Growing up, we didn’t do bonafide breakfasts. Both of my parents were educators for 30+ years – my father a high school principal, and my mother a high school English teacher. The mornings began early, filled with a quick bowl of Raisin Bran or Frosted Flakes, then a drive to home number 2: the local high school. Weekends were precious and savored for recovery and relaxation when there wasn’t a pesky sporting event or school function that called one or both parental units to work, so baked breakfast goods didn’t grace the table in abundance.
But on days when the wind blew from the right direction, when the stars aligned perfectly, when school let out for summer and my mom could breathe easily with the feeling of sweet freedom from the classroom full of hormone and angst-ridden teens (whom she actually loved dearly) for a few months, I remember these muffins. I think of them as her celebration of the bits of spare time she had, picking up the old spatula she used once upon a time when she was a brand new mother to bake cakes for money on the side, using it again to fill her family’s bellies with sugary warmth and goodness.
Or something like that, right mom?
They weren’t Snickerdoodle Muffins then. That is a moniker I have since bequeathed upon them. Back then, I believe they originated from the bag of blueberry muffin mix, sans the can of blueberries. Baked free of fruit, the tops dipped in melted butter, then rolled in the most satisfying mixture of cinnamon and sugar. I don’t remember what they were called, but I vividly recollect the warmth, the waves of fresh butter and cinnamon scents that infiltrated my nostrils like incense, and the crunch of the sinfully sugary topping.
I hadn’t had them in years, until the welcome itch to bake something – anything – hit me one evening, and I decided to take a jaunt back to the tastes of childhood. Although this recipe is made from scratch, I maintain that nostalgia and the fondness of my mom’s cooking qualifies the packaged version of my youth to be deemed superior. But this version will do nicely, too. The plain muffin base is buttery with a hint of vanilla, dense, yet flaky. They could be composed of cardboard for all my taste buds care, seeing as how the tops are steeped in melted butter, then rolled in a fragrant and comforting concoction of cinnamon and sugar.
And that’s it. Simple, completely unhealthy, and worth every old memory and potential new one.
For the muffins
- 11 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
For the topping
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter melted
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of the white granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- With the paddle running, add the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternate pouring the dry ingredients into the muffin mixture with the buttermilk in turn, beginning and ending with the dry mixture.
- Line a regular-sized muffin tin with muffin liners, or spray so the muffins won't stick in the tin. Fill each muffin mold about 3/4 of the way full. Bake in an oven preheated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 23 minutes, or until they are set and golden around the edges. Let them cool until they are easy to handle.
- To top the muffins, melt the stick of butter in the microwave or over the stove top, and place in a shallow bowl. Stir the 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon until well combined in a separate shallow bowl. Dip the entire muffin top into the melted butter, then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture until well coated.