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Credit: Renee Erikson Headshot: Jim Henkens; Edna Lewis Headshot: John T. Hill; Peach Cobbler Photos: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk
Recipe Review

I Tried 4 Popular Peach Cobbler Recipes and the Best Was Also the Easiest

updated Sep 27, 2022
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It’s not really summer until you’ve scooped fresh peach cobbler onto an already-overloaded paper plate at a backyard BBQ. The classic summer dessert of juicy fresh peaches and sweet cake (or pastry!) is one of the only reasons I’ll get near my oven in the heat of July or August.

To me, the perfect peach cobbler is packed with peak-season fruit covered in a sweet, buttery topping. It doesn’t matter whether that topping is more like pie crust, cake, or a biscuit: As long as it’s crisp and golden-brown, I’m happy.

In this recipe showdown, I wanted to find the secret to the perfect peach cobbler. Does pie crust, biscuit dough, or cake batter make the best cobbler? Do peak summer peaches taste best with sugar and spices, or just a squeeze of lemon? What’s the best proportion of peach to pastry? I went into the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Meet Our 4 Contenders

I began by narrowing my search to recipes that used fresh peaches. Many popular cobblers are made with canned or frozen fruit, but during peak peach season in July and August, fresh is the only way to go. I’ve eaten a fair share of cobblers across the South, and those topped with pie crust are just as authentic and delicious as those baked with biscuits or cake batter. Because of that, I included recipes that showcased a variety of toppings.

Edna Lewis recipe straddles the line between cobbler and pie, but if this culinary icon calls it a cobbler, then who am I to say otherwise? First you make Lewis’ old-fashioned lard pastry crust. Put half of the crust in your pan, sprinkle with granulated sugar, then top with fresh, sliced peaches. Add more sugar, pats of butter, and weave a lattice with the remaining crust. I was intrigued.

It doesn’t get easier than Southern Living’s four-step recipe, where fresh peaches simmer with sugar and lemon juice until tender and syrupy. Then, in the comforting tradition of dump cakes, you layer melted butter, the syrupy peaches, and an easy cake batter in a baking pan — without stirring any of it together.

Garden & Gun’s peach cobbler flavors the peaches with warm spices like ginger, allspice, and cinnamon, and then tops them with tangy buttermilk biscuits. I had never made a cobbler with so many warm spices, and I was curious to know if it was the secret I’d been looking for.

Renee Erikson’s recipe for peach cobbler is like nothing I’ve seen before. This recipe calls for twice the amount of peaches of any recipe in the showdown and flavors them with just lemon zest and juice. Cake batter is spread over the top of the peaches, then showered with a layer of granulated sugar. Just before baking, you drizzle hot water over the entire dish. It would either be brilliant or go horribly wrong, and I couldn’t wait to find out.

How I Tested the Peach Cobbler Recipes

I prepared each of the four recipes on the same day exactly as written. I tasted them all at room temperature, and again after being reheated in a low oven. I used the same brand of sugar, flour (except for the recipe that called for self-rising flour), butter, vanilla, etc. to limit the variables between recipes. I purchased fresh peaches of similar ripeness from the same grocer on a single day.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

1. The Best Cobbler If You Like More Crust than Fruit: Garden & Gun’s Peach Cobbler

In my search for the perfect peach cobbler, I was looking for a recipe in which the fresh peaches took center stage. But in this recipe, the tangy buttermilk crust was the star, leaving me searching with every spoonful for more peach pieces. The flavor of the delicate sweet summer fruit was also overwhelmed by a trio of heavy spices, making it better suited for autumn.

That said, the cobbler came together quickly and the biscuit-Iike topping was super tasty — soft and tender with a slight tang from the buttermilk. So if you like your cobbler heavy on the topping and light on the fruit, this is the recipe for you.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

2. The Ultimate Pie-Cobbler Hybrid: Edna Lewis’ Fresh Peach Cobbler with Nutmeg Sauce

I’ve made and loved a lot of Edna Lewis’ recipes, and now I understand why everyone loves this one, too. Piling the peaches between two layers of lard-based pie crust means you don’t have to choose between pie and cobbler! Plus, the golden lattice crust makes for a beautiful presentation. This cobbler was also the smallest of the bunch, which makes it great for a weeknight dessert.

My only qualm is that while the top crust was flaky, the bottom crust remained doughy because of the juicy peach filling. Next time, I’ll skip the sauce (the cobbler was sweet enough without it) and just add the nutmeg and orange zest to the peach filling.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

3. The Game-Changing Technique: Renee Erikson’s Peach Cobbler

Seattle-based chef and restauranteur Renee Erikson inherited this recipe when she took over the now-shuttered Boat Street Cafe from Susan Kaplan. It was the only recipe of the four that didn’t require peeling the peaches, and now I’m forever a convert. The skins gave the peach pieces a rosy sunset hue and, to my surprise, they didn’t give the filling an unappealing texture.

This recipe called for way more peaches than any of the other recipes, and you know I’m here for that! Flavoring the peaches with just lemon zest and juice also let their sweet, floral flavor shine.

The most intriguing part of this recipe, however, is its hot-water and sugar crust. You spread cake batter over the peaches, sprinkle with sugar, then pour water on top, which I’ve gotta say just feels wrong when you do it. I pressed on in the name of science and was richly rewarded. The water helped the sugar melt into the topping, creating a crackly crust with tender cake and juicy peaches underneath.

The only reason this recipe didn’t receive a perfect score? You have to pull out a stand mixer to mix the topping, which means more dishes to wash.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

4. The One to Put on Repeat: Southern Living’s Fresh Peach Cobbler

When I think of peach cobbler, this is the dessert I imagine scooping onto my plate in the late-afternoon sun. Start with melted butter in a baking dish, then pour in a milky-sweet batter. Fresh, sweet peaches are cooked with lemon and sugar until tender and syrupy, and spooned on top of the batter. And here’s the key to success: Do not stir! As the layers bake, the magic happens; the fruit sinks and the batter bubbles up and over the peaches until it’s puffed and golden.

I couldn’t believe how quickly and easily it came together, requiring no extra equipment or specialty ingredients. Plus, it makes enough to feed a crowd, and highlights the best in peak summer peaches. If you’re looking for a true taste of summer, look no further than this recipe.

Do you have a favorite peach cobbler recipe? Tell us in the comments.