Crisp, Crumble, Cobbler…

I hope everyone is having a marvelous Fourth of July. With the abundance of summer fruit, I can’t help but wonder at how many fruit desserts are gracing our tables. When my kids were younger, we used to go pick peaches. There’s nothing like smelling ripe fruit still on the trees.


Farms usually have locally made products from summer fruit and my favorite is peach ice cream. However, this season is the also time for baked goods made with fruit such as crisps, crumbles, and cobblers. Which brings me the question of what is the difference between them? What about buckles, bettys and pandowdies?  And slumps, grunts, and sonkers?

Since one of the reasons I write this blog is to educate myself and others, I did some research and found out. First let’s deal with the crisps, crumbles, and cobblers. All of them are made with fresh fruit baked with a topping. Crisps are desserts made by baking fruit with a topping of oats, flour and butter. Crumbles are made with oats, flour, butter, and sugar. There is some contention on the addition of oats, some people think oats should not be in crumbles. Recipes seem to use both terms interchangeably so no need to get bent out of shape if your blueberry crisp gets called a crumble.

Cobblers are more straightforward. It’s basically the same baked fruit with a topping of dropped biscuit dough (pictured). It’s called a cobbler because it looks like cobblestones after baking.

Buckles are cakes with lots of fruit plus a crumble topping. So the blueberry streusel cake I made can also be called a buckle!  I was a bit upset when the fruit caused the cake to collapse in the middle. Had I known I could just pass it off as a buckle, then I would have been happier. Bettys or brown bettys are the cousins of buckles, the only difference being the proportion, having less cake and a crust of toasted breadcrumbs. Yum!

If you haven’t mastered making pie dough or biscuits, pandowdies are lifesavers. Pandowdies are also made with lots of fruit and can be topped with biscuit dough or pie crust (even broken pie crust!). Why? Because halfway through the cooking time, you break up the topping and stir it with the filling. How cool is that?

In New England, you make encounter slumps and grunts, which are desserts of cooked fruit with a custard-like topping. Some people say that these two terms are one but some say the difference is the cooking method: slumps are baked while grunts are steamed on the stovetop. Sonkers are like cobblers with the exception that it’s baked in a deep dish and topped with pie crust or biscuit dough. I couldn’t find an image that fits the description. Whatever it’s called, fruit desserts with toppings are delicious, especially topped with your favorite ice cream.

Below is a quick guide from Edible Canada (Summer 2013). Enjoy!

What to do with the Endless Fruits of Summer


Running Wild in Vancouver. “Crumble, Crisp, Cobbler, Brown Betty, Grunt, Slump, or Buckle?” Seasonal Staples (blog). July 16, 2010.

Thomson, J.  “Crumble, Cobbler, Crisp, Buckle, Betty: What’s The Difference?” Huffington  October 7,2015.



One Comment Add yours

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