Funny Names for Old Fashioned Fruit Desserts

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With New England summer in full swing, our gardens, shopping carts, and countertops are overflowing with fresh produce. If you’re looking to make quick use of the season’s fruits and berries in a traditional yet simple and delicious dessert, turn to the following words: Slumps; Grunts; Buckles; Bettys; Crumbles; Crisps; Pandowdys.

Add a few exclamation marks and it sounds like a comic book action sequence, but in truth, it’s a series of names for rustic fruit desserts distinguished by their topping styles and cooking methods. Sometimes the difference between two dishes is slight enough to be virtually undetectable, and sometimes the passage of time and merging of recipes have resulted in a dish being called a crisp when it’s really a crumble, or a pie when it’s really a pandowdy.

So what are the differences between these funny names? Fear not! I am here to help.

Peaches for an old-fashioned fruit dessert.

My old-fashioned fruit dessert starts with peaches.


Buckles are perhaps the easiest to identify because they resemble cake more than pie. A buckle is a layer of yellow cake batter, topped with berries and a generous handful of crumb topping. As the cake bakes it rises up between the berries, creating a buckled surface. Sometimes the berries are also folded into the cake batter. Buckles resemble a berry-studded coffee cake, and taste heavenly. Make use of late summer’s blueberries in a buckle come August.

Blueberry Buckle with Maple Whipped Cream
Buttermilk Apple Buckle


Gruntsare made up of a layer of cooked fruit, usually in a cast iron skillet, topped midway with spoonfuls of biscuit dough. The skillet is then covered and returned to the stovetop, where the steam cooks the biscuits. They supposedly got their name because of the sound the fruit makes while it cooks, or as an ode to the sound the eater makes once he takes his first bite. You be the judge.


Slumps are grunts that are baked uncovered in the oven instead of steamed on the stovetop. Slumps can also be made in a casserole dish. The supposedly got their name because of the way the dish slumps over once spooned onto the plate, or as an ode to the blissful effect it has on the eater once he takes his first bite. Again, you be the judge.

Sliced peaches and blackberries for an old-fashioned fruit dessert.

Peaches and blackberries, ready to be sweetened and baked.


Crumbles consist of a layer of fruit in a casserole dish, on which a soft streusel topping made from flour, butter, and sugar has been sprinkled.

Rhubarb-Cherry Crumble
Peach-Strawberry-Ginger Crumble


Crisps are the same as crumbles, only their streusel topping is certainly crispier, usually thanks to the addition of oats and nuts. Apple crisp is the perennial favorite in the fall, topped with a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Old-fashioned fruit dessert ready for baking.

The cooked fruit is topped with sweet biscuit dough, then returned to the oven.


Bettys (or “Brown Bettys”) are kissing cousins with bread puddings. Bettys are made of fruit baked between layers of sweet, buttered cracker or bread crumbs. Apple is the most popular Betty. Put her on your list come September when apple season is in glorious full swing.

Brown Betty
Blueberry Betty


Pandowdys are anything but. This dish turns up as a favorite of John Adams in one of my “president cookbooks,” which claims he celebrated Independence Day with a bowl of the apple variety. Pandowdys start off looking like a pie (bottom crust optional), but the real fun occurs towards the end of baking, when the cook “dowdys” the crust by slashing it and lightly pressing it down so that the bubbling fruit cooks up around the flaky layers. The effect may be decidedly dowdy, but the taste will be divine.

Old-Fashioned Apple Pandowdy
Elderberry Pandowdy

Old-fashioned fruit dessert Peach Blackberry Slump.

Out of the oven and smelling wonderful.

Can you guess from the photos which of these seven beauties I made to celebrate the Fourth of July?

If you a guessed a Slump, then you are right. The fruit was sweet and juicy, the biscuit topping soft and cinnamon-y, and my front porch the perfect spot for relaxing while holding purple-stained bowls in our laps.

Make good use of New England’s sweet offerings this summer and early fall with one of these traditional, old-fashioned fruit desserts.

Old-fashioned fruit dessert Peach Blackberry Slump

One half-eaten Slump equaled three satisfied customers.

Which old-fashioned fruit dessert is your favorite?

  • They are all delicious, no matter how you fix them, and then add a dollop of rich vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream, and have yourself a ball with every morsel you put in your mouth.. I have made the craziest concoctions of Old Fashioned Fruit Desserts, am a southern girl from the Heart of the Bluegrass, and still enjoy exploring with the best fruit of the season! And they are the easiest to whip up!

  • Bonnie

    I really enjoyed this article, but……….I would love to see recipes for good old-fashioned COBBLERS…..especially blackberry. Or is that more “southern” like me??

  • I hadn’t heard of some of these desserts but they all sound wonderful. I LOVE fruit desserts like this. Reading this article made me hungry! Yum! I wish there were more recipes so I could try out all the desserts listed.

  • Cecile

    Thoroughly enjoyed finding out the differencebetween the desserts. The recipes sounded marvelous, I hope to try them soon. I love recipes!

  • Courtney

    I love fruit. But, I LOVE desserts! Thank you for decoding such a mystery. You *almost* have me wishing away the summer for an exchange of warm apple crisp.

  • Renee

    Thanks. I’ve always wondered what the differences were but never could figure it out.

  • Great article Aimee! I had never heard of some of these desserts and didn’t know the differences in the ones I had heard of. Glad you were here to help. And, your pictures look amazing!


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