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As soon as sweet Bing cherries are in season, I cannot resist putting some aside to make this Cherry Cake. I love its polka dot design. It is very similar in looks to a Cherry Clafoutis, only instead of a thin pancake-like batter, the cherries are suspended in a buttery sweet almond flavored batter. It can be served warm from the oven, at room temperature, or even cold from the refrigerator.
This Cherry Cake has a sponge-like batter that is made by first beating the eggs with the sugar until very thick and light colored. Then vanilla extract and almond extract are added for flavoring, along with some milk and melted butter. Next, a mixture of all purpose (plain) flour and ground almonds (or almond meal/flour) are folded in. You can buy ground almonds or else take blanched almonds and process them in your food processor until finely ground. If you don’t want to add ground almonds you can replace them with an equal amount of all purpose flour.
A common problem when adding a heavy fruit like cherries to a batter is that the fruit tends to sink to the bottom of the pan during baking. While this in no way affects the flavor of the cake, it does not allow us to appreciate the cherry’s full beauty. To rectify this problem, instead of adding all the cherries when we mix the cake batter, we put some cherries aside. Then, about halfway through the baking time, we pull the cake from the oven and quickly place some cherries, that have been cut in half, on top of the partially baked cake. This step, while a little more time consuming, keeps the cherries floating on the top of the cake. With an added bonus of producing that wonderful polka dot pattern.
As always, it is important to choose your fruit carefully. Look for Bing cherries that are bright red, shiny, plump, and quite firm and make sure there is no browning around the stems. Once we have the cherries, we need to remove the pits. Pitting of cherries is always a tedious job and the task is made easier if you have a cherry pitter. However, if you do not own such a tool, than you need to do it by hand. The easiest way I have found to do this, is to make a small slit in the cherry, with a small sharp knife, from the stem end to the bottom of the cherry. Then, using the tip of the knife or your thumbnail, remove the pit. This process is best done over a bowl so any dripping juice will fall into the bowl and not stain your countertop.
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Article and Demonstration by Stephanie Jaworski
Photo and Videography by Rick Jaworski
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