What's The Difference Between A Betty And Buckle Dessert?

betty and buckle desserts
betty and buckle desserts - Static Media / Shutterstock

The mouth-watering list of vintage American baked fruit desserts is long and complicated, but well worth digging into. You're probably familiar with some of the common ones like fruit crisps and cobblers, but you might not know about two delicious related recipes with odd names — Betty and Buckle. These old-fashioned desserts turn juicy seasonal fruit into craveable sweet treats in the oven, but that's where the similarity ends.

One of the main differences between the two oven-kissed fruit recipes is what is baked along with the fruit. For a classic Betty dessert, that would be cubes of bread or bread crumbs layered with fruit, making the Betty a great way to upcycle bread that might go to waste. Scraps of cake, such as the domed portion that's trimmed off after baking can also be featured in a homey Betty dessert. A buckle on the other hand starts with a simple cake batter topped with sweetened fruit. As the concoction bakes, the cake ripples and buckles around the fruit. Both vintage desserts lean on seasonal fruit, but you'll normally find apples and pears in a Betty, while buckles have a wider variety of fruit included, with berries being a favorite in many recipes.

Read more: 30 Types Of Cake, Explained

What Is A Betty Dessert?

apple Betty with ice cream
apple Betty with ice cream - Lulub/Shutterstock

Baked apple desserts are synonymous with American colonial cooking, but early recipes were likely passed from cook to cook and not recorded in writing. The first documented mention of a Betty is in the 1864 Yale Literary Magazine, where it's listed as one of the desserts to be avoided when trying to get fit. It was clearly delicious enough to be a temptation! The older versions of a Betty dessert most often use apples for the fruit with buttered breadcrumbs layered together in a baking dish. The recipes include sugar, spice, and lemon juice, all baked together to make a sweet crispy delight.

Modern recipes sometimes swap in cubes of toasted bread or cake for the simple breadcrumb mixture, resulting in a richer and softer baked Betty. The dish is both simple and adaptable, you don't really even need a recipe to toss fruit and crumbs together for a quick dessert. The warm combination is delicious with a scoop of ice cream or a dollop of softly whipped sweet cream on top.

What Is A Buckle Dessert?

blueberry buckle
blueberry buckle - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Buckle desserts are more similar to coffee cake than they are to other baked fruit desserts. There's no definite timeline established for the inception of this delicious mashup of cake and baked fruit, however, with the advent of commercial baking soda in the 1840s cake batters became easier to make in home kitchens. There is no mention of a buckle dessert in the earliest American cookbooks, so it's likely a later concoction.

To make a buckle, a cake-like batter is baked with juicy berries or seasonal fruit on top, sometimes with an additional streusel topping. In the heat of the oven, the weight of the fruit buckles under the rising cake, making waves that mix the two into a luscious result that gives the dessert its name. Blueberry is the most classic fruit for a buckle, but any ripe seasonal fruit is fair game. The cake batter sometimes has extra fruit included, and spices and flavorings can be added to match the fruit, such as maple with pears or chocolate with raspberries.

Buckles And Bettys Have Different Pastry And Texture

baked cobbler with ice cream
baked cobbler with ice cream - Nelli Kovalchuk/Shutterstock

Although both Betty and buckle desserts are essentially variations of fruit cobblers, they have quite different textures due to the way the non-fruit ingredients are incorporated. A Betty will have a more jumbled and soft texture due to the bread crumbs or cake crumbles, with almost no structure to define the dessert, and needs no recipe at all to combine. The baked fruit is the focus, with the crumbs there to soak up the fruit juices and thicken them. This is a homey dessert, perfect for baking in an informal casserole dish and scooping out for family.

Buckles are thick and cake-like, baked in a skillet or cake pan — a serving of buckle will sit squarely on a plate for serving. They're substantial with more cake than fruit, sometimes with crisp streusel baked on the top. Because of that nicer presentation ability, you're more likely to see a buckle on restaurant menus, and it's nice for sharing with dinner guests.

Different Fruits Are Typically Featured In Betty And Buckle Desserts

peach and berry buckle
peach and berry buckle - Manyakotic/Getty Images

The other major difference between the two desserts is the fruit called for. Betty desserts make use of apples by tradition, and sometimes pears. These firmer fruits give the Betty a bit of structure but still release enough juice to flavor the bread. Buckles on the other hand are typically baked with a wetter fruit mixture -- ripe blueberries or other berries in season are the norm. The cake requires the extra weight of the juicy fruit to sink down as less dense fruits would sit on top and fail to make the signature buckled top. Ripe stone fruits like peaches and cherries also make delicious buckles.

However, don't let tradition stop you from creating your own favorite fruit combination for either of these slices of Americana. What both of these venerable baked fruit desserts have in common is they are wonderful ways to make a bit of fruit into a tasty sweet treat to end a meal, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.