I have mentioned before on this blog the woes of pitting cherries without a cherry pitter. For some reason cutting the cherries in half and simply flicking the pits out of them did not cross my mind then. Turns out this is much easier, and on the whole much safer (I’m sure, like avocado stones, cherry pits have claimed a few nerves and the odd finger in their time, but not mine this time round). Alas, I did discover after halving my cherries that they packed down more than I had expected (one of the problems with using recipes based on volume measurements) and instead of the hoped-for 1 1/2 cups I had slightly less than a cup. As you can see, once the batter went on top of this paltry amount of fruit it all ended up smooshed to the sides of my chosen baking vessel, giving the finished product a halo of fruit, rather than the desired, or at least intended, full head covering. For a full-on cherry experience next time I’d almost double the amount of cherries I used to a 300g box (slightly less when pitted). Cherry halo aside, this was still a good cake, dense and yet light at the same time; that sounds ridiculous but I can’t explain it any better. It was sturdy, but not heavy, a little crumbly from the cornmeal, but not overly dry and when paired with hot, thick and, because I took my eye off the stove for a moment, rather lumpy custard, the perfect antidote to a rather grey evening.
Cherry cornmeal upside-down cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit
I made quite a few changes to this recipe. Firstly I got rid of the balsamic caramel coating for the cherries, since most of the comments seemed to suggest this flavour didn’t come through very well. Secondly, I added in a little bit of almond essence to the cake since almond and cherries are a perfect match; in fact did you know that most almond liqueurs such as Amaretto are made not from almonds but from peach and cherry stones? Yeah. I upped the cornmeal since it’s a great gluten-free ingredient and then to balance out the gf flours and make it a little more moist, and rise a little higher, I doubled the egg quota. Oh and played around comprehensively with the quantities to make it fit a 6 1/2-inch casserole rather than an 11-inch skillet. Phew yeah, but it’s still based on the same recipe.
2 tablespoons butter
250-300g (1 1/2 cups) cherries, stoned and halved
80g (1/2 cup) gluten-free flour blend
45g (1/4 cup) medium-fine yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
60g (1/4 cup) butter
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs, separated
3 drops almond extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. In a 6-7-inch casserole dish heat the 2 tablespoons butter over a high heat until sizzling and turning slightly brown. Add the cherries, leave to cook for about 2 minutes, then remove from the heat.
2. In a small bowl whisk together the gluten-free flour, cornmeal, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl beat the remaining 50g butter until soft. Beat in the sugar until light and fluffy, then add both the egg yolks and the almond extract and beat well.
4. In another small bowl whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.
5. Gradually fold the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture, alternating with the milk, until all the flour and milk has been mixed in and the batter is thick. Stir in about a quarter of the whisked egg whites to lighten the batter slightly, then slowly fold in the remaining egg whites, a little at a time. Finally spread the batter over the top of the cherries in the casserole dish, smoothing the top carefully with a knife. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until browned on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven when done and leave to cool for at least 5 minutes in the casserole dish. Run a knife round the edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then carefully invert on a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature. Excellent with custard.
This lasts a couple of days covered in the fridge, though will go a bit stale and dry if you leave it any longer than that.