Cupcakes vs. muffins: How are they different? How are they the same? Many before me have attempted to answer – and still, the debate goes on. Some have approached this issue from a scientific standpoint, pointing out the differences in the ratios of ingredients and preparation methods. Others have taken a more practical view focusing on looks, taste and texture. The most clever observation I’ve seen is that “If you threw a cupcake against the wall, you would hear something of a ‘poof!’ If you threw a muffin, you would hear a ‘thud!’” As for me, they’re both cake. That one is usually smothered in frosting and the other isn’t is of little consequence. Neither is the fact that one is considered an acceptable breakfast food, and the other is deemed dessert. To me, cake is cake. Sometimes, I eat cupcakes for breakfast and muffins for dessert. That’s how I roll.
One interesting phenomena, however, deals with size. While the most prized cupcakes are almost always small, dainty and artfully decorated, muffins aren’t judged by the same standards. They can get away with being big, clunky and craggy. Oh, yes. In the world of muffins, bigger is better. (After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day!) Just walk into your favorite bakery, deli or coffee shop and see for yourself. The scones, pastries and doughnuts are usually all normal sized, but the muffins are huge!
I found the original recipe for these crumb-topped blueberry muffins on Allrecipes. They were touted as being “extra-generously-sized deli style muffins”. Of course, any muffin can be big is it’s baked in an oversized muffin cup. But, the name given to these muffins – “To Die For Blueberry Muffins” – kind of drew me in. I mean, those are some serious muffin words! So, I had to try them.
Let me tell you, people, these were some big, honkin’ muffins! They were the behemoth of blueberry muffins, but in a good way. Their crumb was moist and dense, but not heavy – although you probably would hear a thud if you flung one against a wall. The buttery crumb topping was delightfully crunchy and crackly. And, they were chock full of enough juicy, plump blueberries to qualify them for inclusion in the “Fruits” food group.
I did tweak a few things too. The original recipe called for regular milk, but I used buttermilk instead. I highly recommend it. The buttermilk gave the muffins a subtle tang that played against the sweetness of the berries. I also threw in a few splashes of my homemade vanilla extract, because.… well. … because everything tastes better with good vanilla.
I also tried a different method for making the crumb topping. For some reason, I can never pulverize my butter into those perfect, pebbly, pea-sized bits. (WTH is a “coarse meal”, anyway?) So, I used a technique that I’d had success with in making shortbread. I froze the butter and then grated it into the dry ingredients. Then, I just smushed it a little with my fingers and mixed it all up. It worked really well.
Big, beautiful, bakery-style buttermilk blueberry muffins ready for the oven!
Wherever you stand on the cupcakes vs. muffins debate, I can promise you this: You will love these muffins! Oh, yeah. They’re super easy to make too.
So, go ahead. Eat cake for breakfast! You deserve it!
Big Beautiful Bakery-Style Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Allrecipes.com
For the muffins
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 batch crumb topping
For the crumb topping
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup frozen unsalted butter, coarsely grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray an oversized muffin tin with nonstick baking spray or line with paper liners.
- Make the muffin batter by combining flour, cup sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Pour vegetable oil into a one cup (8-ounces) liquid measuring cup. Add the egg and enough buttermilk (approximately 1/3 cup) to fill the cup to 8-ounces. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. Gently fold in blueberries.
- Make the crumb topping: Mix together sugar, flour, grated butter and cinnamon together in a bowl. Work the butter into the rest of the ingredients with a fork or your fingers until the mixture resembles a coarse, pebbly meal. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Fill cups in prepared muffin tin almost to the top with batter. Sprinkle a generous few tablespoons of crumb topping on top of each.
- Bake for 22-27 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
- Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular sized muffins.