From Market to Skillet: The Lure of Cherries

When I went to my local farmers market the other day, I fell into a familiar rapture.  Enjoying the late-day sun and the soft breeze from the bay, I strolled around soaking up the lively chatter, vivid colors, and the fact that I had the evening free.  Everyone there seemed to be in a good mood somehow, and I was no exception.

Slice of cakeThe man selling cherries was particularly kind.  His table was full of those square, green berry baskets; they were overflowing with a vivid, burgundy bounty.  He poured my basket into a paper bag and, smiling, added an extra handful.  At that moment I decided I’d create a new indulgence out of the cherries as soon as I got home.  Here’s what I made.

Cherry Upside-Down Cake

  • About 1.5 pounds fresh cherriesSliced cake
  • 1 cup sugar, divided into thirds
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons corn meal
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Wash, pit, and remove stems from cherries, placing them directly into a 10” oven safe skillet (such as cast iron). Fit them tightly around the edges of the pan; they can be a Bubbling caramelizing cherrieslittle looser toward the center if you don’t have enough for a tight fit all the across the pan.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 cup sugar and pieces of 2 tablespoons butter placed here and there. Place over medium heat and let cook for about 5 minutes, until very bubbly, sugar and butter have disappeared, and a caramely aroma is present. Remove skillet from heat and turn off burner.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium/high until frothy and white, then add 1/3 cup sugar and keep beating until they’re Adding egg whites to batteropaque and hold soft to medium peaks.  In a separate bowl, beat ½ cup butter with egg yolks until pale and smooth, then add 1/3 cup sugar, almond extract and buttermilk, beating until combined.  Sift the remaining dry ingredients over the batter, then mix until even.  Gently fold in the egg whites, starting with just one scoop to loosen up the batter, then slowly incorporate it all, stopping just when color and texture are uniform.  (Don’t overmix.)

Spread batter over cherries, transfer skillet to oven, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a Batter over cherriestoothpick tests clean, cake slightly bounces back to the touch, and surface is golden brown.  Cool at least one hour or overnight, keeping cake at room temperature.  Invert on to a plate when ready to serve, heating it for a few seconds on the stovetop if it’s stubborn about loosening from the pan.

Moist, soft and light, this skillet cake makes a wonderful dessert or even breakfast.  Its flecks of corn and almond offer a remarkable texture alongside the juicy cherry topping.  Indeed, with their surprising hint of homemade caramel, these tart cherries are sure to remind you of summer’s sweet abundance.  They might even lure you to an enchanted farmers market like the one where I found mine, even if imaginary.

Cake from behindMaybe next time…                  If you have an orange on hand, its finely grated zest would be a wonderful addition to this batter, and you can even use its juice in place of the buttermilk. If you don’t care for amaretto essence, freely replace the almond extract with vanilla. To make mock buttermilk, simply add a squeeze of lemon to regular milk – though plain milk will also work fine in this recipe.  I’m certain the flour in this cake could be replaced successfully with a gluten-free mix and a scant half-teaspoon of xanthan gum.  And perhaps most important: I suggest serving this cake warm with a big scoop of rich vanilla ice cream on top.  Whatever you do, enjoy!

Bitten cake

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9 Responses to From Market to Skillet: The Lure of Cherries

  1. Erica says:

    What an INCREDIBLE looking recipe this is- your cherry upside-down cake looks and sounds absolutely delicious!…But even more so, I just have to say what an absolutely stunning blog this is, with such wonderful photography, great writing, and such clever and inventive recipe creations…Consider me a new and passionate follower of Butter Sugar Flowers. You have such a gift!

    P.S. Your event gallery is simply amazing…beyond your inventive recipes, all of your desserts have such artistry and beauty to them…I want to eat one of everything!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Erica! I know they are heartfelt since you are one of the most sincere people I have ever met, and this makes every word feel so uplifting, filling me with joy and refreshed creative motivation. Many thanks!

  2. What a lucious way to start the day–or end a meal! A very clever use of cherries, in the making of a skillet cake. I happen to have a big batch of cherries in my fridge, and I even have a cherry pitter….hmmmmmm….;-)

    • Thanks as always, Robin! I actually ate this for breakfast and dessert yesterday, and I hope you enjoy it just as much if you try the recipe!

      • Well, we did it! Last night, my daughter had some friends over and she and they helped me put this together–she pitted and cooked the cherries and whipped the egg whites, and I was grateful for the help! We cooled it overnight, as you suggested, and it flipped out perfeclty from my cast iron pan this morning. It is DELICIOUS! We cut the sugar down to a little less than 3/4 cups (divided), and it was plenty sweet enough for us. (The cherries I had were sweet, anyway, not tart.) I did’t have almond meal, but I did have flaxseed meal, and I substitued that. (But I do think I’d like to have a bag of almond meal on hand–I’m sure that would give it an additional layer of almond flavor.) You’re right–the cornmeal added a nice bit of flavor and texture. This will disappear in an instant (as soon as all my teenagers roll out of bed. 😉 )
        You’re some kind of bakiing genius, I think. 🙂
        By the way, one of my daughter’s friends wanted to pin this recipe on her pinterest page! I see that you don’t have the “pin it” button here, so I wonder if that’s okay with you.

      • Robin! It means so much to me that you tried this, told me about it, and especially that you liked it! Great idea to reduce the sugar if your cherries are sweet (mine were pretty tart) — and always a healthy move! Pintrest is of course fine with me, and thanks to your comment, I just now added the button (finally!). Thank you again! You made my week!

      • I’m so glad! You’re very welcome.

  3. Oh my word, this cake looks like a dream! And my dream, to be more specific–I love cherries and skillet cake! I will definitely get some cherries at the market this weekend and get baking! Thanks for sharing! 😉

    • Thanks, Cameron! Cherries are indeed the best; I admit I’ve gone through many baskets without having enough left after my noshing to make something out of them. If you end up making this, I hope you enjoy every crumb!

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