Cobbler, Crisp, Crumble, Buckle, Grunt, Slump, or Brown Betty?

If you’re anything like me, then you are salivating after reading the title of this post. There are few things more delicious than desserts comprised of warm fruit and some sort of pastry or streusel!

Fruit and some sort of pastry or streusel comprise cobblers, crisps, buckles, slumps, etc. How are these desserts similar and how do they differ?

There are a lot of different ways to combine these. There’s pie, of course, which is pretty easy to identify, but then there are a whole bunch of other desserts that are more difficult to tell apart: Cobblers, crisps, crumbles, buckles, grunts, slumps, and Brown Betties.

What makes these desserts similar and what makes them distinct?


All of these desserts contain fruit, are easy to make, and are popular more for their flavors than their fancy appearances.



True cobblers are baked desserts that consist of fruit covered with a biscuit topping. Traditionally, the biscuit topping is dropped onto the fruit in small mounds, giving it the appearance of a cobbled road (hence the name cobbler).

Some cooks enclose their cobblers in the biscuit crust, but the drop biscuit variety is much more common. In an effort to save time, many cooks today will top fruit with a muffin or cake batter and call it a cobbler. While still very tasty, these desserts don’t meet the traditional definition of a cobbler.

Crisps and crumbles

Crisps and crumbles are baked dishes of fruit that are covered with streusel-like toppings. Customarily, crisps have a topping that contains oats (and becomes crisp when it bakes), but crumbles have a topping that does not contain oats.


Buckles are baked desserts of fruit and cake. The cake batter is placed into the pan first and then topped with fruit or the fruit is mixed into the batter. Either way, the cake rises around the fruit as it bakes and the weight of the fruit causes the dessert to buckle inwards. Some cooks top their buckles with streusel, but this is optional. Buckles were once made almost exclusively with blueberries, but numerous fruits are used now.

Grunts and slumps

Grunts and slumps are cobblers that are covered and cooked over a heat source (stovetop, camp fire, etc.) instead of baked. Historians believe that the English colonists in New England first applied the moniker “slump” to this dessert because it slumps when you scoop it onto a plate and that they applied the moniker “grunt” because the hot, bubbling fruit makes a grunting sound as it stews around the biscuit topping.

Brown Betties

Brown Betties are baked dishes of fruit and buttery crumbs. They are similar to crumbles, but their fruit is baked between layers of crumbs. Betties are traditionally prepared with apples.

As I was reading about these desserts, I came across two additional ones that share similarities to those described above.

Pandowdy – A deep-dish dessert that combines fruit and a brittle biscuit topping. The biscuit topping is broken apart during baking and pushed down into the fruit so the juices rise through it. Some cooks prepare a variation where the biscuit topping is baked beneath the fruit and the dessert is inverted before serving. Though numerous fruits can be used, pandowdies are typically prepared with apples sweetened with molasses or brown sugar.

Sonker – A deep-dish pie native to North Carolina. Sonkers are traditionally prepared in rectangular pans and can be made out of a variety of fruits and even some veggies (such as sweet potato). Many families serve sonkers with a dip made of thickened milk that is flavored with vanilla extract or spices (e.g., cinnamon, allspice).

It’s nice to understand how these differ. I don’t think you can go wrong making any of them! Check out my sources here, here, here, and here for additional information.

Do you prefer one of these desserts over the others? Why do you prefer it?

Shared at the following:

Monday’s Musings, Coffee and Conversation, and The Art of Homemaking.






  1. You are just putting me in the mood for one of these treats! I love fruit desserts, and it is so fascinating to hear what the differences between them are. I think out of all of these, the crisp is my favorite type-I love the crispy oat topping a lot, and usually make extra 🙂

    • Seriously…every time I see that picture I want to eat cobbler (or any of these). I think crisps may be my favorite, too. I love the contrast of the crisp topping with the warm, softened fruit.

  2. Oh this was a great post. I’d never heard of some of these. Thanks for sharing this.
    I’d love to invite you to come over and link at The Fabulous Fall party. Link this and any Fall theme posts! The party goes all the way to Oct. 30! Come and join the party!

  3. My daughter and I were just talking about making something with apple since some of the apples on our tree are ready for picking..I have to say, I had no idea that there were more than crisps or cobblers. I do prefer the crisps with their crumble goodness on top and have been known to double that portion of the recipe… LOL (shhh don’t tell) thanks for sharing this with us over at #MondayMusings where we are neighbors.

    • Hi Debbie,
      I’ve definitely doubled the crispy portion. I’ve also been known to eat leftovers for breakfast the next day. 😉

  4. It doesn’t matter to me what they’re called as long as they’re in my belly. 😉

  5. Never heard of sonker but I love the sound of it 🙂 Thank you for sharing with us on the Art of Home-Making Mondays at Strangers & Pilgrims on Earth! 🙂

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