High Country Baking: Serve this cherry-almond cake in all seasons and for all occasions
High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This bi-weekly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Cherries and almonds are a classic combination; the play between the soft fruit and crunchy nuts always gets high marks. In this recipe they’re scattered throughout a mildly sweet, one-layer cake, giving it flavor and an appealingly moist, pebbly texture. And, there’s no need to wait for the brief time that fresh cherries are available. This recipe uses frozen ones, so you can make it anytime. It’s a light, easy-to-prepare dessert that presents well, is company-worthy, and could be served either at brunch or after dinner.
The size of your pan is important; it should be 9 inches in diameter. My springform pan claims to be 9 ½ inches wide, but is actually only 9 inches, so it was the perfect choice for this cake. Seriously, measure your pans before starting, and don’t go with one smaller than 9-inches across. I tried the cake in an 8-inch springform pan; the fruit sunk in the deeper batter, creating a depression in the cake’s center.
The cherries also make a difference in the cake’s success. Frozen is important, because they actually have more intense flavor than fresh ones when baked. Thaw them, dry them well, and then, just before adding them to the batter, re-dry them. Too much juice will result in a cake with a soggy, unappealing texture.
If you like a sweet cake, you can add another 1-2 tablespoons of sugar to the batter in step No. 2. Vanilla ice cream and sweetened whipped cream are good accompaniments.
All Seasons Cherry-Almond Cake
Adjusted for altitudes of 8,000 feet and above
Make in a 9 ½ inch springform pan or 9-inch deep dish pie plate (4-cup capacity)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably baker’s
3 jumbo eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
10-12 ounces frozen pitted dark cherries, thawed and dried
½ cup sliced almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Grease your pan with a baking spray that contains flour and spread it evenly with a paper towel. Set the pan aside.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl or 2-cup measure, whisk to blend, and set aside. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them to a bigger mixing bowl with the sugar, and beat with an electric mixer until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat after each addition until smooth and blended. Include the almond and vanilla extracts with the last egg. With the mixer on its lowest speed or by hand, gently stir in the flour mixture only until no flour is visible and the batter is smooth. Don’t overmix.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth and level it. Use a paper towel to quickly re-dry the cherries before scattering them in an irregular pattern over the top. Sprinkle on the sliced almonds.
4. Bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (40-45 minutes in a springform pan, a little longer in a pie pan). Remove the cake to a rack to cool. If the top puffed up while baking, gently press it down with the back of a spoon so it’s level while the cake is still warm and pliable. You can serve the cake about 20 minutes after it’s out of the oven, but it tastes best and is easier to cut if you cool it completely and refrigerate it, covered, up to one day. Cut it while it’s cold and, if desired, re-warm the slices in a microwave or a 325-degree oven until warm to the touch. While most prefer it served warm, some claim it’s best at room temperature or even cool.
The cake recipe is a variation of one published by Martha Stewart. Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). She became a full-time Frisco resident in 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.