This blueberry buckle is made with triple the cardamom found in most recipes and drops the cinnamon altogether. (Celeste Gracey)

This blueberry buckle is made with triple the cardamom found in most recipes and drops the cinnamon altogether. (Celeste Gracey)

Cardamom — not cinnamon — is the star of this blueberry buckle

The chai spice has a complex flavor that is citrusy, minty, spicy and herbal at the same time.

By Celeste Gracey / Special to The Herald

Several years ago, when I was still an insecure home cook, as opposed to the overconfident one I’ve become, my husband took a business trip to Missouri and returned a changed man, for he had discovered buckle.

Buckle is a cobbler, but with a layer of yellow cake on the bottom. He brought home a recipe and practically begged me to make it. I cried a little, because I hated the idea of him liking someone else’s cobbler better. He might as well have told me my cousin was prettier.

It took me a year to build up the nerve to read the recipe, and when I did, I realized it was more like coffee cake than cobbler. I already had a perfect coffee cake recipe, the famed Blueberry Boy Bait. Granted, his recipe was for blackberry buckle, not blueberry coffee cake, but close enough. The buckle would never be made, I thought, because it wasn’t even interesting enough.

The excuses continued, until I fell in love with cardamom. I would bake anything if it had enough cardamom. When the word “buckle” popped up on my iPhone screen, all of those insecure feelings of the “other cobbler” welled up, but so did a compulsive desire to eat cardamom cake. I’m also a much more confident cook now that my husband knows how to properly stroke my ego.

Cardamom is the flavor that rises in chai, after you recover from the punch of cinnamon. It’s not to be confused with clove, which burns and numbs the tongue at the end. It may be mild, but cardamom seems to intimidate bakers.

Many add just enough to sound exotic, but not enough to give it a fighting chance. They treat it like a bad piece of artwork, often painting it over with equal amounts of cinnamon, which is far too ubiquitous in American desserts to be properly interpreted.

I adapted the following recipe from Half Baked Harvest, a daring food blogger who was almost there. I tripled the cardamom and dropped the cinnamon altogether.

The neat thing about cobblers is that it’s easy to swap out fruits. I’m itching to try this recipe with wild blackberries. If you get the chance, let me know how it turns out.

For this recipe, it’s not too late to head to the local blueberry farm to pick your own berries. On good years, the berries last from early July through August or early September, said Dave Baer, who owns Blueberry Blossom Farm near Snohomish with his wife, Sandy.

Let cardamom blueberry buckle cool for an hour before you cut into it. (Celeste Gracey)

Let cardamom blueberry buckle cool for an hour before you cut into it. (Celeste Gracey)

Cold mornings turn the blueberries to mush, but if the weather holds, sometimes the picking season can stretch a couple of weeks into September. This has been a productive year. The Baers’ crop about doubled. They have enough fruit to go that long, assuming the weather holds.

A neat thing about the Baers’ homestead is that it’s deceptively close to the Snohomish Fred Meyer. I consider it reasonable to pick a few pints on the way home from grocery shopping.

When the Baers bought the 9.5-acre farm in 2003, it was fully established with its 2,600 plants. “I wanted enough property to have cows; the blueberries came with the place,” Dave Baer said.

The couple decided to keep the farm running as a sort of service to the community. For some, picking with their families is a summer tradition.

“We’ve got some really neat customers,” he said. “We enjoy them, they enjoy us.”

Other than the romantic, farm-to-table appeal of berry picking, local berries tend to have more flavor. Blueberry Blossom Farm has about six varieties. For the Baers, variety staggers the picking season, but some visitors like to hunt down their favorite berry.

Some berries are saucier, while others are nuttier or firmer. My favorite are the littlest ones, Rubels, that pack a punch of sugar and flavor without the moisture that can make baked goods soggy. Any type will do with this recipe, although I think the saucier the better, as buckle is half cobbler.

Baer suspects most of his customers add the berries to homemade smoothies throughout the year. I encourage pickers to consider baking with them, too. Frozen blueberries swap for fresh ones remarkably well.

While this recipe really shines with fresh, local, handpicked berries, if you can’t buy them fresh or local, that’s OK, too. Nobody will mind, when the scent of blueberries and cardamom wafts their way.

For this cardamom blueberry buckle recipe, it’s not too late to head to the local blueberry farm to pick your own berries. (Celeste Gracey)

For this cardamom blueberry buckle recipe, it’s not too late to head to the local blueberry farm to pick your own berries. (Celeste Gracey)

Cardamom blueberry buckle

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

¾ cup light brown sugar

½ cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted (or unsalted with ½ teaspoon salt)

⅔ cup whole milk

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 cups blueberries

For the crumble:

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup light brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

4 tablespoons room temperature salted butter (or unsalted with ¼ teaspoon salt)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or grease a 9-inch springform pan. I like avocado oil spray.

Making the cake batter: Whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, cardamom and sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients and the lemon zest. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just combined. Be careful not to overmix. Overmixing cake batter results in flat cakes.

Spread the batter into the pan and distribute the blueberries evenly over the surface.

Making the crumble: Mix the dry ingredients, and then work the soft butter into the mix with your fingertips. I like to squeeze the mix into balls, which I then break into smaller pieces. Distribute the crumble evenly over the blueberries.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a skewer or a toothpick comes out clean, the top is pleasingly brown and the blueberries bubble on the edges.

— Adapted from a Half Baked Harvest recipe.

If you go

Blueberry Blossom Farm, 8628 Fobes Road, Snohomish, has varying picking hours depending on the season. Check daily for the schedule. Call 360-568-4713 for more information.

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