For a brief and glorious time each year cherries are available, and I eat them all. Bing, rainier, and sour–each has their place. Rainer are crisp and delicate, with a hint of cream in the flavor. Their pale color turns out to be a real advantage if, say, you are sharing them with a toddler. I learned that lesson the hard way. But bing and sour are the champions of east coast cherries.
I usually reserve bing cherries for eating fresh, or lightly cooked, and bake with the sour cherries. I had planned on making a pie, since cherry pies are my absolute favorite pie. I remember my Grandmother making tens of pies for church functions. The only thing more amazing than one cherry pie is 50. But, the cherries there came from a can, as so many do. I say, buy a pitter and get on with your life.
As I said, I had wanted to make a pie, but things were hectic and the kitchen was in no state to accept the amount of dishes generated by pie making. And then I found this cake with cornmeal. I guess the cornmeal and cherry itch had not yet been scratched.
This classic upside-down cake is fantastic. A summer cake at its best. With a hint of balsamic, the tart cherries are robust and tangy. Owing to the stiff eggs whites folded in at the last minute, the cake itself is shockingly springy. Overall, sophisticated, timely, and delicious. Cherries and cornmeal are a match made in heaven.
p.s. I almost forgot–Brooklyn Supper is two! Hard to believe it’s been two whole years. As always, thanks for reading. We really appreciate our readers.
Sour Cherry and Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1/4 cup sugar (brown is best, but I used turbinado)
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
3 cups rinsed and pitted sour cherries
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal (medium grind is best)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine 1/2 stick butter, 1/4 cup sugar, and the balsamic vinegar in a large skillet (10 -12″) with at least 2″ sides (the is where you will be baking the cake, so plan accordingly) over medium heat. When sugar is dissolved and things are bubbly, add the cherries, bring to a mild boil and then remove from heat.
In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Using a spotless bowl and beater beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, add the cream of tarter and beat a little longer. Set aside in a cool place. Next, in a large bowl, use the paddle attachment or beaters, and beat the remaining stick of butter until it is very fluffy, 3 or 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the yolks one at a time and then the vanilla. Then, on the lowest speed, alternate in the flour mixture and milk. Using a spoon or spatula, fold in the egg whites.
At this point I poured off about 1/2 cup of liquid from my cooked cherries. You want things to be moist, but not soggy. The bonus is that we then had an amazing balsamic glaze with which to douse our cake. Gently pour the batter over the cherries, set skillet on a baking pan, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
This cake is best the day of, but keeps quite nicely covered at room temperature for a day or so.