High Country Baking: All-seasons cherry almond cake
High Country Baking
Cherries and almonds are a classic combination. The play between the soft fruit and crunchy nuts always gets high marks. In this recipe, they’re scattered throughout a mildly sweet one-layer cake, giving it flavor and an appealingly moist, pebbly texture. And there’s no need to wait for the brief time that fresh cherries are available — it uses frozen ones so you can make it anytime. It’s a light, easy to prepare dessert that presents well, is worthy of company and could be served at brunch or after dinner.
The size of your pan is important: It should be 9 inches in diameter. My springform pan claims to be 9 1/2 inches wide but is actually only 9 inches, so it was the perfect choice for this cake. Measure your pans before selecting the one you’ll use and don’t go with a one smaller than 9 inches across.
The cherries also make a difference in the cake’s success. Find frozen ones (they actually have more intense flavor than fresh ones when baked) that have a taste you like. Then thaw them, dry them and dry them again just before adding them to the batter. Too much juice will result in a cake with a soggy, unappealing texture.
If you like a sweet cake, you can add another 1–2 tablespoons of sugar to the batter in step two. Vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream are good accompaniments.
All-seasons cherry almond cake
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s
- 3 jumbo eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 10 to 12 ounces frozen pitted dark cherries, thawed and dried
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Grease your pan with a baking spray that contains flour, and spread it evenly with a paper towel. Set the pan aside.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl or two-cup measure, whisk to blend and set aside. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them to a mixing bowl with the sugar and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat after each addition until smooth and blended. Include the almond and vanilla extracts with the last egg. With the mixer on its lowest speed or by hand, gently stir in the flour mixture only until no flour is visible and the batter is smooth. Don’t overmix.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth and level it. Use a paper towel to quickly redry the cherries before scattering them in an irregular pattern over the top. (If the cherries are too wet, the texture of the cake will be soggy and dense, and the cake might fall while baking.) Sprinkle on the sliced almonds.
4. Bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (40-45 minutes in a springform pan, a little longer in a pie pan). Remove the cake to a rack to cool. If the top puffed up while baking, gently press it down with the back of a spoon so it’s level while the cake is still warm and pliable. You can serve the cake about 20 minutes after it’s out of the oven, but it’s at its best and easiest to cut if you cool it completely and refrigerate it, covered, up to one day. Cut it while it’s cold and warm the slices, if desired, in a microwave or 325 degree oven until warm to the touch. While most prefer it served warm, some claim it’s best at room temperature or even cool.
Editor’s note: This cake recipe is a variation of one published by Martha Stewart.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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