A wonderful, busy weekend! My beautiful daughter, Cassie, was in town for the weekend and that always makes for a wonderful time for me (and I think for her too). One of the great delights of parenthood is having adult children who you really like. I am lucky enough to like all my children but there is a special relationship between mothers and daughters. Especially since my daughter and I are so very much alike. Even though we don’t look much alike, our personalities, verbal and facial expressions, mannerisms, world-view and sense of humor are practically identical. Our communications are so easy because we intuitively “get” each other.
Cass was going to a get together at an old friend’s place. She was very enthusiastic about baking some things to take. After polling a bit on Facebook, the consensus wanted chocolate and peanut butter preferably in cookie form.
This was fine with me! I had also had my eye on a recipe for a Cherry Upside –Down Cake and hadn’t really have a good enough reason to tackle it so this provided a perfect excuse. So we decided on Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies based on a recipe from the Martha Stewart Cookies book AND the cherry cake.
I made the cherry cake while they were out looking at houses. I based it on a recipe in Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More but increased the size since it was for a large’ish group (plus I wanted to keep some for us). Cass had the foresight to bring 1 ½ of cherries on the plane from Seattle. So we had “genuine” Washington bing cherries. I had recently acquired an OXO cherry pitter that had been waiting for the right opportunity. We made quick work of pitting those cherries on Friday night (her boyfriend was tasked with eating any cherries that were incompletely pitted…he made an excellent garbage disposal).
The recipe starts out with one of the trickiest bits: making a caramel sauce. While not particularly difficult since it’s just mixing up some sugar, butter and liquid and heating it up, it does require vigilance as the heated sugar can quickly go from a lovely amber caramel to a horrible, burned, sticky mess. Making such things underscores the need for patience in baking and cooking (and life). Keeping the heat under the pan moderate enables one the control the process but can really try one’s nerves if one doesn’t have a patient nature (or hasn’t cultivated one). And, I must admit, this one hasn’t. Patience is a virtue that I have managed to eschew for a long, long time. So standing there, stirring and watching sugar boil (a process very similar to watching paint dry or grass grow), was the most difficult part of the recipe.
Once the sugar concoction had reached a deep (but not burned) amber color, it was poured into a pan pre-prepared with a butter coating (even though I was using a non-stick pan I buttered it well since I wanted to make sure the cake would easily slide out when flipped). The caramel was left to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then I began the process of lining up the cherries in the caramel. It took a bit of time to make sure the cherries were uniformly distributed with pitted side up (so the prettier un-pitted side would on top once the cake was complete). I used a 9X13” pan and, it was another trial of patience to line those cherries up across the entire pan.
Now that the cherries were all marching together through the caramel, it was time to make the cake. The cake batter used the creaming method but with the twist of using egg yolks and sour cream for the liquid and then folding in whipped egg whites to really lighten the texture. The batter was a really smooth, thick texture. I carefully piled it onto the cherries and then gingerly, using an offset spatula, smoothed it out and made sure the corners had cake.
The cake baked in a 350 degree oven for about 60 minutes. The cake turned a deep brown and when poked to test doneness, lots of steam from the cherries escaped. The smell was heavenly. I removed the cake and let it cool on a rack for about 45 minutes. Then it was time for the last tricky bit. I didn’t have any flat plates or platters, so I used a cutting board. I placed the cutting board over the cake, scooted it toward the edge of the counter (the pan was still quite warm – I had to keep oven mitts on), grabbed it toward the middle of opposing sides and quickly flipped it over. Gratifyingly, it easily slipped out of the pan and stood there looking very proud of itself. The caramel had oozed onto the cherries and into the spaces between. The top was a gleaming dark, dark burgundy color and the cake was a lovely, moist bed with cherry juice dripping down.
With all that accomplished and turned my attention to the dog, Gyro. He would have preferred that I didn’t because the attention manifested itself as a bath. Actually, he got bathed with two different medicated shampoos and then had a crème rinse. Personally, I would have loved that kind of pampering. Gyro didn’t seem to share that sentiment. Poor itchy dog.
Once I recovered from the bathing process, got myself bathed and dressed, my husband and I fed, Cass returned home. We now tackled the cookies. This was a great recipe. Really easy to throw together…after the creaming of the butter and sugar everything just gets dumped in. We had a couple of half-sheet pans lined with parchment paper and, using a small scoop, dropped cookies onto the sheets. A quick bake and they were ready. This recipe produced some lovely, chewy cookies. The oatmeal seemed to give them a very tender texture and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter…well, how could you go wrong.
Once cooled we packed all the goodies up and I drove Cass to Emily’s house (Cass has know Emily since junior high school). The party was organized for their friend Rebecca – one of Cassie’s closest friends. She has known her since third grade. I was convinced to pop-in and say hello before disappearing (okay…it didn’t take much convincing – it’s fun to see those little girls I knew all grown up). Based upon the empty containers I received back later, I think the baking adventure was quite a success!
Cherry Upside Down Cake Recipe
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9X13″ cake pan, preferably non-stick.
- 3 ounces (6 tbl) butter
- 8 ounces (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 3 tbl lemon juice
- 2 1/4 pounds sweet cherries, pitted (about 6 cups)
Melt the butter over medium heat (keep the heat fairly low so butter doesn’t burn or brown…just melts), then stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Turn the heat up slightly and bring to a boil (keep mixing and WATCHING). As it boils it will eventually (about 5 minutes) turn a rich amber color. Once it turns amber remove the pan from the heat and pour the caramel into the prepared pan.
Place the cherries, in a single layer, on top of the caramel with the pitted sides up (so the top will look pretty).
- 13 1/4 ounces AP flour (2 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 9 ounces unsalted butter (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
- 12 ounces granulated sugar (1 3/4 cups)
- Zest and juice of one orange
- 3 large eggs, separated
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream
Whisk flour, cinnamon, baking power, baking soda and salt together. Using a mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar and orange zest together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time and allow to incorporate (scraping down the sides of bowl). Then add orange juice and vanilla. Add the flour and sour cream, alternating 1/3 flour mix, 1/2 sour cream, repeat and finish with flour mix. The batter will be quite thick.
In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed. Fold half the whites into the batter and incorporate completely. Then fold the remaining whites into the batter.
Carefully pour the batter over the cherries, trying not to disturb the cherry arrangement. Smooth the batter over the cherries with an offset spatula making sure the batter completely covers the cherries and is evenly distributed.
Bake for 60 minutes or so. The cake should turn a nice golden brown and spring back when pressed. The internal temperature should be at lest 190F. (The cake may crack from the escaping steam from the cherry liquid but don’t worry about it since you’ll be flipping the cake.) Let the cake cool on a rack for 45 minutes.
Now the slightly tricky bit. Place a flat plate, platter or chopping board on top of the pan. The pan will still be pretty hot so make sure to use oven gloves or pot holders. Hold the pan and plate firmly together in the middle of opposite sides and gingerly rotate your wrists, turning the whole thing upside down. Lift the pan straight up and the cake will slide right out and you should be staring at a beautiful sight!
The cake will keep up to 3 days wrapped in plastic (after it has cooled completely).