at bottom) and that lemon syrup is perfect for it, gives it a crunch and freshness, just delicious. The crumble gets lost a bit though, just melted over the top (maybe the amount of butter is a bit much?) Thanks for this lovely recipe!

    • Kristina

    This is great. Too bad I live in Belgium, where blueberries are sold, like in France, by a dozen. I will still buy them though and definitely try out this recipe.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Kristina and Rochelle: Yes, domestic blueberries, the kind we get in the states by the pint, are North American but you can get some lovely berries in France and Europe. In Paris, and as you mentioned, in Belgium, they can be very expensive but if you are in the provinces and outside of a major city, perhaps near farms, you can find a lot more berries of various sorts.

    Liz: Yes, I was. Looking forward to seeing it when it airs!

    cate: I found the syrup to be very tangy and tart, and heating lemon juice tends to give it a slightly more bitter edge, too. Glad you liked!

    • Jill

    I used Limoncello instead of the lemon syrup. Yum!

    • Susan B

    For the topping, one of my favorite hacks is to grate frozen butter through the large holes of a box grater. Works well for short pastry, too.

    Trying this later today with a mix of peaches and blueberries after I restock butter and sugar. How’d I run out??

    • Lynn Wainess

    I made this yesterday and it was a huge success. I used frozen blueberries as they are no longer in season here and again, it could not have been tastier. Thank you for this great recipe. BTW: do you have the name of a cake pan you love? I don’t have a 9″ and have been finding a lot of recipes lately that require a 9″ square cake pan. Thank you.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked it! The pan I used for this, I bought at Target in the U.S. so it’s their “house” brand. Normally I like to use Parrish Magic Line pans for baking, because when I baked in restaurants, that’s what we always used and they work well. They’re also light in weight and because the metal isn’t dark, they take to bake a little more evenly than dark-colored pans. Another brand that is good is Chicago Metallic. I do try to get pans that are well-made, rather than cheap ones, because the difference is usually only a few dollars and the good ones last a lot longer and bake better.

    • Tom Swartz

    I’ve made this twice and it’s become one of my favorites. This buckle is easy to assemble and the flavor combination of the blueberries, lemon and cinnamon are outstanding. Thanks for posting.

    • linda

    I made this twice. First time with wild blueberries and it was excellent. Second time with large cultivated blueberries from the grocery store and they sunk and the bottom was soggy. I think there large size and high moisture was the problem. Much better with the smaller, more concentrated berries.

      • Judi

      That’s very interesting and hugely helpful. That might have been my problem as my buckle’s blueberries sank to the bottom and made it soggy. Thank you for sharing this online with the rest of us.


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