blackberry, lemon & thyme muffins

Make these at home.  You’ll feel like you’re visiting your favorite coffee shop.  Only you’ll be enjoying them at your favorite table …in your own kitchen.  Blackberries are plentiful right now.  I know …so are blueberries.  But, this switches it up a bit.  Especially with the addition of lemon and thyme.

The original recipe was published in a 2012 issue of Bon Appétit featuring these appetizing works of art created by Elizabeth Belkind of Cake Monkey in Los Angeles.  She used decorative paper molds that are available at kitchen or restaurant supply outlets.  Whatever you choose to use at home, the recipe will work.  Just modify the amount of batter and topping to be used for each muffin, along with the baking time.

I must warn you that this recipe calls for cake flour.  It is not an ingredient that is readily available in most local stores.  But don’t worry …it’s easy to create a substitute on your own.  To quote Joy from Joy the Baker

Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  Remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and place it back in your flour canister.  Replace the removed all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Sift flour 5 times.  Yes… 5 times.  Sifting the flour and cornstarch together will help thoroughly combine the mixture and help to lighten and aerate the flour.

By replacing a bit of the all-purpose flour with cornstarch, we’re removing some of the gluten and replacing it with a tenderizing element.

Before starting on the muffin batter, the crumble topping must be made.  It needs to chill for at least one hour in the fridge.  If desired, the topping can be made up to 3 days ahead.  Just keep it covered and chilled until ready to use.

The batter comes together quickly.  If you have a stand-up mixer, use it here so that you can gather ingredients while the mixer does its job.

You’ll begin by beating the room temperature butter until it is pale and creamy.  Then the sugar is added and the beating continues for several minutes.  In the meantime, whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Set that aside to be added later.

The blackberries and thyme are added at the end.  But they are first mixed together, then gently folded into the batter.  It’s okay if the blackberries are crushed a little in the process.  Their delicious juice will moisten and further flavor the batter.  And while we are on the subject of berries, there really is no reason why you couldn’t make this your own by using blueberries or raspberries instead of the blackberries.  Or how about a combination of all three?  An interesting possibility for another time.

The batter will be thick and creamy with plentiful bits of berry throughout.

Decide how large you’d like your muffins to be.  If you choose to make them as presented here, use 8 large paper muffin molds.  The ones that I used have a capacity of 5 ounces.  For easy clean-up, place the cups on a parchment lined baking sheet for baking.  To achieve the “muffin top” effect, follow the recipe by spooning about 2/3 cup batter into each mold.  If you prefer them smaller and more streamlined, fill each mold with 1/2 cup or less so that the mold is about 1/2 to 2/3 full before adding crumble topping.  Of course, you would then increase the number of muffins to be baked.  Not such a bad thing.

If making smaller standard-sized muffins, line the muffin pans with 16 paper liners.

These will bake at a low temperature of 325°F for anywhere from 35 to 55 minutes, depending on your oven and the size of the muffin you’ve chosen to make.  They are delicious served warm or at room temperature.  Once cooled, store muffins in an airtight container at room temperature.  Best if enjoyed within one day.

blackberry, lemon & thyme muffins

Adapted from recipe by Elizabeth Belkind of Cake Monkey in Los Angeles

Servings 8 large or 16 standard muffins


For the crumble topping

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4" cubes (3/4 stick)
  • 1 large egg yolk

For the muffin batter

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (separated)
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, halved lengthwise (about 6 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme


For the crumble topping

  1. Whisk first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add butter.  Using your fingertips, rub in butter until pea-size lumps form.  

  2. Add egg yolk; stir to evenly distribute and form moist clumps.  Crumble should resemble a mixture of pebbles and sand.

  3.  Chill for at least 1 hour.  

    DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.

For the muffin batter

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.  If making large muffins, line baking sheet with parchment paper then place empty muffin molds to be filled on the sheet.  If making standard-size muffins, line 16 1/3-cup molds with paper liners.

  2. Whisk 1 cup all-purpose flour and next 4 ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.  

  3. Using an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add sugar and continue to beat until well incorporated, 2–3 minutes longer.  Whisk eggs and vanilla in a small bowl to blend; gradually beat into butter mixture.  Continue beating until light and fluffy, 3–4 minutes.  Combine buttermilk and lemon zest in a small bowl; gradually beat into butter mixture.  Add dry ingredients; beat just to blend (do not overmix).

  4. Toss blackberries and thyme with 2 tablespoons reserved flour in another small bowl; fold into batter, gently crushing berries slightly to release some juices. 

  5. Spoon about 2/3 cup batter into large paper muffin molds, or divide between prepared muffin pans.  Top each large muffin with 2 tablespoons crumble or each small muffin with 1 rounded tablespoon crumble.

  6. Bake until tops are golden brown and a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, about 50 minutes for large muffins and 40 minutes for standard-size muffins.  Let cool in pan at least 20 minutes, then transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

  7. Store cooled muffins in an airtight container at room temperature.  Best if enjoyed within one day.

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