Lemon-Blueberry Crumble Muffins

Summer cottage woes: when we call Grammie and ask if there’s baking powder, no one thinks to check the best-by date. The can is probably five years old, since it was best by four years ago, and definitely has a very weak fizz when plopped into a cup of hot water. So our muffins didn’t really rise, but they taste fabulous – and it’s all about the process.

Baking powder is now on the shopping list, though, because I want today’s cookies to rise.

Belle and I spent most of this recipe debating whether anything with lemon was too sour – even if it was well mixed with sugar. She was willing to taste-test until the lemon juice got added to the batter; thereafter there was no convincing her that it wasn’t too sour to eat. (Buddy, on the other hand, happily licked any spoon sent his way.) I’ll admit it is frustrating to have a daughter who couldn’t care less about one of my favorite flavors. However, this debate did lead to a great discussion of what flavors we can taste on our tongues: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami/savory. We didn’t do any real experimenting with the flavors, but the following ingredients could explain them: sugar, lemon juice, salt, and baking soda – no umami-rich ingredients, alas.
Squeezing lemons

Here we learn that a juicer would help little hands with hangnails avoid stinging citric acid – but we stick to our plan of Belle squeezing out the easy part and Mama finishing the harder part.

Fine motor skills and patience were our other big targets. Grating lemon zest is a long process for little hands, but we practiced some sequencing and if-then-else statements: grate, check for yellow or white, if yellow, keep grating, if white or unclear, turn the lemon and start again.Zesting

Coordinating pressure in the left hand for stability and firm motion in the right hand to zest is complicated, so I add some stability.

Belle quickly got tired of the task, so I finished it for her. It still takes a while, so we kept her occupied separating out 24 cupcake liners and practicing counting, starting over every time we skipped 6. It requires using pincer grasp, though with a rubbing motion instead of a release.
A very thick batter

See how stiff the batter is?

After all the mixing and scooping, Belle spotted some sprinkles. We don’t hold on formality over here, so half our muffins got rainbow sprinkles!Sprinkling onto muffins

Baking in footie pajamas is basically #goals.

Skills worked on:

  • Balancing sweet and sour
  • Balancing textures (dry vs moist)
  • Flavor vocabulary
  • Counting
  • Hand strength
  • Fine motor (mixing, scooping)
  • Patience
  • Food prep!


  • 1 large mixing bowl (dry ingredients)
  • 1 small mixing bowl (wet ingredients, then crumble)
  • 2-3 small bowls (cracking eggs, collecting zest, reserving lemon juice)
  • Whisk or fork
  • Spatula
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Two spoons/scoop and spatula (dropping batter into muffin tins)
  • Muffin cup liners (or blueberries will stick to pan)
  • 2 regular muffin pans
  • Zester/grater
Muffins before baking

This recipe comes from Saving Room for Dessert and didn’t require much adaption, though we skipped the glaze because it is sweet enough and takes long enough without. Because, as always, baking with toddlers takes three times as long.

The batter is very thick to help suspend the blueberries while baking – err on the side of slightly more liquid and slightly less dry ingredients when your toddler measures imperfectly.

If you use frozen blueberries, we recommend thawing, draining, salad spinning, and/or patting dry – the extra moisture will make the muffin fall apart around the fruit.

While the original recipe called for 18 muffins, we stretched it to 24 muffins. They are a little shorter than the original, which makes for better toddler serving sizes, but the muffin batter and topping divides without issue.

Recipe (60 min prep, 18 min bake, yield: 18-24 muffins):


  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced (1 tbsp zest and 1/4 c juice for muffin; remainder reserved)
  • 1 stick (1/2 c) butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 2 1/2 c flour
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 c blueberries (fresh)

Crumble Topping:

  • Reserved lemon: 1 tbsp zest (or more), 1 tbsp juice (not more)
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp or 1/4 c) butter, melted
  • 3/4 c flour
  • 1/3 c sugar
  1. Zest 2 lemons and squeeze for juicing (aim for a little over 1/4 c). Set aside 1 tbsp juice for crumble topping.
  2. Melt 1/2 c (1 stick) butter in a small mixing bowl; let cool.
  3. Add to melted butter: 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp zest, 1/4 c lemon juice, 2 eggs. Whisk.
  4. Fold in 1 c sour cream. Set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, combine: 2 1/2 c flour, 3/4 c sugar, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt. Form a well and scrape in the lemon/sour cream mixture.
  6. Mix batter gently until ingredients are moistened.
  7. Fold in 1 1/2 c blueberries.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  9. Line 18-24 muffin cups. Use two spoons or an ice cream scoop to fill the cups. Let sit 15 min to settle into the cups – the thick batter needs to spread.
  10. Make the crumble topping: melt 1/4 c butter in a small bowl. Add 3/4 c flour, 1/3 c sugar, remaining zest, and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Mix thoroughly into unevenly sized crumbs.
  11. Use forks or fingers to spread crumbs over top of all the muffins.
  12. Bake 18 min in 400°F oven or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or crumbly. Remove pans from oven and let cool for 5 min in pan then on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temp for up to 3 days, or refrigerate for a week.

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