Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars

This is a hard story to write — hard enough that it’s taken me almost two months to even attempt it. I still feel raw about it, and I still don’t know how to address the situation head-on. So I’ll just muddle through it the best way I can.

On November 28, Mike and I broke up. It was a cold day, and I dropped him off at the train station so he could head back to Raleigh. Watching him close the door and walk into the station was like watching a movie, except that it wasn’t fiction. I knew we were about to travel a rocky road, but there was no way to switch off the television, no credits to roll — just the aftermath to clean up as best we could.

4,237 days (or 11 years, 7 months, and 5 days) earlier, I had just turned 15 years old. I was sitting in my room, looking out the window, and talking to Mike on the phone. He had something to ask me, but was obviously nervous: “If I were to ask you . . . something . . . what would you say?”

I helped him get to the point. Yes, I want to be your girlfriend. I couldn’t have imagined at that moment where the next 12 years would take us. Who knows when they’re 15 that they’re embarking on something monumental?

Over the years, our relationship brought us trials, for sure.

It also brought me through high school. Sometimes I’d leave school and drive straight to his apartment to watch Star Trek and eat Hamburger Helper (my early attempts at “cooking for him”).

It took me to college, coming home to see him every weekend. It took me off to the coast to study marine zoogeography for a semester — I remember the strain of distance, calling every night on my newly acquired cell phone, and his visit out to Atlantic Beach to see me.

Our relationship saw me through my first teaching job, a tumultuous experience for me. In the first hopeful, idealistic days before I began, he came and painted every single one of my lab tables a deep green to cover the graffiti. Later in the year, when my administration decided to switch my classroom and everything went wrong, my clean tables were mixed in with others and his hard work was lost. He was still there, though, helping me pack up boxes and carry them down the hallway to my new room.

The relationship also saw me through my year as a research technician and, finally, to my position at Woodlawn, the wonderful school where I now teach.

It saw Mike through college at UNCC. He rocketed through in 3 years with nearly perfect grades. It also saw him move his life three hours north to a new city this past fall to begin graduate school at NC State. It saw us through celebrations, new beginnings, and difficult endings. I wouldn’t trade a single day.

These Berry Crumble Bars were actually made at the very tail end of summer and are one of the only dishes I ever photographed at Mike’s apartment in Raleigh. I brought them up to share with him and my little brother, who is an undergraduate at NC State. The bars are buttery, crumbly, slightly lemony, and bright — almost cobbleresque, and perfect with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

The original recipe used only blueberries, but throwing in other berries or even combining berries is an easy way to create multiple varieties of crumble bars; I settled on blueberry and raspberry. Mike and I probably ate a billion of them over the course of my visit. I had a way of encouraging him to have dessert after every meal. I’m sure you’re not surprised.

So what do you say at the end of a story about a breakup? I think in this case, thank you. Thank you, Mike, for being who you are, and for 12 wonderful years. Thank you, God, for the promise that all things are working together for good for me (Romans 8:28). Thank you, friends and family and lovely readers, for your support during a rough time. Here’s to weathering loss and embracing the future — and to dessert!

Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars

Recipe by: Adapted from My Baking Addiction
Yields: 9 raspberry bars and 9 blueberry bars

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup white sugar
3 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line a 9Γ—13 inch pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In a separate, small bowl, beat together the egg, lemon juice, and vanilla. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut the butter and egg mixture into the flour to form a crumbly dough. Press half of dough evenly into prepared pan.

In two additional bowls, mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch. Gently mix blueberries into one bowl and raspberries into the other. Sprinkle berries evenly over pressed dough — I did half the pan with blueberries and half with raspberries, but you could alternate or even mix the berries if you’d rather. Crumble the rest of the dough over top of the berries. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until slightly brown. Cool completely (and even chilling a little helps to ensure they’ll hold together) before cutting into squares. These bars are fun because you can have two different flavors (blueberry and raspberry) or cut your bars such that you have a combination of both berries.

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122 responses to “Lemon Berry Crumble Breakup Bars

  1. These are very beautiful photographs. I don’t know what to say except I’m so sorry.

  2. Sue

    You have a good attitude and a lot of faith, which will serve you well in whatever comes your way! Woo Hoo for the future!

    The raspberry crumble bars are my favorite! YUM:)

  3. Oh sweet, sweet Julie. If you lived near me I would have you over and we would enjoy good food, watch some endearing movie and chat. I’m sure there’s more to it deep down than what you wrote, but I admire your thankful heart. You have a beautiful heart!

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  5. Em

    I’m sorry to hear about the breakup, but you have such a wonderful attitude about it and I hope you find happiness soon! The bars certainly look like they’ll bring me a bit of happiness when I get around to baking them πŸ™‚

  6. Hayley

    I’m so sorry to hear about you and Mike. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this is not the end for you both, but just a bump in the road.

  7. Cygninae

    A beautiful-sad post. I’m so sorry to hear of your breakup. Wishing you as much strength as there is deliciousness in your cooking, and that things work out well in whatever way they need to do so.

  8. Steve

    Hugs. Beautiful, intimate words. My heart goes out to you.

  9. Break ups are never easy! My cousin was in a relationship for thaat long (starting from high school) and they recently broke up. Just a few months later I could see how much happier he ended up being! Meanwhile, delicious desserts are always a good way to deal!

  10. As one door closes, another opens. I’m sure you know that and you’ll find that open door. Meantime, keep baking! And blogging!!

  11. Sniff, sniff 😦

    I so want to bake something for you right now xxx

  12. Meggie Wallace

    *hugs* Best to you. I love your blog so much, and seeing blogs like yours really encourage me to get up and get things done, personally and in the kitchen. This is just SOOO darn bittersweet.

    The dessert, however, is just sweet!! πŸ™‚ Looks delicious.

  13. Lisa Bruffey

    Oh my goodness Julie! I believe God brings special people into our lives to walk with us during our life journey. Unbeknownst to us, they leave little gifts in our hearts along the way. I believe you give me (and your readers) special gifts every time you share a piece of yourself. Thank you!

    Lisa Bruffey

  14. Julie, I don’t know what to say other than that I am so sorry. Goodbyes are never easy – especially when that person has been a part of you for so many years. Hugs to you! 😦

    Oh, and those lemon berry crumble bars look amazing!! πŸ™‚

  15. I am so sorry. Break ups are so hard. These bars look amazing. The perfect sweet treat to mend a broken heart. ((hugs))

  16. Big hugs to you, my dear. Your positive spirit is inspirational. And as the song says (I have to remind myself of this all the time), “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

  17. I was afraid this was your news. I had an inkling from one of your recent posts. I am so, so sorry to hear about you and Mike. You seem so resilient, so much more resilient than I was after breaking up from a relationship that only lasted half as long. I’m sure everything will be okay eventually… I can tell you that I never thought they would be for me… and now I am marrying the best guy in the entire world (to me). Things do happen for a reason, though it’s hard to remember that when the worst things are happening to us. Though I’ve never met you in person, I know you are a kind, thoughtful, generous person, and I’m sure everything will work out for the best!

    On a much happier note… how awesome are these lemon berry crumble bars?!

  18. No words. Just (((((hugs)))))

  19. Denise

    What an emotional post for you to have to write and it was written so beautifully. Unfortunately we have to endure some very difficult times but as we move along in life’s journey we realize that each thing prepares us for the next leg of the journey. Hugs to you! Keep up the blogging, you have a gift!

  20. Such a touching and beautiful story, Julie. Thank you for sharing it.

  21. I am so so sorry Julie. I never realized how long you and Mike were together! That is crazy. It sounds like you had some amazing times together but I am also sure that you have many beautiful things in your life yet to come. ❀

  22. This was such a captivating post. I was glued to your words all the way through the end. I love your ability to tie your recipes into stories about life. I’m so sorry to hear about this, but I am praying for you that everyday gets easier and everyday you’re a little bit more sure why you guys made the decision that you did and why it’s the right one. Hang in there girlie. :-/

  23. I’m sorry to hear about the breakup. Hang in there.

    The bars look beautiful, but then all your dishes do. πŸ™‚

  24. I’m sorry to heat it, but I’m happy to see that you’re being so positive about the changes. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    These bars look delicious. I can’t wait for berries to come back into season!

  25. Cynthia

    Julie, now is the perfect time in your young life to continue blessing us with your passion to prepare and present lovely and delicious food. You have a delightful personality which we all have grown to love and admire. Please continue cooking with increased enthusiasm and your efforts will be rewarded by our thoughts and prayers for your hard work.

  26. You never fail to impress me with your honesty and your positivity. You have such a great attitude–I look forward to the day we can meet!

  27. Julie, I’m so sorry for your hurt. I’m glad you gave yourself time to write this, and let yourself get to the point where your words are a testimony of your love and faith, because they are. πŸ™‚ And I know that doesn’t mean that you don’t fall apart or that it doesn’t just completely break your heart over and over sometimes. I love you!

    Also, as I said before, I absolutely love love love how you incorporate life into your food blog. Love.

  28. Breakups suck. Baking helps. Eating isn’t supposed to help, but it’s sure done me a world of good during sucky breakups. Deep breaths, let yourself cry when you need to, and keep the sweets coming. Then go run it off. Eventually things get better. xoxoxoxo

  29. Alyse

    I thank you for being so honest in your loss and this new time in your life. I will pray for you.

  30. Robin

    Sorry to hear about you and Mike. People come in and out of our lives for a reason, to teach us lessons about life and ourselves that we need to learn. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn the lesson, sometimes a week, or a month or a year (or 12 years). Sounds like you both learned a lot. I am sure that your future holds great things and that you have many more adventures to experience. Keep your chin up girl, because you never know who or what is coming down the proverbial road.

  31. I’m so sorry to hear about your break up. It’s really difficult when you meet so young and lasts a long time, but not forever. The story of my first marriage, so I can relate. I hope you have a new story to tell in the future. The years past will always be a valuable treasure. I just celebrated 25 happy years of marriage with the wonderful man I married in my 30’s.

  32. Thanks for an achingly beautiful and honest post. I know the crumble bars won’t fill the hole, but sharing beauty does help a little. Be well.

  33. Lorraine McNeair

    I feel sad for you. Hope life gets better for you along the track.

  34. Tastes Better With Friends

    Don’t really know what to say, other than I hope you’re well and from the little I know about you, you are tough and you’ll manage just fine! Take care of yourself.

  35. Oh Julie! Sending you all the hugs and chocolate in the world. Lots of love headed your way from me!

  36. Wow. Julie, this is so simply and powerfully written. Sending hugs across the web! Keep your head up! Thanks so much for sharing.

  37. Oh dear…. is this some sort of bad dream post where you will write the sequel n say u were joking…..
    I felt so happy n sad reading this post…… happy for the wonderful moments spent together n sad that you guys are parting ways……..

  38. Fran

    I’ve just left a 20+ year relationship…comfort food does help:)
    This process known as our lives is a wonderful road when you know there is a true reason for all of the hard stuff…great things are on the way! I make something very similar to this but have never liked the blueberry-the raspberry rocks. Good luck, stay strong and God bless you girl.

  39. Everyone else has said it all but I do know this. When my husband of 16 years informed me one morning that he was leaving (imagine why and you would be right!), my life felt destroyed. My children and I went through some very difficult times but we kept putting one foot forward and now, many years later, I can share with you how very much it was meant to be. How things that I’ve experienced would never have been if that moment had not happened.

    I never expected in that moment to be able to say what I can today; it was the best thing that ever happened to me! Just thought you should know.

    • Barbara, what an encouraging comment — thank you so much for sharing what was surely an emotional memory for you. That is exactly how I’m beginning to feel after two months — that this was definitely the right thing, and that things will be okay. I’m so glad your hard times worked for good for you!!

  40. Oh honey…I’m sure you are tired of hearing it but I’m so sorry that you are hurting. People come in and out of our lives for many different reasons. I’m glad you were able to learn and grow with Mike but now it’s time for you to learn and grow on your own…then with someone else down the road maybe.

    These bars look delicious. And they are perfect for this “announcement.” Sweet and bitter all at the same time.

    Thank you for sharing with us. My thoughts are with you girl! ((HUGS))

  41. Wow, you are so eloquent and the pictures are stunning. I know you will be happy in whatever you choose to move onto!!!

  42. Oh, lots and lots of hugs headed your way from me – coupled with visions of tea + dessert, a listening ear, and encouraging words. So glad to hear that you’re working through it and to see all these wonderful people supporting you!

  43. L

    I started to read your blog a few months ago from BakeBakeBake, but I think this is the first time I’ve commented. Thank you for sharing your story. You seem like such a sweet and genuine person with so much to give. Obviously such a long and significant relationship can take a long time to heal, but I’m sure the short- and long-term future has many great things in store for you!

  44. Oh my gosh. Your post touched me so much. Wow. Deep breaths. I am so proud that you are taking comfort in Romans in this difficult time. I have had my share of break-ups and God seems to be the last place I go. Well, I go to Him first to blame Him. Not good. You seem to be in a healthy place already. I’m so impressed.

    Thank you so much for sharing this in such a public way. You are inspiring.

    I’m so glad I got to meet you in SF! πŸ™‚

  45. When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. A new beautiful life is on it’s way!

  46. Keep taking it one day at a time, and things will get better! And, you have a great recipe you can whip up anytime to turn your bad days into better ones.

  47. Hey Julie! I just gave you a “Stylish Blogger” Award on my blog! Definitely don’t feel obligated to repost it if you’ve already received it or just don’t want to. I know these things go around the blogosphere a lot! πŸ™‚

    I was just happy to link my readers to several blogs I think are great; yours being one of them! πŸ™‚

  48. Julie, I got chills reading this post. I’m so sorry to hear about you and Mike. I think you’ve got a great attitude towards it all though and it is really admirable *hugs* to you!

  49. I’m sorry to be reading this, yet I hate to say that I say it coming. Not because I knew it would end but because you haven’t been yourself (or what we know of you). I just felt something wasn’t quite right.

    I know it’s hard and it’s different to be living without someone who’s been by your side for 12 years but you will find yourself again and you will be okay. I hate that you are hurting though.

    Hugs, Monica

  50. Listen to this old lady. You had so much with him and now it’s the start of a new life. Pray for strength and you will see that life has so much to offer.

    I am so sorry, I know I had a few in my life and now that I look back I can say they were experinces that I hadt o go through to end up being quite happy with the person I am with.

    God bless you. I remember meeting you in San Fran and thinking “what a great gal you are”.

  51. Hi Julie,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now as I am an obsessed baker and food lover, but have never commented (I love your blog…it is so much fun to read and your photos are delightful!) Based on how many comments you have had on this post, it’s fair to assume that you have heard it a billion times already, but I’m sorry to hear about your breakup. It’s hard to move on from relationships, especially when they take us through so many years and life transitions. Three years ago I left a very rough relationship of 7 years to be with a new person (now my fiance!) who has made my life SO much happier. I wish you all the best in your healing and your new adventures. Thank you for always sharing your stories, and your food!!


  52. Rachel


    What a lovely bit of writing and an even lovelier recipe. Remember: in all difficult things comes opportunity. Seize it.

  53. thank you for this lovely recipe. Be gentle with you as you grieve the loss of your longstanding relationship.

  54. Sending hugs your way, Julie. Treasure the past and know that there will be many more happy days ahead. πŸ™‚ Those berry bars look scrumptious!

  55. Andrew

    Why’s everyone apologizing? You had a blast in your relationship, and I’m sure it helped mold you into the wonderful person who comes through in your words (and recipes). Cheers to you, new beginnings and definitely delicious food!

  56. Thank you for sharing. Here’s to new beginnings.
    (Btw, I found you via livejournal, but I like what I see, so I’m subscribing. Yay to finding new-to-me blogs!)

  57. Amanda

    This is a bit of a stupid question but does the butter have to be room temperature or is it ok cold? Thanks!!!

  58. Latifah

    Thank you for sharing your story and your recipe

  59. It was a difficult story to share, but I think you did it beautifully. And, I think sharing it will only make you stronger and will help you stay focused on the good things to come in your future.

  60. Amanda

    I made these and they were absolutely delicious. They turned out a little differently then i thought it would, i think that was user error though! I will DEFINITELY be making these again!! Thank you for sharing them!

  61. terry

    can these be frozen?

  62. Sarah Hankins

    These bars are amazing! I actually found them in the paper, just by chance. I never read the paper. I actually work at a bakery and was about to throw away the old paper and saw an article about baking and photography (two of my most favorite things to do!) So I stopped and read and got really excited. It’s awesome to see how someone sharing themselves can impact a whole lot of people. So I read this recipe and just had to make it and they turned out amazingly. I was wondering how you would feel if I gave the recipe to my boss, so we can start making them at the bakery? She wants to bring in something new and spring/summery and these are perfect! You could even drive down 16 from Charlotte to the corner of Newtown and try them. How would you feel about that?
    Just wanted to check with you before using your recipe. Again, thanks so much, and thanks for being honest. Especially as a follower of Jesus, showing people that we don’t have to keep it all together…it’s really nice to see that. I get tired of feeling like we have to pretend πŸ˜‰
    Thanks, and take care,

    • Hi Sarah, Please feel free! I actually adapted this recipe from another website, so I’m sure it’s made the rounds. Thanks so much for this sweet comment πŸ™‚ Please let me know if you end up using them — I’d love to come visit and grab one!

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