Hello March: Sour Cherry Coffee Cake with Whipped Crème Fraîche

cherry sponge cake

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

  • Difficulty: easy
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Classic sponge cake loaded with fruits and crunchy walnuts, served with rich crème fraîche.

Ingredients

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

Directions

  1. Thaw and drain, or if using fresh, wash, pit and drain sour cherries. Roughly chop walnuts. Mix flour with baking powder. Set aside.
  2. Thoroughly butter and flour a 22×33 cm (9×13″) pan (I’ve divided the batter into smaller dishes for photography purposes).
  3. Preheat oven to 160 C (320 F).
  4. In a large mixing bowl, cream softened butter with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy.
  5. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating until incorporated.
  6. 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.
  7. In another bowl, whip cold egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently fold egg foam into egg-butter-sugar mixture with a spatula.
  9. Fold in flour and baking powder until incorporated.
  10. Pour batter in the prepared pan. Arrange cherries on top. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts and vanilla sugar.
  11. Bake until batter has risen and golden brown, about 30-40 min.
  12. 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).

Love,

Fruzsi

Sour Cherry Slab Pie

sour cherry slab pie

Pie. One of world’s favorite desserts, an affaire de coeur no matter where you live. Yet it only cleared on me know that I’m writing this post, that slab pies are quite under the radar over at your end in America. That needs to change!

When we use the word pite (pron. pee-tech) in Hungary, 9 out of 10 times it comes in rectangular form. Ditch your circular dish for once and try baking pie in a shallow, rimmed baking pan. It feeds more mouths with less mess ’n fuss, and with the bar outfit you get more crust too. Sensible. Yes, that’s the word for slab pies.

Side by side, sweet quark and sour cherry filled slab pies must be the most popular around here; almost every house in our neighborhood has a sour cherry tree in the front yard. My family moved from the capital to the suburbs some 20 years ago so ours is old now, but we still get a steady supply of the tart fruit year in, year out.

And so it pains me to see how my parents are the only ones there taking the time and effort to harvest the crimson-to-near-black delicacy when these are so sought after at the farmers’ market. Fresh sour cherries don’t show up often in stores as their shelf life is quite short: they bruise easily. That said, packages from the frozen goods section of the supermarket is your next best option.

More acidic and having greater nutritional benefits than sweet cherry, the sour type also holds its shape better when baked. And there’s no need to restrict lovely sour cherries to just pie either! Dry, can, freeze, or make jam from a batch to enjoy later in many kinds of sweet and savory dishes.

sour cherry slab pie

In this recipe, a little cinnamon goes a long way, and a woven lattice-top is making the pie visually pleasing. This crust recipe works with any berry or stone fruit that’s in season near you. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or cold after a good sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Yet another reason to love pie!

Sour Cherry Slab Pie

  • Difficulty: medium
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The #1 summer pie in Hungary, coming in a sheet pan.

Ingredients

For the crust:

500 g AP flour

250 g cold butter, cut to cubes

pinch of salt

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp baking powder

1 medium egg + 1 for eggwash

1-2 tbsp sour cream

For the filling:

1 kg sour cherry, washed and pitted

4 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 packet vanilla flavor pudding mix (not the instant variety) or 40 g / 2 ½ tbsp cornstarch + 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Mix pitted sour cherries with sugar, set aside.
  2. For the crust, in a medium bowl mix flour with salt, sugar and baking powder.
  3. Working quickly, cut in cold butter until rough crumbles are formed. Do not overwork, clumps should not yet collect.
  4. Add egg, plus 1 to 2 tbsp sour cream and work with your hands until dough comes together. Wrap in cling foil and refrigerate while you make the filling.
  5. For the filling, drain the juice from the previously sugared sour cherries. If it’s less than 300 ml (1 ¼ cup), add water. Mix juice thoroughly with the pudding mix or cornstarch (watch out for lumps).
  6. Heat mixture in a medium pot, stirring continuously, until it starts to thicken. Turn heat off, add sour cherries and cinnamon. Mix well, set aside.
  7. Preheat oven to 180°C / 356°F. Divide chilled dough to 2 equal parts, roll out one half on a lightly floured surface to the size of your pan. Gently lift and fit dough into the pan.
  8. Pour filling over dough (no need to pre-bake), and spread evenly.
  9. Roll out remaining dough, cut strips with a knife or pizza cutter. Weave lattice top, wash with the other egg.
  10. Bake until crust is golden, about 40 min. Enjoy!

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Love,

Fruzsi