Today: A summer fruit cake for slow mornings and long evenings.
In my ideal world, I would pit cherries on a porch in pleasantly warm weather, with an ice-cold beer by my side. It wouldn’t matter if cherry juice splattered everywhere, because I could just hose off the porch; my evening swim would rinse off all of the splatters I would no doubt get all over myself.
In my real life, I cover a table with newspaper and wear a dark shirt to avoid staining myself and everything in sight with deep red cherry juice, but I'm always left scrubbing a few errant drips from the walls anyway. Despite the mess, cherries are some of my very favorite summer fruit, perfect for all sorts of recipes from ice cream, to pie, to cakes like this one.
This is the kind of cake that is best consumed over the course of a loungy breakfast or two. It’s studded with just enough bright red cherries to lighten up the pleasantly dense batter, and it’s just right with your morning cup of coffee or tea. The last time I made it, I was away for a long weekend; my fellow vacationers and I ate it sliver by sliver over the course of two days, and dare I say it was better on day two. I imagine it would also be awfully good warm from the oven with a scoop of ice cream for dessert.
More: Don't have a cherry pitter? Here's how to hack one.
This cake can easily be made with sweet or sour cherries, but I love to use sour cherries during the brief window when I can find them. Sour cherries tend to be soft, so I usually just pit them with my hands. Sweet cherries tend to hold onto their pits a bit more fiercely, so I would suggest picking up a real-deal cherry pitter for that task.
Makes one 9-inch cake
For the streusel:
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup light brown sugar
10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Gently stir the almonds, sugar, flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. Add in the butter and mix to combine. Set the streusel aside while you prepare the cake.
For the cherry filling:
1 1/2 cups pitted cherries (sour or sweet)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar (sweet cherries may not need additional sugar)
For the rest of the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Preheat your oven to 325° F and grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan. (A springform pan works great for this, but it's not necessary.) Toss the pitted cherries with 1 tablespoon of flour and the sugar if you're using it. Set that aside while you prepare the rest of the cake.
In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric mixer), cream the butter and sugar together for 5 minutes, or until it's very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
Add in the sour cream, lemon zest, and almond extract. Then gently fold in the flour mixture until everything is just combined.
Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Scatter the prepared cherries over the top, then gently spread the rest of the batter over them. It's okay if the cherries aren't completely covered; just make sure the batter is evenly distributed over the top. Crumble the prepared streusel over the top in an even layer.
Bake the cake until it's golden brown and a tester comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes.
Photos by Yossy Arefi