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The Best Holiday Coffee Cake Recipe

My mom’s stepmother, Barbara, was known to me only as GrandBarb. She lived in Michigan, with my grandfather Elmer, a renderer who stood on his head for 30 minutes a day well into his nineties. GrandBarb was not, um, overly emotional. She wore highly sensible shoes, and always had her glasses on a chain so there was zero chance of misplacing them. She loved the color beige, judging from her wardrobe. Still, she expressed her love for me and my brother in the form of baked goods, and this was a love language we understood. 

I can still picture it. They’d pull up in their (beige) Oldsmobile, having driven to Washington, DC from Michigan, and she’d extract two large Folger’s coffee canisters filled to the brim with chocolate chip cookies. She always labeled them with our names in bold, black marker, perhaps hoping her swoopy, slanted letters would somehow protect my cookies from my brother’s plundering. (Nope.)

I hold my memories of GrandBarb in a fond place, and think of her every Christmas morning, when I make her famous Blueberry Buckle. Here’s her recipe—I make it with gluten free flour, and it’s delicious, but feel free to add lots of gluten if your intestines can handle it. From a skin health standpoint, I don't recommend eating this coffee cake on the daily. But once in a while, it's just what the doctor ordered. I hope you enjoy this perfect, 1950s-style coffee cake—my family always gobbles up every last crumb!

Sift together and set aside→

2 cups gluten-free flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

Cream together→

¼ cup room temperature butter

¾ cup sugar


1 room temperature egg

½ cup room temperature milk or oat milk

Slowly sprinkle in the flour mixture until the dough comes together—it will be VERY sticky. Add 2 cups of fresh blueberries, mixing on low speed until they’re incorporated, but not a moment longer so you don’t squish them all. With slightly wet hands, turn the dough into a greased 8x8 or 9x9 baking pan, pressing it into the corners. 

Make the crumb topping

¼ cup cold butter

½ cup sugar

⅓ cup gluten-free flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, and use your fingers to smoosh it all together into a chunky texture. Sprinkle over the top of the dough. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Allow to cool in the pan, cut into pieces, and serve with coffee or tea!