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!

Bench notes:
- 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

9 servings

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

Cherry Compote

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.


Luv'n Spoonfuls said...

Oh my goodness! This looks absolutely delicious. I love cornmeal in cakes but sometimes think it is too strong a flavor, but this recipe looks like a perfect balance between cake and cornmeal. Bookmarked!!! Oh heck...forget the bookmark. I'm headed to the kitchen right now! ;-)

Victoria said...

Phew. Cherries. Still something I can get my hands on. Pretty soon you will be writing about apricots, and I will be thinking about moving west.

There are literally three blogs I cook from: Orangette, The Wednesday Chef, and :pastrystudio. I have never made anything from y'all that wasn't perfect. That is an amazing track record.

And I assure you, I am fussy.

You rule!

Antonina said...

This looks absolutely delicious !!

pastry studio said...

Hellooooo, readers! Hope you have a chance to enjoy this cake.

Victoria, thanks so much for always being such a positive voice here. And thanks for reminded me about the Wednesday Chef. There are so very many terrific blogs out there, I could never make it through all my bookmarks in a month. But that is a pleasure for which I will not have any complaints.

Not seeing any delicious apricots yet. It seems late this season. We'll see. I have a couple of ideas I want to try with them.

jillian said...

The cherry compote sounds amazing! I am still waiting for good cherries at our markets.

Hillary said...

Another delicious evening...thank you!

Kate said...

I love cherries and hubby Charles is partial to a few himself!
As it is cherry season, this recipe which looks and sounds far too mouthwatering to ignore is on the cards for this weekend.
A perfect accompaniment to our favourite Yemeni Matari coffee from The Tea and Coffee Emporium.
Thanks for the post and the opportunity to comment.

Barbara said...

The markets down her have been chock-full of cherries for a couple weeks. Bought some yesterday.
This is a very intriguing recipe...really like the cornmeal addition, which would change the texture quite a bit.
(I made your lemon and almond ice cream today...delicious and a perfect summer dessert. Will be posting it soon.)

pastry studio said...

Barbara, so glad to hear you are near lots of cherries and that you enjoyed the Lemon Almond Ice Cream. I love it and come to think of it, it just might be good with some cherries!

masini vanzare said...

Oh my God how good it looks and i am sure it is delicious. That`s why i will try it for sure, Thanks a lot for sharing it with us.

CookiePie said...

That is gorgeous!!! Would it be wrong to have it for breakfast???

pastry studio said...

Don't worry, CookiePie. It's an anytime cake!

Luv'n Spoonfuls said...

Just wanted to let you know you truly inspired me with this one. I've provided a link to your original recipe from my blog. I LOVE THIS CAKE! Thank you!

pastry studio said...

Luv'n Spoonfuls, your cake looks really delicious! Love the idea of using pineapple. Thanks so much for the link and for inspiring all of us.

mobile said...

This is a great recipe and it looks delicious. I think it is not very hard to do it so i will try it for sure. Thanks a lot for sharing with us.

Pat said...

You do not say whether the cherries are Bing or sour. The photo looks like sweet cherries. If I use sour or red ones, how do you recommend adjusting the sugar? Any other adjustments while we are at it?
Thank you!

pastry studio said...

Hi, Pat. I recommend sweet Bings. I rarely get sour cherries here. If you use sour cherries, you can just sample the compote as you go and sweeten to your own taste. I would also probably rethink the balsamic and only add at the end, if it seems right. I hope you enjoy the cake!