cherry upside-down cake

I recently came across a bowlful of cherries languishing in the fridge — a little too soft for eating plain, but too firm and fresh to throw out. What to do, what to do?

Here’s what to do: cherry upside-down cake.

Sorry, this sweet-tart sweetheart of a cake disappeared too fast for photos. I just want to preserve the recipe (more of a guideline, really) for the future, so I can make it again.

~ 2 cups pitted cherries, coarsely broken
4 TBS butter
0.75 cup brown sugar
a glug of kirsch
lemon zest, freshly grated nutmeg, pinch of salt

Dump the cherries into a saucepan and pour in a good glug of kirsch. Simmer over medium heat until the cherries soften slightly. The cherries will exude some delicious juice. (If your cherries are too old and dry to give out their juice, add a small quantity of water or more kirsch.) Remove from heat and stir in butter, sugar, nutmeg, zest, and salt. Stir to combine, let cool until just warm.

Pour the cherry mixture (juice and fruit) into an ungreased pan. I used one 7-inch ceramic pan and several individual tart pans placed on a baking sheet for easier handling. If you use springform or other removable-bottom pans, crimp foil around the bottom to contain the sticky juice, which burns like crazy if it leaks out onto the sheet.

Now mix your cake batter:

1 cup flour
0.5 cup almond meal*
1 tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 egg
0.5 cup plain yogurt (full-fat or lowfat, not fat-free) mixed with 0.25 cup water
0.5 cup sugar
3 TBS butter, melted
nutmeg, lemon zest

Sift or stir together dry ingredients. Preheat oven to 400 F.

In medium bowl, beat egg well, add yogurt and sugar, beat again. Stir in butter and seasoning.

Gently stir in dry ingredients, scraping up from the bottom of the bowl to incorporate fully.

With a large spoon, drop batter over warm (but not hot!) cherry mixture. You may need to spread the batter gently to cover the cherries; don’t worry if the cake layer seems a bit sparse and thin. The cake will spring up slightly during cooking, and the syrup will cook into it a bit.

Let sit ten minutes. Place in preheated oven and bake until surface is golden brown and springs back when touched. For me, that was ~15-20 minutes for the individual cakes, and perhaps 30 minutes for the larger cake. Remove from oven, let cool at least fifteen minutes before inverting.

You can also leave this cake happily in its pan, cooled completely and tightly covered. In that case, warm slightly before serving and either invert or serve slices directly from the pan.

I served this warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s lovely: not too sweet, a little tangy, and with a nice rich complexity from the nuts.

alternatives: I have since made this cake with frozen blueberries (added after the syrup was removed from heat) in place of the cherries, and added a pinch of cinnamon to the fruit. It was sweeter, simpler, less sophisticated, but perfectly lovely and a great choice for winter months, when cherries are gone but the freezer is packed with blueberries.

Though vanilla ice cream was a winner, creme fraiche or whipped cream would also make a nice foil to the rich dark flavor of the cherry-topped cake.

* I keep homemade almond meal in an air-tight container in the freezer. Making it is simple: toast almonds, let them cool completely, and grind them in the blender or food processor. Do not over-process, or you will make mealy almond butter.

2 thoughts on “cherry upside-down cake

  1. Not only do I have kirsch lying around; I’ve been through a couple of bottles in as many years. If you don’t have it, use triple sec, schnapps, whatever fruit-essence thing you do have lying around. Or skip the booze and just splash the fruit with a little water or orange juice.

    I never used to keep kirsch in the bar. Then Elli & JM taught me to make fondue, which required the purchase of a bottle of cheap kirsch. I have since found a use for it about once a week: rehydrating dried cherries and cranberries for cookies, macerating fruit to serve over ice cream, in fruit-filled cakes and pastries, and of course in our now-traditional Christmas fondue.

    Kirsch: buy it for the fondue, keep it for the fruit desserts.

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