Fresh cherries are one of the highlights of summer fruit, but beware their high-staining juice. Dishtowels, aprons, and your shirt all are at risk of becoming pink polka dotted.
Fingernails stained burgundy from pitting deep red cherries, I was baking a sweet surprise for some friends. A golden crusted cake with cherries peaking through the top was sure to delight. Old-fashioned flavor and simple preparation make this one of my go-to summer desserts.
I love cakes you can whip up quickly in a bowl, pour into a pan and bake. With a short list of ingredients, all you need is a springform pan and some parchment paper. Springform pans are handy to have in your tool kit and parchment paper is incredibly useful. Here, it’s cut into rounds to line the pan. You can also purchase pre-cut rounds from most cooking stores.
For simplicity sake I’m calling this a cake. The original recipe called it a torte. I think it’s really a French clafouti; a country-French dessert made with fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a thick batter. Some are more cake-like, some more pudding-like. This one is on the cakey side but still nice and moist.
Thanks to cookbook author and teacher, Tori Ritchie, I first came across this recipe while taking classes at Tante Marie Cooking School in San Francisco more than a decade ago. Published by food writer and author Marian Burros and Lois Levine, the original recipe was for a plum torte. It’s one of the most requested recipes from the NY Times archives.
Instead of plums, I use fresh cherries. I’ve also traded out the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour, which lends a nice texture and bit of a nutty flavor. Almond extract replaces the vanilla, and a splash of Amaretto at the end adds even more almond flavor.
When placing cherries on top of the batter, squeeze in as many as you can in a single layer. The batter will rise up around them as the cake bakes.
For serving, all this cake needs is the simple embellishment of a little powdered sugar or a small scoop of ice cream. No fancy, sugary, buttery (high fat and calorie) icing required.
Adapted from Marian Burros and Lois Levine
- Non-stick spray
- 24-28 large, dark red fresh cherries
- 1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) whole wheat pastry flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 teaspoon (5 grams) aluminum-free baking powder
- pinch of table salt
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (5 1/2 ounces or 165 grams) organic cane sugar (Wholesome Sweeteners)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur (optional)
- 1 extra tablespoon of sugar (1/2 ounce or 13 grams)
- Position oven rack in the center and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees (177 C)
- Prepare your pan. Spray the bottom of a 9″ (23 cm) springform pan with non-stick spray and line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper.
- Start by washing, stemming and pitting your cherries. You can use a cherry pitter tool or a paring knife. Push the cherry through the tool to remove the pit or cut cherry in half and remove the pit. If cherries are whole, halve them top to bottom. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat, vigorously whisking by hand, or with a hand-held electric mixer and beaters. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated and the batter is smooth. Add in the almond extract. Add in the flour blend and stir to incorporate until smooth. Batter will be thick.
- Scrape batter into the pan and smooth to the edges with a flexible spatula. Place the cherries cut side down on top of the batter completely covering the top of the batter. Sprinkle the top with the one extra tablespoon of sugar and drizzle with the Amaretto if using. Bake cake until deep golden on top, about 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester, toothpick or paring knife inserted in the center come out clean.
- Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool 10 minutes. Run a thin, flexible paring knife around the inside of the pan edge to free the cake. Pop the spring and remove the sides of the pan. If serving warm, slice into eight pieces. Serve plain, or dust with powdered sugar. A small scoop of ice cream is also nice.
Cake can be made a day ahead, cooled, wrapped well in plastic film and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
The original plum torte recipe, from the NY TImes
Fun story about the original recipe and it’s popularity
Explanation of the baking term “creaming”, which emulsifies the sugar and butter
If you get to San Francisco, Tante Marie is a fun place to take cooking classes. Check out their class list and book ahead of your trip.
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