If you’re looking forward to fall and winter parties — from the fun and informal to big holiday gatherings — this post is for you. There are all kinds of desserts you can make for your get-togethers, but some of the best feature fruit, sugar and topped with something delicious. For informal occasions, a nice, quick crisp will do the trick. The more fancy dinner parties may call for your very best pie, but this post will help you make the dessert decision with an overview of crisps, crumbles and cobblers. Plus the similarities and differences between each. (And a little bonus pie content.)
How are crisps, crumbles and cobblers similar?
Let’s start with the obvious: crisps, cobblers and crumbles are all about the fruit. A tasty topping that differs based on the one you choose is vital, but don’t we all think about the fruit filling? Your filling options are basically endless, and once you’ve chosen yours, the next step is determining how to adorn your sweet fruit.
How are crisps, crumbles and cobblers different?
Cobblers, crisps and crumbles are much easier to make than pie. In fact, many crisps and crumbles can be made in 30 minutes or less. This is primarily because of the crust required for pie, especially if you are making a lattice or another more complicated design (you can learn all about making pie dough in my guide to pie crust). Crisps, crumbles and cobblers are similar in that they have a fruit base/filling with a topping. Here are the key differences:
Cobbler: Cobblers feature a biscuit topping. The tender, flaky biscuits on top of bubbling sweet fruit are the trademark of a good cobbler. The style of biscuit can vary from folded dough to one that is so soft it has to be spooned on, but they are all rich and delicious baked over the fruit filling.
Crisp: I grew up having crisps in Vermont and along the East Coast. In fact, a crumble was something I’d never heard of until much more recently. I believe the name is a regional difference, so my baking friends in Australia call this style of desserts crumbles. Both crisps and crumbles feature a streusel topping (as opposed to the biscuits). A crisp topping is lighter and often made of oats.
Crumble: Like a crisp, a crumble has a streusel topping. However, the hallmark of a crumble is its dense, cakey texture. The topping is often softer than a crisp, but not always, so I think you are safe to call them by whichever name rolls off the tongue for you, no one will care, as long as you bake one!
How to make Cobblers, Crisps, Crumbles and Pies
Cobbler is a fruit dessert topped with flaky biscuits. A perfect cobbler features bubbling sweet fruit and sugar-coated biscuits on top.
A crisp is a fruit dessert featuring a crispy streusel topping that usually has oats and often includes nuts (such as almonds). The signature feature of a crisp is, of course, the crispness of the topping.
A nice, rich buttery topping is one of my favorite hallmarks of a good crumble. The cakey texture is often what differentiates a crumble from a crisp, and you still get the wonderful fruit filling.
If you love crisps, cobblers and crumbles, try all of my fruit desserts!
Bonus: Dessert Hot Dish
And now I leave you with a bonus recipe. It’s sort of a cross between my pumpkin bundt cake and an apple crisp. I developed this recipe for Molly Yeh’s Food Network Magazine takeover! For the uninitiated, a hot dish is basically a savory casserole, it just so happens to be called “hot dish” mostly in Minnesota and casserole everywhere else. Hot dish usually contains a starch, a meat, canned or frozen vegetables and is mixed with canned soup (usually “cream of something”), then baked. Sometimes it’s topped with cheese, sometimes with tater tots or crispy fried onions, sometimes all of them. This is my dessert version (which is waaaay more delicious in my opinion!). An apple-pumpkin caramel hot dish. I can’t wait for you to give it a try!
Pumpkin Cake Layer
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter for the pan
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract homemade vanilla extract recipe
- 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
- 3 large apples peeled and finely diced
- 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch kosher salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 3/4 cup rolled oats
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Pumpkin Cake Layer
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square (or other 2 1/2-quart) baking dish.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the pumpkin puree, heavy cream, vegetable oil, both sugars, eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice, then whisk to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the baking dish.
- In the same bowl, toss the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Scatter the apples evenly over the pumpkin batter.
- Using the same bowl again, combine the melted butter, flour, brown sugar, oats and salt until small clumps form. Spread the topping evenly over the apples.
- Place the baking dish on a baking sheet to insulate the bottom while it bakes and to catch any drips. Bake until the cake is slightly domed and the edges are set and gently bubbling and a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs but is not wet, 60 to 75 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.