When researching what dessert to serve with a Hungarian themed meal for our JazzVox guests this past weekend, I stumbled on this recipe from Saveur magazine. Hungarian Sour Cherry Cake. It seemed, from all my reading on the subject of favorite Hungarian foods, that cherries were universally loved. Almost to the point of being part of the genetic makeup of the Hungarian people. Who knew? So why look any further? Then I saw a picture of the “cake” and I wasn’t terribly impressed.
Definitely not a thing of beauty. And flat. It looked much more like a bar cookie than a cake. But who was I to question a dessert that was absolutely adored by the population of an entire nation! So I decided to serve the cake in spite of its lack of visual appeal. And boy am I glad I did! After tasting the cake, I knew why the cake so richly deserved to be cherished. It’s wonderful. Not too sweet, full of cherries, (who doesn’t love cherries) and featuring whole-wheat flour which lends a unique texture and earthy taste to the cake. My friend Vicki suggested that using whole-wheat pastry flour would result in the same desired flavor, but with a more refined texture. So I plan to use whole-wheat pastry flour the next time I bake this simple to prepare dessert. (See which I prefer!) So then how to serve the cake?
Well I have long believed that sweetened whipped cream is the answer to the age old question of how to garnish any dessert. So I whipped up some heavy cream, added a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar, and a few teaspoons of syrup from a jar of specialty cherries* that Mr. C. uses in his Manhattans. Then when it was time to serve dessert, I dolloped each individually plated piece of cake with the concoction. Added much appeal to the presentation and tasted absolutely perfect with the cake.
So if you need a simple dessert that serves 10-12 people, this is the dessert for you. Just don’t forget to make the whipped cream. Left over whipped cream? Add a dollop to your coffee the next morning. Ain’t nothin’ finer!
(BTW, for Mr. Cs recipe for a perfect Manhattan, enter “Manhattan” in the search box on this site.)
- 2 cubes (16 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the baking pan
- 1½ c. granulated sugar
- 3 T. kirschwasser**
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 egg, room temp.
- 2¼ c. regular whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat pastry flour
- 1 T. baking powder
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 c. milk (preferably whole milk)
- 2 lb. pitted frozen sour cherries, thawed and “drained” on paper towels
- ¼ c. all-purpose flour
In the large bowl of your mixer, beat the butter, sugar, kirschwasser, and vanilla together until pale and fluffy. Add egg; beat until incorporated.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk in 3 batches to make a thick batter. Spoon batter onto a buttered 13″ x 18″ x 1″ (half sheet) baking sheet and smooth out with an offset spatula. Toss cherries with the ¼ cup flour. Set cherries evenly over the top.
Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven until cake is golden brown and feels set to the touch, 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.
Great topped with whipped cream that has been sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla, a wee bit of kirschwasser, or my favorite – the syrup from a jar of really good cherries*.
*I use the syrup from either Luxardo Maraschino Cherries or Culinary Circle Amarena Cherries. Both are Italian products.
**According to Wikipedia – “Kirschwasser (German for “cherry water”) or simply kirsch, is a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from double distillation of Morello cherries, a dark-colored cultivar of the sour cherry. However, it is now also made from other kinds of cherries. The cherries are fermented completely, including their stones. Unlike cherry liqueurs and cherry brandies, kirschwasser is not sweet. The best kirschwassers have a refined taste with subtle flavors of cherry and a slight bitter-almond taste that derives from the cherry seeds.”