sour cherries came, and we celebrated with a grown-up crumble. then they were gone, and we mourned. the sorrow of not having bought enough of these tangy jewels could only be assuaged with the arrival of mounds of dark, juicy, sweet cherries. i spent the weekend with a big bowl of fresh cherries on the counter, popping a few in my mouth every time i walked by. and in between grazing i pondered how best to share these succulent little fruits with you. this week we are halfway through the food network’s summerfest, so i wanted a suitably enticing dish.
in the end, i was inspired as much by the cherries as by the hot summer air filled with the scent of flowers and herbs and everything in bloom. a late dinner outside of pesto and wine (until the mosquitoes chased us in) reminded me of italy. and this line of thinking brought me quickly to some of the wonderful olive oil cakes i have tasted over the years. one of my favorites is a blood orange olive oil cake recipe from the new york times, which is often requested for family gatherings. i was also inspired by a sneak peek at mario batali’s new cookbook, which also includes a recipe for a citrus- and olive oil-based cake. cakes made with olive oil are dense and moist, with a slightly savory note that balances well with citrus. cherries, in fresh and dried form, go well with everything from pies to roast lamb, so i figured, why not combine them with olive oil as well? i was very glad i did. i also moistened things up with some local vermont honey and some smooth swiss kirschwasser. the olive oil tempered the sweetness of the honey while lending a luscious texture to the cake, and the cherries held their shape, offering firm, sweet accents to every bite.
someday i will enjoy this cake with a glass of moscato d’asti while sitting at a wooden table, outside, shaded by a grapevine-covered trellis, overlooking sweeping vineyards and stone chateaux in the tuscan countryside. but until we all find ourselves in similarly perfect surroundings, i suggest you create your own escape by savoring this heavenly cake for breakfast, lunch, dessert, or whenever the mood strikes!
italian cherry cake
serves 8 to 10
3 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup cornmeal
2 1/4 cups sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup kirschwasser
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1. preheat the oven to 350°f. grease a 9-inch round cake pan and coat evenly with the 3 tablespoons cornmeal.
2. in a medium bowl combine the cherries and lemon juice and macerate, using a fork or potato masher to extract juice from the cherries, until you have about 1/2 cup liquid (you can add more lemon juice if necessary). then add the kirschwasser, lemon zest, and olive oil and set aside.
3. in another medium bowl, sift together the flour, 1/4 cup cornmeal, and baking powder and set aside.
4. in a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt until light and frothy. slowly mix in the sugar and honey, beating until pale and thick, about 2 minutes.
5. gradually mix the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until fully incorporated. then fold in the cherry mixture until just combined.
6. pour the batter into the greased and cornmealed cake pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (if the top of the cake looks in danger of burning before the cake is fully cooked, simply cover with a sheet of tinfoil.)
7. remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack for about 20 minutes. then remove the cake from the pan and let cool to room temperature. serve with a scoop of ice cream for maximum satisfaction!
kirschwasser: a strong, clear liquor made from cherries, most famously in the german-speaking part of switzerland. it can be sipped during or after a hearty meal, or used in making cakes, fondues, and other delicacies.
moscato d’asti: a sparkling, sweet wine with a low alcohol content, made from the moscato bianco grape in the piedmont region of italy.
macerate: in food preparation, to soften or break an ingredient into pieces using liquid.
for some more ways to enjoy cherries, check out the following blogs:
What’s Gaby Cooking: Cherry Chocolate Truffle Ice Cream
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Cherry Cornmeal Cake
Cooking With Elise: Roasted Cherries with Lavender and Almond Panna Cotta
Daydreamer Desserts: Cherry Crumble Cake
Ingredient Challenge Monday: Black Forest Ice Cream Done Two Ways
Spices and Aroma: Dilkush with Cherries
And Love It Too: Cherry-Pecan Chicken Salad
FN Dish: The Ultimate Cherry Pie
Daily*Dishin: Simple French Cherry Clafouti
Glory Foods: Collard Greens and Cherry Reduction
Chez Us: Gluten-Free Cherry Clafoutis
Food for 7 Stages of Life: South Indian Hot and Sour Soup
Virtually Homemade: Dark Chocolate Cherry Kuchen
In Jennie’s Kitchen: Cherry Conserves
The Sensitive Epicure: Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Clafouti
Cooking Channel: Very Cherry Sangria
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cherry Balsamic Vinegar
Zaika Zabardast: Balsamic Cherry and Peach Crisp
Mooshu Jenne: Rainier Cherry Panna Cotta
Virtually Vegan Mamma: Fresh Cherry and Almond Scones
Sweet Life Bake: Honey-Tequila Pickled Cherries
Cooking With Books: Cherry Cooler
Recipe Girl: Cherry Limeade Pound Cake