When I was a child, I ate most cherries fresh, but the sour cherries I liked better sprinkled with sugar. My mom encouraged me to eat fresh cherries, knowing that cherries have a great nutritional value. They contain many vitamins, including beta-caroten and vitamin C, also sodium, potasium, phosphorus and anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are water-soluble natural pigments contained in all tissues of higher plants, which belong to a parent class of molecules called flavonoides. They may appear red, purple or blue, depending on the plant's pH. When present in fruits, as red or purple, anthocyanins have a role of attracting the animal's attention, who are eating the fruits, thus spreading the seeds. Besides cherries, many other fruits have anthocyanins, such as blackberries, raspberries, black currants, blueberries, cranberries, billberries, eggplant skins, red cabbage, red and blue grapes. Anthocyanins have antioxidant effects when eaten fresh and are known to have healing effect on cancer, neurological disease, inflammation, diabetes, bacterial infection. They also have analgesic effect. My mom is such a smart lady and I had so much to learn from her. She might have not known all these complicated things about cherries, but she surely knew fresh cherries were good for me. However, since the cherries season was long - about a month - after eating lots of fresh cherries and sour cherries, my mom would decide that it was time to use cherries for other purposes, not less delicious, such as making a simple cake with sour cherries - at least one during the cherries season. My grandma was responsible for canning, so she would make sour cherry jam and can sweet cherries in hot sugar syrup. She used to make lots of jars of sour cherry jam, which we ate with pancakes during winter. She also canned pitted sour cherries, covered them with granulated sugar and put an aspirin in each jar. We used these for cakes, all winter long. My grandpa had his role too in canning cherries: he would make a liqueur from sour cherries, sugar and alcohol, which was very tasty. This liqueur is called Visinata in Romanian. Its name is coming from "visina" which is Romanian for sour cherry.
The sour cherry cans, jam and liqueur are traditional in Romania and almost every family continues the tradition, even nowadays, when it's very expensive to buy cherries and can them. The jars might not be as plentiful as they were before and the liqueur bottles are fewer, but we still have some in our pantry. I've continued to bake my mom's Sour Cherry Cake too, which is too good and so easy to make. That is why I thought you will like to know the recipe.
Sour Cherry Cake
- 8 eggs
- 8 tablespoons sugar
- 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons melted butter (or sunflower oil)
- 1 cup sour cherries, pitted
- 1 tablespoon sugar for the cherries
Sprinkle one tablespoon sugar over the pitted sour cherries and stir. It's preferably to fill each cherry with sugar, if you have the patience. Preheat oven at 350F (175C). Separate whites and beat until fluffy. Mix egg yolks with sugar until creamy, then add flour and melted butter. Add fluffy whites, mixing carefully from upside down.
Pour the batter into a 8x15 inch (40x20 cm) rectangular pan, buttered and floured. Bake for 5 minutes, then get the pan out of the oven.
Tip : If you press the finger on the surface of the batter it shouldn't stick to the finger.
Add the sour cherries into the batter arranging them in lines. Put the pan back into the oven and bake for another 25 minutes. When the surface gets brownish, the cake is baked. Take out the pan and let chill. Cut the cake in cubes and sprinkle with powder sugar.
Now that my grandparents are gone, my mom and I continue the tradition and we make sour cherry jam and liqueur. This is the recipe for the sour cherry liqueur, which is very easy to make.
Sour Cherry Liqueur (Visinata)
- 2 pounds sour cherries
- 1 pound granulated sugar
- 2 cups of any type of hard alcohol(vodka, brandy, kirsch)
You need a large jar, about one-gallon, to fill with the sour cherries (not pitted) and sugar, in alternating layers. Cover with a cloth and tie it up, or seal with the jar's lid. Let it ferment for two weeks, or until the sugar melts. You will need to shake the jar daily, so the sugar will melt faster. Just turn it from upside down or roll it. When the sugar is melted, add the alcohol and let it stay for another two weeks. Then the visinata is ready to be consumed. The sour cherries inside it will absorb the alcohol and will stay firm, saving their shape and texture. We use them for cakes. I often make a chocolate cake with sour cherries from the sour cherry liqueur, especially for my husband, who loves chocolate. It is a very old recipe from an old neighbor and its original name is Chocolate Tart.
Chocolate cake with liqueur sour cherries
- 8 eggs
- 1 cup sugar (300g)
- 1/4 cup water
- 8 tablespoons dark cocoa 3 1/2 oz. (1/2 cup)
- 8 oz. butter(250g)
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup liqueur sour cherries, pitted
Bring sugar and water on low heat and bring to a boil. Stir gently until the sugar melts. Don't let it boil hard. Add cocoa and stir gently. Take 1/4 of the cocoa syrup and put aside in a large bowl. Let the liquid cool for a few minutes. In the meantime add butter to the cocoa syrup and stir well. Let it cool to room temperature, add liqueur sour cherries and put the cream into the fridge. Butter and flour a cake tin (preferable non-stick).
TIP : I use parchment paper which is better for this cake layer. It's fluffy and it can stick to the tin, even if it is buttered and floured.
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Add egg yolks to the batter in the bowl, one at a time and stir. Add flour. Whisk egg whites until fluffy. Add them to the batter, stirring gently from upside down. Pour batter into the cake tin and bake into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Let cool in the oven, then get the layer out of the cake tin.
The original recipe says to spread all cream over the cake and get the cherries out with a fork. But my husband loves this cake with a chocolate topping. So I cut the layer in half, put all the cream inside and spread melted chocolate over the cake. Decorate the cake however you likel. I use also liqueur sour cherries to decorate, before the chocolate starts to cool, and sprinkle granulated sugar on top of each cherry. Or make shapes with the warm chocolate on a piece of aluminium foil, let them cool for a minute, then pour the chocolate over the cake and stick the shapes into the chocolate.
TIP : Same cake can be made with rum soaked raisins.
Fresh cherries are so good that I've always thought it's such a waste to bake them in a cake. But some of the recipes are just too tempting that I can't resist, so I write them down immediately and decide to make them as soon as the cherries would be out on the market. This is how I started to make two more cherry cakes, which have an old tradition in their origin country. Cherry Clafoutis is a traditional French cherry cake, which I came to know about from a TV cooking show, a few years ago. I was immediately won by its simplicity, and its delicious taste. And I wasn't wrong, it's a delicious dessert! Although the French are eating it for breakfast (having so many calories!), I'm baking the cherry clafoutis for dessert. It is a kind of custard with cherries inside, but it has more flour and less milk than a normal custard, tasting more like a cake than like a custard. This is the recipe.
- 1 pound cherries, preferably pitted
- 10 egg yolks
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon almond essence
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- a rectangular pan 15x10x2 inch (39x25x5 cm)
Pit the cherries with a pitting device. If you don't have one, you can use my "special" pitting device, which my Grandma and my Mom also used, a safety pin.
TIP : Better to use cherries with pits, it will give the cake a special flavor.
Once the cherries are pitted, preheat the oven at 370F (175C). Grease the pan with the butter, using your fingers, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar all over the pan. Spread the cherries on the bottom of the pan. Mix yolks with sugar, add flour, then milk and heavy whipping cream. I pit the cherries because my husband wants to eat the cake without fear, so I need to add a teaspoon of almond essence to the batter. Pour batter over the cherries and put in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the batter gets brown top and edges. Clafoutis can be served warm, powdered with confectioners sugar.
The following recipe is more spectacular and even more delicious, but it also takes more work for preparation. Black Forest cake is an old traditional German cake, which gets its name from the German region Black Forest where the cherry liquor Kirschwasser, which is added to the cake, is made. I've got the recipe from the same TV cooking show, but later I realized it's a bit different from the original Black Forest cake, using a chocolate mousse filling, not simple whipping cream. This makes it more difficult, but it enriches the cake, making it more delicious.
Black Forest Cake
For the layers:
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
For the chocolate mousse :
- 8 egg yolks
- 8 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pound semisweet baking chocolate
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
For the syrup :
- 2 cups pitted cherries
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup kirschwasser(or any other fruit liquor)
For the topping :
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 4 ounces semisweet baking chocolate for the chocolate curls and grating
- 1/4 cup cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter and flour a 10 inch (25 cm) round cake pan. Mix the yolks with sugar and stir well, then add flour mixed with baking powder and cocoa. Add the whites, well whipped, stirring gently from upside down. Pour into the pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes. Try if ready with a toothpick inserted into the cake; it has to come out clean. Let cool out of the oven.
You need to have four pots ready: two for melting the chocolate and two for stirring the egg yolks with sugar, because both have to be done over a water bath (bain-marie), in the same time. The yolks cream will get poured into the chocolate, then the whipped cream will be stirred in there too, so the pot for the chocolate has to be bigger, about 3 quarts (3 litres). For the yolks a 1 quart pot will be good. Cut all the chocolate (for the topping too) into pieces in the 3 quarts pot and melt it over the hot water bath. Mix yolks with sugar in a pot over a hot water bath, until thickens like a cream. Spread very thin 2 spoons of melted chocolate over the bottom of a stainless steel griddle and put it in the fridge for a few minutes to cool. Pour the yolks cream into the melted chocolate, still on the water bath, a little bit at a time, stirring well each time. Let the chocolate cream cool. Take the chocolate out of the fridge and make the chocolate curls by scraping it with a knife. Put the chocolate curls in the fridge.
TIP : Don't let the chocolate cool too much! It has to be hard, but still tender to curl. If it's too hard, let it stay for a minute at room temperature and try again.
Whip the cream for the mousse to stiff peaks in a separate bowl. Put it in the fridge. Cool the chocolate cream by diving the pot in another large pot with cold water and stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the whipped cream into the chocolate and yolks cream; stir gently with a wooden spoon. Cool the chocolate mousse into the fridge for an hour.
Turn to boil water and sugar in a quart size saucepan, then add all pitted cherries (those for the topping too) and let boil for 5 minutes. Take out the cherries and let cool and dry. Choose the biggest and nicest cherries for the topping. Add kirschwasser to syrup.
Cut the layer in half, horizontally, making 2 layers. Put first layer on a plate and lay the cake pan ring around it. Sprinkle the layer with the 1/2 of the syrup using a special cooking brush or a tablespoon. Spread 1/2 of the chocolate mousse on the layer and top with half of the cherries. Spread over the rest of the mousse and top with the rest of the cherries. Put on the second layer with the cutting outside and sprinkle with the rest of the syrup.
TIP : The amount of syrup is too much for the recipe; it might drip and ruin the cake. Better to spread just as much syrup as the layer can soak.
Let it cool in the freeze for 3 to 4 hours. Whip the heavy cream for the topping and spread 1/3 all over the cake. Grate chocolate and decorate the side of the cake using a spatula. Fill in a pastry bag with the rest of the whipped cream and form marshmallows on the cake. Place cherries on each marshmalow and stick the chocolate curls in the middle.
I have another old recipe to try, a famous American traditional cake, the cobbler. I've already tried it with apricots last summer, but I'll have to try it with cherries too. I have a big pot with fresh sour cherries, waiting for me to pit them and make jam, so I'll save a bowl for the cobbler. Be back soon and tell you how that went.