Mackinac Island Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

blueberry muffins I’m taking a quick vacation from Italian cooking to bring you this recipe for mini sugar-dipped blueberry-lemon muffins from Mackinac Island. I’ve been making them for a couple of decades, long before I ever set foot on the island.

It never occurred to me to post the recipe here. But the other day I shared the above photo on Instagram and on my Facebook page and got numerous requests for it. While I don’t often veer from the subject of Italian cooking on this blog, I occasionally do, and this recipe is certainly worth a detour.

Also, I’m married to a Michiganian (or Michigander, depending on your preference). We head to northern Michigan every August, and outside of Italy it is probably my favorite destination. Scroll down for the recipe; keep reading for some trivia about Mackinac Island.

mackinac island tree

1. It’s pronounced Mack-in-AW, not Mack-in-ACK.

2. The island is located in the Straits of Mackinac, between the mainland and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

3. You need to take a ferry to get there. Cars were banned back in 1898 (kind of ironic when you think about where the car was invented, but still a good decision). Bicycles, horse & buggy and your own two feet are the only means of transportation.

4. If you take the ferry from St. Ignace in the UP, you will have to cross the Mackinac Bridge, a suspension bridge that spans 26,371 feet (5 miles),  8,614 feet suspended). Yes, the Mighty Mac is a little scary and, indeed, since it opened in 1957 two cars have plummeted 200 feet into the icy waters below (a Yugo was blown off in 1989 during a gusty rainstorm and an SUV apparently drove off it in 1997). Here’s more on the world’s scariest bridges.

5. Native Americans were the first visitors to Mackinac island. They named it Michilimackinac and considered it a sacred place. They traveled to the island in summer to fish for trout, pike, sturgeon, herring and whitefish. European settlers arrived in 1670, and in the 1700s the island was occupied by French soldiers (who built Fort Michilimackinac). It became a U.S. territory following the American Revolution but was captured by the British during the War of 1812. The peace treaty ending the war returned ownership to the United States.*

6. Fur trading and then commercial fishing were the island’s primary industries during the 1800s. Towards the end of the century the island became a destination for travelers. mackinac grand hotel

7. The Grand Hotel, a palatial resort with a 660-foot porch facing the Straits of Mackinac, opened its doors in 1887.

8. In 1889, George Murdick opened the first fudge and candy shop on the Mackinac Island. Today, the town’s main street is littered rich with fudge shops: Murdick’s, Kilwin’s, Ryba’s, and May’s among them.

9. Two feature-length movies were filmed on the island: “This Time for Keeps” (1947), starring Esther Williams and Jimmy Durante; and “Somewhere in Time” (1980), starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. mackinac cairns

10. You can bike around the periphery of the island. It’s a picturesque, easy and mostly flat 8-mile ride with spectacular views. Constructing cairns along the stony shores seems to be a thing.

As for the muffins, the recipe is said to come from the Hotel Iroquois. I found it in Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. There is a generous quantity of blueberries in the batter (Michigan grows great blueberries), plus a little lemon zest. Once baked, the muffins are dipped in butter and then sugar.

You don’t have to cross the Mighty Mac to enjoy these muffins. Actually, you don’t have to cross the bridge to get to Mackinac Island either; you can just take the ferry from Mackinaw City (yes, it’s MackinAW City). Either way, you should put Mackinac Island on your bucket list. It’s worth the trip. Till then, there are blueberry muffins.

* Hat tip to the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which printed the brochure from which I got much of the information for this post.

Makes 24 mini muffins

Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

These muffins have long been served at the Iroquois Hotel, on Michigan's Mackinac Island. The baked muffins are dipped in melted butter and then sugar, to give them a lightly crunchy topping. In spite of that sweet topping the muffins themselves, studded with blueberries and brightened with lemon zest, are light and not too sweet. This recipe comes from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads (Simon & Schuster).


  • Muffins
  • 2 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (1/2 tablespoon)

  • Glaze
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar


Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat mini-muffin tins with vegetable oil or cooking spray (I use one large tin with 24 little cups).

Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine.

In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and beat with a whisk for 10 seconds. Add the milk and oil and whisk gently to blend.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the egg-milk mixture. Stir as little as possible, just enough to moisten the flour.

Combine the blueberries with the lemon zest and fold into the muffin batter. Again stir gently and as little as possible. Spoon the batter into the tins.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 30 minutes, until risen and golden on top. Remove the tins from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Make the glaze: Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Pour the sugar into a small bowl. Gently pry out the muffins, one at a time, and dip the tops first in butter and then in sugar. Enjoy them warm or let them cool completely on the rack.

NOTE These muffins are best fresh but you can store them for up to 3 days at room temperature in a tightly lidded container.

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24 Responses to Mackinac Island Blueberry-Lemon Muffins

  1. Rosa Mayland August 27, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    A beautiful and peaceful island. Those muffins look perfect for taking on a picnic on Mackinac.



    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

      A belated thank you, Rosa. You’re right ~ those are perfect Mackinac picnic muffins. xo

  2. Jean | August 27, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    I love Mackinac Island! And Michiganders! These muffins look temting.

    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

      Thanks for reading, Jean. Isn’t Mackinac wonderful? Especially at this time of year once the hordes have departed 😉

  3. Alicia Sokol August 27, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    I had lunch at the Hotel Iroquois after biking around the island! Loved it. And I learned a new term you will enjoy…you, like me, are married to a Michigangster (or my preferred – the Michigangsta)

  4. paula August 27, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    Thank you once again for sharing the recipe! These muffins are already on my To Bake list.
    I absolutely love all your recipes. I lived in Italy for almost a year and felt in love with the food and the people. And some of the recipes you are sharing here remind me of my time there. Thank you. Paula. @Egoniac

    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Paula, thanks for reading and for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed your time in Italy. I hope you’ll be going back…

  5. Ciao Chow Linda August 27, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    Domenica – I’ve got a good recipe too, for blueberry muffins, and it sounds a lot like yours, but I haven’t put that butter/sugar glaze over the top. It’s high time I tried it, however. The photos of the island look so inviting. Some day I’d love to visit there. Hope you had a fun and restful time on vacation.

    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

      Linda, I think you would like Mackinac Island, and the lake towns of northern Michigan on the Lake Michigan coast. So picturesque, a great local food scene and a a growing wine industry.

  6. Laney August 28, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    I still have very fond memories of taking the ferry to Makinac Island and spending the day riding bikes with my now husband (a longggg time ago while we were dating)…yeah, all those fudge shops. And love the muffin recipe!

    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

      Thanks Laney. What is it about vacation spots and fudge shops? Although Mackinac’s first shops date way back to the late 19th century. I’m just not sure they need quite so many.

  7. Adri Barr Crocetti August 29, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    What a beautiful place. I don’t know much about Michigan, even though my family lived there for a time before they came to Los Angeles – way back in the forties after The War. So thank you for the enlightenment. I do know Bernard Clayton’s book however, and it is a treasure. These little muffins sound like the kind of thing Bart and I would absolutely devour. Thanks for presenting them. And as for the detour from Italian, when something is a good as this, I say why not?

    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

      Wow ~ I am convinced that everyone has a Michigan connection. It’s nice to see your avatar back here, Adri. Hope you are well! xo

  8. Phyllis@Oracibo August 30, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    Domenica, you know my first love is Italian cooking but then like you I detour and mostly when it comes to baking! Here in British Columbia we grow an amazing amount of wonderful blueberries! Your muffins remind me of ones I have been making for probably at least 100 years (just kidding), here is the link so you can have a look…they also have the butter/sugar topping…always a big hit when I was private chefing!

    • Domenica Marchetti September 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Phyllis, thank you for sharing the link. One day I hope to get up your way. I haven’t seen much of Canada (Montreal when I was too young to remember, Toronto and Windsor). I know there is much, much more.

      • Phyllis @ Oracibo September 2, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

        Domenica, I really hope you get to the west coast, it is truly gorgeous what with the Pacific ocean, the Coast mountains and the mild climate (if you don’t mind a little rain), I tell people it’s good for the complexion! When you come, you must let me know!

  9. Chiara September 1, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    che bel posto Domenica, splendide foto ! I tuoi muffin hanno un aspetto molto goloso ! Buona settimana, un abbraccio !

  10. eastofedencook September 4, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

    I’m not sure what I most enjoyed about this splendid post, the scrumptious muffins or learning about the enchanting Mackinac Island!

  11. Laura (Tutti Dolci) September 25, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

    I wish I had seen this post earlier – I must try these muffins next year, the sugar topping looks so good! Mackinac Island looks positively idyllic!

  12. Christy Gassett January 14, 2017 at 6:31 pm #

    Made these Muffins this morning. Oh my goodness, they are so good! Thank you for posting!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 14, 2017 at 9:22 pm #

      So nice to hear this. Thanks, Christy! I’m glad you enjoyed them.


  1. Remember Mackinac Island With Pink Ponies, Geraniums And Fudge | beesfirstappearance - September 28, 2016

    […] you enjoy a lunch of local whitefish, the perennial Great Lakes favorite. Bite-sized sugar-dipped blueberry-lemon muffins are another Hotel Iroquois […]

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