Inspiration Strikes

Any baked good fresh out of the oven is cause for applause, but there’s something special about a blueberry muffin, cut open to reveal steaming, soft, purpley goodness. This breakfast-snack-dessert indulgence has the versatility to be enjoyed by everyone. Sugar or streusel can be added for a decadent top, or whole grain replacements make for a leaner option. Scrolling through The New York Times Cooking app, I was unaware of the 50 year debate over THE best blueberry muffin, until I stumbled upon journalist Scott Loitsch’s video putting two rival recipes head-to-head.

Nixie Strazza

The Beginnings of Battle

In 1985, Marian Burros published the Ritz Carlton’s blueberry muffin recipe, served at the hotel’s cafe for breakfast. It was carefully crafted by pastry chef Gunther Moesinger from former executive chef Charles Bonino’s 35 years-worth of experimentation. Bonino was inspired by the muffins at Gilchrist’s, a Boston department store, and set out to serve even better ones at his restaurant. The Bonino-Moesinger creation features a “generous quantity of blueberries” and sugary top.

In response to Burros’s original article, some Bostonian readers claimed the home of the city’s best blueberry muffin was instead the Jordan Marsh department store. Blueberry muffins were served at the in-house bakery until Jordan Marsh was absorbed by the Macy’s company in 1995. This recipe produces a moister, cakier muffin, with mashed blueberries incorporated into the batter for an extra punch. Since 1987, the blueberry muffin showdown has waged in kitchens across America, with thousands lending their two cents to which Boston staple reigns supreme. 

Nixie Strazza


I am always in support of healthy competition, especially if baked goods are involved, but dietary restrictions can put me on the sidelines. After some experimentation of my own, I created fully plant-based versions of both the Jordan Marsh recipe and the Ritz-Carlton’s using simple substitutions when necessary. By staying true to the original measurements for the sake of authenticity, the results were two decadent muffins worthy of decades-long debate.

My veganization would be incomplete without a proper head-to-head, so I recruited my friends for a blind tasting. Though only one winner could prevail, they agreed both establishments certainly knew how to deliver a delicious muffin. 

Nixie Strazza

The Winner Announced!

I appreciated the simplicity of the Ritz-Carlton’s recipe, considering the reputation of its namesake. Described as “tart”, “sophisticated”, and “rich” with a gooey blueberry center, the Ritz-Carlton muffins were perfectly golden and crisp on top. Aesthetically speaking, these were superior and gave off “scone vibes.” 

The Jordan Marsh muffins were much smaller, lighter, and cakier. Their flat tops made some of my tasters skeptical, as they resembled more of a cupcake than a muffin. And yet, they were the “hands-down” fan favorite. The sweeter cake complemented the already tart fruit for the perfect bite. Scott Loitsch was right in saying, “the Ritz-Carlton is one that I want to take on a hike...and this [Jordan Marsh] is the one I want everyday at any time.” 

Nixie Strazza

Vegan or not, there is something for everyone to enjoy with these Bostonian creations. Batter up some blueberries and make Jordan Marsh proud – we may find ourselves enemies in this decadent rivalry! 

I used the following substitutions for both recipes:

Plant-based butter: Miyoko’s unsalted 1:1

Egg: ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce + 1/2 tsp baking powder per egg

Milk: Almond Breeze unsweetened original 1:1


Nixie Strazza

Instructions from Marian Burros’s original article

3 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

¾ cup sugar

Pinch salt, optional

5 “eggs”, slightly beaten

¾-1 cup “milk”

5 ounces unsalted “butter”, melted and cooled

4 or 5 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Additional sugar for topping

Step One: Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Step Two: Mix all the dry ingredients together. Stir in eggs, milk and butter; do not overmix. Carefully stir in berries.

Step Three: Grease the top of large muffin tins. Insert paper cups and spoon batter to the top of the paper cups. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Step Four: Reduce heat to 400 degrees, place muffin tins on middle shelf of oven. Bake about 25 minutes, until muffins are golden brown. Remove muffins from tins and cool.  


Nixie Strazza

Instructions from Marian Burros’s original article

½ cup softened “butter”

1 ¼ cups sugar

2 “eggs”

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour (2-3 tbsp reserved for tossing blueberries)

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup “milk”

2 cups blueberries, washed, drained and picked over

3 teaspoons sugar for topping

Optional 1 tsp lemon zest

Step One: Preheat the oven to 375

Step Two: Cream the butter and 1 ¼ cups sugar until light.

Step Three: Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

Step Four: Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, and add the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.

Step Five: Crush ½ cup blueberries with a fork, and mix into the batter. Fold in the remaining whole blueberries.

Step Six: Line a 12 cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners, and fill with batter. Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons sugar over the tops of the muffins, and bake at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes.

Step Seven: Remove muffins from tin and cool for at least 30 minutes. Store, uncovered, or the muffins will be too moist the second day, if they last that long. 

Nixie Strazza

Notes: A tip I found helpful was tossing the berries in flour before incorporating them into the batter. This prevented them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin during baking. The addition of lemon zest complimented the blueberries and elevated the overall flavor of the muffin. While I used applesauce as my egg substitute, check out this nifty guide from Madhurm’s Eggless Cooking detailing the conversions and explanations for a dozen commonly used egg replacers.

Photos by Coby Resnick @coby_resnick

Special thanks to Ani Feinberg