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Wonderful Crumble Topping for Muffins, Cobblers, and More

Athlyn Green enjoys whipping up tasty dishes in her home kitchen. She's received many requests for her recipes and is happy to share.

This crumble is ready to pop into the oven.

This crumble is ready to pop into the oven.

Perfect Topping for Muffins, Cobblers, Pies, and Fruit

With just three ingredients, this crumble topping mixture is easy to commit to memory and easy to prepare. It can be an invaluable trick to have "up your cook's sleeve" because it can be used to make any number of desserts and combines well with different flavors.

I rely on this mixture each time I wish to add something extra to whatever I'm making. Crumble is a godsend when you run out of ingredients but desire to add something extra to finish something. For example, one time, I was expecting company and was making cherry pie, but I ran out of pastry. What to do? I topped the pie with crumble, and my guests raved over it. And they weren't any the wiser. In fact, they were intrigued by the topping and wondered how I'd made it.

Crumble also transforms muffins into special treats, and the ordinary becomes almost extraordinary. If you've ever visited a mall with specialty muffin shops, you've no doubt sampled some of their giant muffins with the delicious crumbly topping. If you've ever wondered what those delicious crumbles were gracing the tops of the muffins, now you know. And you can easily make muffins at home and add the same delicious topping.

If you have leftover fruit and want to use it up or turn it into a dessert, you can easily top it with crumble. As the fruit cooks, it produces a liquid that will soften the crumble. If you are topping fruit, you may choose to reduce the amount of butter you use.

This mixture can be prepared in seconds as long as your butter is at room temperature, but make sure your butter isn't overly soft (as can happen in summer).

This Is Not a Crisp

This is a soft, rich crumble. If a crispier topping is desired, reduce the amount of butter or use a recipe for crisp.


  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature but not too soft
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup white flour


  1. Place ingredients into a bowl.
  2. Cut ingredients together with a pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly. This step is important so that small "crumbles" form. Do not mix with a wooden spoon or beaters.
By using a pastry cutter, small crumbles will form.

By using a pastry cutter, small crumbles will form.

Dos and Don'ts

  • Do use a pastry cutter and cut in ingredients until the mixture is crumbly.
  • Do not cream or stir ingredients together.

Can You Say Yummy?

Wonderful crumble can used to "ice" muffins or sweet loaves or for making cobbler-type dishes.

Uses for Crumble Topping

  • If you run out of icing ingredients, use crumble topping as a streusel to "ice" your muffins. Topping muffins with crumble takes them to a whole new delicious level. You simply sprinkle the mixture on muffin dough before baking. Imagine maple or apple muffins with a delicious crumbly mixture on top.
  • Crumble also makes a wonderful topping for sweet loaves, such as apple or banana loaf.
  • If you run out of pie crust or you want to "fancy up" an open-faced pie, crumble makes a tasty topping.
  • Use crumble topping with any of your favorite fruits and to make a tasty dessert.

When Topping Fruit

This topping mixture works best with quick bread; however, it can be used to top fruit. Because fruit produces liquid when cooked, this mixture may become softer. It is still delicious, though, however you use it.

Blackberry crumble

Blackberry crumble

Fruit Crumbles

You can make a variety of fruit-based desserts by using this topping mixture. This comes in handy if you have leftover fruit and want to somehow dress it up.

  • Apple Crumble: Layer sliced apples in a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle cinnamon and cloves over, then add crumble topping. Bake until browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
  • Blackberry Crumble: Choose your favorite berries and place in a greased casserole dish. Cover with crumble topping and bake. Serve with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or vanilla pudding.
  • Blueberry Crumble: Fresh blueberries can be sprinkled into a casserole dish, then topped with mixture. Serve with lemon pudding.
  • Cherry Crumble: Remove pits or use canned cherries, then top with crumble.
  • Jumble-Crumble - Mix together assorted berries and top with mixture. Bake, then serve while still warm with whipped cream or ice cream or banana pudding.
  • Peach Crumble: Place canned sliced peaches in a baking pan. Top with mixture. Serve with whipped cream or ginger-vanilla ice cream.
  • Pear Crumble: Collect ripe pears. Peel and place in baking dish. Cover with crumble topping. Serve with vanilla or ginger-flavored ice cream.
  • Raspberry: Spread berries evenly and top with mixture. Good with vanilla or chocolate ice cream.
  • Rhubarb-Strawberry: When using rhubarb, it is best to combine it with strawberries.

Where Did Crumble Come From?

Crumbles can be traced to the European colonization of the Americas. They've been associated with food rationing and are thought to have arisen in Britain during World War II when the shortage of ingredients made making pie more challenging. Necessity became the mother of invention.

In modern times, a fruit crumble is often served with something creamy, like whipping cream or ice cream, which makes a perfect counterpart to the tart fruit and the rich crumble mixture.

Did You Know?

If you make a crumble, you won't get a crisp; if you make a crisp, you won't get a crumble. It is important to know the differences.

Difference Between Crumble, Cobbler and Crisp

At times, the words crumble, cobbler and crisp are used interchangeably, but generally, there are recognized differences between all three.

Crumble can be likened to a streusel-like topping. The ingredients are cut until they form small crumbles. Care must be taken when using crumble to top moisture-rich fruit or the crumble may absorb too much liquid and thus "melt." Crumble is usually made with flour, butter and white sugar. Crumble works best when used to top something that doesn't have too much liquid, such as coffee cake, banana loaf or muffins (as seen in the video below). Fruit crumble is often served with custard or ice cream.

Cobbler is a fruit-based dessert that is a close cousin to crumble. Often it is topped with a crust comprised of a biscuit or dumpling-like mixture, and the batter may include either milk or eggs. At times, cobbler includes bread crumbs or graham crumbs. The name cobbler may have arisen because the dough was dropped on top of fruit in clumps, which resembled cobbles.

Colorful American names for cobbler include:

  • Betty
  • Buckle
  • Grunt
  • Slump
  • Sonker
  • Pandowdy
  • New Englanders make Grunts and Slumps in an iron skillet on top of the stove.
  • Sonkers are deep-dish cobblers from North Carolina.
  • A Brown Betty is made with fruit and bread or graham cracker crumbs.
  • A Pandowdy commonly includes a crust that is broken or "dowdied" before serving.

Crisp, as the name suggests, is crispier. This is achieved by using oats in the mixture. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves lend a spicy flavor—and come fall, this is a frequently enjoyed dessert when apples and other fruits are harvested and plentiful.

Which Will You Choose?

  • If you want a dessert topped with a rich, soft streusel topping, choose crumble.
  • If you want a hearty "stewed" dish, choose a cobbler.
  • If you desire crispy and spicy, choose a crisp.

Why Crumble?

Every busy cook should know how to make a good crumble. This topping mixture can be a lifesaver when you are short on ingredients or short on time. And because it's made from just a few ingredients, it's easy to commit to memory. Once you've tasted it, I'm sure you will agree that wonderful crumble is downright delicious.

© 2007 Athlyn Green