Friday, June 3, 2011
Cornmeal Cake with Balsamic Cherries
Cherry sighting! It’s been awhile but cherries have finally arrived, their own particular bright and gorgeous signature deep red so entirely welcome right about now. After a long period of winter rituals, when cherries pop onto the scene we celebrate their beauty by shaping pies and turnovers and sundaes and that incredible pleasure from northern France, Gateau Basque, each with their own particular splendor. The first cherries I purchased this season are decidedly juicy and sweet, a good omen for the weeks ahead.
This cake is light and fabulous with a just touch of cornmeal for a very slight element of texture and golden summer flavor. It has a tender texture that really goes well with fruit. The cherries are first bathed in a little sugar, balsamic and orange zest to produce some juices that will turn into pockets of rich fruit. The extra compote makes a great sauce to ladle over each slice.
Stone fruit season is about to join us once again. Now is the time to capture some cherry abundance with this delicious cake. Locate some cherries, dig in and let your fingers turn a wondrous shade of red!
- It’s important to have butter and eggs at room temperature for the butter and sugar to aerate properly and the fats to emulsify. One way to quickly take the chill off of eggs is to place them in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes while you gather and measure out your ingredients.
- Even when using a cherry pitting tool, make sure you can account for all the pits. Sometimes you can puncture the fruit but the pit still remains inside.
- The sugar level for the fruit will depend on the tartness of your cherries. Add more to taste if you desire. Same for the balsamic.
- When placing small pockets of cherries into the cake batter, drain most of the juice off so the cherries are still moist but the cake batter doesn't become soupy.
- I’m sure you can try this cake with lots of other fruit, which may require little or no cooking. Apricots, peaches and nectarines would lend themselves to honey and lemon rather than sugar and balsamic. Figs might benefit from a dab of port.
Cornmeal Cake with Balsamic Cherries
1 1/4 C cake flour
1/4 C + 2 T cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
4 oz (1 stick) butter @ room temperature
1 C sugar
2 eggs @ room temperature
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
1 t vanilla
1/2 C sour cream
3 C fresh cherries (about 1 lb, 2 oz)
1/4 C sugar, to taste
zest of 1 orange
1 1/2 T balsamic, to taste
tiny pinch salt
Pit the cherries and place them into a saucepan with the sugar and the orange zest. Cook over low heat until the juices begin to flow. Add the balsamic vinegar and a tiny pinch of salt and cook for just another few minutes until the cherries are tender. Take off the heat and let cool while you prepare the cake batter.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” square pan and parchment paper, leaving a short overhang on two sides. Dust lightly with flour.
Sift the cake flour, cornmeal, baking powder and the salt.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add eggs one at a time and blend thoroughly. Add vanilla and citrus zest and combine.
Add the sifted dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with half the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down bowl halfway through this process. Just before it looks completely mixed, pull it off the mixer and finish combining by hand with a rubber spatula to avoid over mixing.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth out evenly. Place teaspoons of cherries every couple of inches over the surface, pushing the fruit down into the cake batter. Set aside the remaining compote for serving.
Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until it tests done. Cool for 10 minutes. Gently lift the cake out using the parchment overhang. Turn onto platter, remove parchment and let cool completely. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with cherry compote.