|This cake (staying cool outside on the snowy deck) has tangy vanilla buttermilk cake, creamy-but-not-quite-sweet frosting with ricotta, lemon, honey, marscapone and Greek yogurt, and a crowing pile of juicy red cherries. It's a combination made in heaven.|
Historically, I haven't been much of a baker or a dessert enthusiast--I've never had much taste for sweets, and baking requires a far more meticulous eye for directions than my natural cooking disposition allows for. Even when I am baking, I never measure baking power, salt, vanilla, etc. Hence, about half my sweet baking projects turn out horrible, fueling my anti-baking cycle.
But occasionally--and apparently especially when pregnant--I get the urge to bake. In the last few weekends, I've made a new dessert each Saturday afternoon. One was smittenkitchen's Blood Orange, Almond, and Ricotta Cake, (but I used mixed citrus--grapefruit, lime, and orange). To go with this, I made a barely-sweet marscapone and Greek yogurt "whip cream", which had honey, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla.
This was for my brother-in-law's engagement party, and the cake both looked pretty and tasted delicious. The tangy cream on the side really sent it over the edge--and ALSO started me on the kick of making creamy marscapone-and-ricotta baked goods, leading eventually to the fabulous buttermilk cherry cake.
Next I made some homemade cherry Danishes. This also led to the invention of the frozen-dried-jam cherry sauce for the cake. The recipe, which I came across in a New York Times "What to Cook This Week" column, appealed to me because I'd never made Danish before, and because it looked like the sort of engrossing, complicated kitchen project I was in the mood for. Putzing around in the kitchen, completing hours-long cooking projects while listening to music or podcasts--this has been one of my favorite weekend pastimes. And I have a feeling experimental, all-day cooking is going to shortly take a backseat to my new hobby of baby-death prevention. So I have been wanting to enjoy it while I can.
The Danishes came out really yummy, but honestly weren't worth the work. All the flavor came from the cheese and cherries--the yeast-butter dough, though interesting, wasn't especially fabulous. You could put the cheese-cherry combo on any number of other, far-easier bases. But if you want to try baking your own Danish from scratch, here is the recipe.
Anyway--to the cake!
I must say this is up there with the best cakes I've even made. Even better, maybe, than that amazing coconut layer cake I made a couple summers ago. It was so, so, so good.
The buttermilk cake was the perfect base--and the tangy, not-quite-sweet, complex frosting--made with whipped cream, marscapone, ricotta, Greek yogurt, honey, lemon, and vanilla--was the perfect foil for the very sweet, very over-the-top-CHERRY-NESS of the cherry "sauce". This cherry sauce is my own invention and I think it's brilliant--and its formula can be applied to a ton of different fruits. What you do is take a bag of frozen cherries, a bag of dried cherries, a small jar of cherry jam, and an envelope of powdered flavorless gelatin, then boil everything together for a couple of minutes. The liquid from the frozen cherries and melted jam re hydrate the dried cherries, and the gelatin thickens it into the perfect saucy-but-not-runny consistency (the pectin from the jam contributes, too). It would work with apricots, pineapple, blueberries--anything. It makes a sweet, concentrated sauce that screams the flavor of the fruit. ULTIMATE CHERRY GOODNESS. Way, way better than any cherry pie filling I've ever tried.
So! To the cake! You need 3 separate recipes, which you then assemble into the cake.
Recipe for the Cake
This will make two 9-inch cake pans. You can make a layer cake, like I did this time, or two single cakes (this might be excellent if you are using fresh fruit in the summertime--two cakes piled with different fresh fruit).
Note--the original recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup of sugar--I cut this to 3/4 cups (ish--didn't measure) because I wanted a distinct contrast between the less sweet, tangy cake and the sugar-cherry crush of the sauce.
Once frosted, pile the cherries onto the middle of the top. Don't worry if some juice drips along the sides.
Or--just make it because you feel like it!