I like to get my hands dirty. Well, okay, I really don’t. If dirt touches me, I freak out. I cried in kindergarten when we had to dip our hands and feet in paint to make prints. A panic attack took over when I had to get a stamp on my hand upon visiting a museum. But when I’m in the kitchen, it’s a whole different story.
I love eating with my hands. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting down to a plate of Shirataki noodles without a fork, but I love picking my muffin apart with my fingers in the morning. As you may have noticed, I like mixing batters up with a wooden spoon, spatula, or even a regular table spoon. While I reach for the hand mixer when the butter hasn’t quite gotten to room temperature and you won’t see me make Italian meringue buttercream without lugging out the giant stand mixer (is it even possible to make without one?), I love putting together a whole batch of muffins or cookies without reaching for electronic assistance.
Mom and I also peel, core, and slice apples by hand, as well as peel peaches without boiling them first, which seems like a totally unnecessary step to me. I love a good gadget, but sometimes, a utensil and hands are the best, simplest way to get the job done without dirtying enough dishes to wash for the rest of the day.
Though once upon a time I bought a cherry pitter, it must be lurking somewhere, I don’t use it. I’m not sure I ever used it. Pitting cherries is one of my favorite baking tasks, which is good because it’s one of Mom’s least favorite. It’s a task that’s easy enough to complete without growing frustrating or having to focus too much, but hard enough to busy my brain and keep it from worrying about whatever happens to be troubling me that day. The red stains on my hands only last a few moments and sampling is a definite perk.
In order to pit the cherries, I pull a bunch out, de-stem them, then one by one, I cut off any blemishes, and go around them with my knife as I would a peach. Once I do this to about ten of them, I twist them apart, pry out the pit, the toughest part of the job, and toss them in the measuring cup. It goes quickly and is very relaxing. No gadget necessary.
I didn’t even have to pit that many for this Cherry Almond Cake, which is one of my new favorite treats. A moist, mildly flavored cake, topped with those rich, fresh cherries is made addictive and complete with the addition of an almond paste crumble. I used Homemade Almond Paste, and it was actually the first time I’d ever baked with almond paste. I can assure you it won’t be the last as the flavor and texture it imparted was outstanding with a mild, sweet, almost floral almond flavor. The glaze on top is the cherry on top of this cake. The flavors are magic and go together seamlessly. It made a great dessert, but I could see it served at breakfast, brunch, or tea time.
So take a little time to make this cake. You can leave your mixer and cherry pitter in the cabinet.
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature (out of refrigerator for 20-30 mins)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 ½ heaping cups Bing cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ cup Homemade Almond Paste
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- Pinch of salt
- ¾ - 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon almond milk
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 inch cake pan.
- Make the cake. Stir flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. I did this by hand, but you could use a hand or stand mixer. Add the egg. Mix to combine. Add buttermilk and extracts before mixing until fully combined. Stir in the dry ingredients just until a batter is formed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange the cherries on top of the batter. They should cover the entire surface. If they do not, add a few more cherries.
- Make the crumble topping. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt until there are no lumps. Add the butter and almond paste and mix with fingers or a fork until crumbs of various sizes are formed. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Without opening oven, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for an additional 40 to 45 minutes, for a total of 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with only a few moist crumbs and some of the crumble. Cool completely in pan.
- Make the glaze right before you want to put it on the cake or it will harden. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, extracts, and milk. Add additional sugar or milk as needed until you have a thick glaze that you will still be able to drizzle over the cake. When you are happy with the glaze, drizzle it over the cake, covering most of it.
- Cake may be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days, or frozen wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Best frozen in quarters. Thaw at room temperature for several hours or in a 350 degree F oven wrapped in parchment placed on top of foil for 20 or so minutes until warmed through.