They say self-deception will not serve you well. Not when you dream of warmer seasons and decide to play make-believe with your senses by a dessert featuring one of summer’s signature fruits!
The base of this well-known Hungarian treat is a sponge cake. I think I will need to elaborate on that because there are a Whole Wide World of Sponge Cakes: Victoria, Angel food, French biscuits, Génoise, chiffon, foam cakes, and so on and so forth.
Generally, pastries of this family get their light, open texture from whipped egg whites a.k.a. egg foam. They are relatively quick and simple to make, but you need to be skillful (read: gentle) with your folding.
The name sponge cake around here is used to refer either to a light foam cake made with just 3 ingredients (eggs, sugar and flour), or a heavy foam cake made with added butter. The latter is denser, crumbly and stays moist longer.
A sponge cake is among the first things your granny teaches you to bake. They are wonderfully versatile and used in a multitude of Central-Eastern European recipes. This particular one plays in the ‘with butter’ league and also employs some baking powder, as it needs a little added strength to rise under the weight of all those juicy fruits.
The sour cherries I used here were home-grown (I wrote about my parents’ horticultural vein before), but it’s totally comme il faut in my book to bake with store-bought fruit. I prefer frozen to canned though, and I don’t think you need that syrup in your life either.
What elevates this classic besides the crunchy, toasted walnuts on top is the dollop of whipped crème fraîche served on the side. Do you like crème fraîche? Is it even available where you live? It’s still quite exotic here – that much is obvious from the price tag. If you can find it, that is.
For those of you not yet familiar with this dairy: crème fraîche is similar to sour cream, but thicker, richer, and less tangy. It’s great in both sweet and savory dishes. I particularly love how it offsets the sweetness of tarts and pies perfectly, adding another layer of flavor to every bite. You can whip crème fraîche into a thick, creamy topping just like you would do with heavy cream.
It’s also a no-brainer to make at home, not to mention considerably cheaper! All you need is heavy (whipping) cream, full-fat natural yogurt and about 24 hours on the counter. Just mix a cup of cream with 2 tbsp yogurt, and let it sit in a glass jar at room temperature until it becomes thick and creamy. Keep it in the fridge afterwards and use within 5 days.
Sour Cherry Coffee Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche
Classic sponge cake loaded with fruits and crunchy walnuts, served with rich crème fraîche.
4 medium eggs, separated
1/4 tsp salt
180 g butter, room temperature
250 g superfine sugar
4 tbsp AP flour
1 packet (8 g) vanilla sugar
1/2 packet (7 g) baking powder
100 g walnuts, chopped
300 g fresh or frozen sour cherries, pitted and drained
butter and flour for greasing the pan
- Thaw and drain, or if using fresh, wash, pit and drain sour cherries. Roughly chop walnuts. Mix flour with baking powder. Set aside.
- Thoroughly butter and flour a 22×33 cm (9×13″) pan (I’ve divided the batter into smaller dishes for photography purposes).
- Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).
- In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy.
- Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
- Add sugar in 3 portions to the egg-butter mixture, mix on medium until pale and fluffy and sugar has dissolved, about 4-5 min. Set aside.
- In another bowl, whip cold egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold egg foam into egg-butter-sugar mixture with a spatula.
- Fold in flour and baking powder until incorporated.
- Pour batter in the prepared pan. Arrange cherries on top. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and vanilla sugar.
- Bake until batter has risen and golden brown, about 30-40 min.
- Let cool in the pan before slicing. Enjoy slightly warm or cool with a dusting of powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped crème fraîche on the side (optional).