Remember the cherry-lime coffee cake?
I found myself with part of a bag of cherries I needed to use or lose. I thought about making the cherry-lime cake, but felt like I wanted to go another way with it.
I thought and thought about what way to skew it, and came up with cherry-vanilla. I liked the idea of the bourbon-based vanilla in with the cherries. I thought and thought about a bright note to call out of the richness, but kept coming up with rich notes to add. Almonds. Brown butter. Cinnamon.
I settled on brown butter. I needed sweetness and thought through honey, the agave the recipe calls for, sugar. I settled on brown sugar. If I’m going to be unapologetic, might as well go all the way. I substituted it for the white sugar in the recipe, too.
I washed and pitted the cherries while the butter browned. Once the butter was browned, I added a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar, stirred it while the sugar dissolved, and then added the cherries. Once the cherries softened, I added a jealous glug of the homemade vanilla and let it cook down for a minute or two.
I removed it from the burner and let it cool a little, so that it wouldn’t cook the eggs when I added it all to the dry ingredients. When it had cooled for a few minutes, I added the almond milk to the warm skillet, to cool it more quickly. I scrambled the eggs separately and added them and the sourdough once the cherry mixture cooled enough.
I baked the cake much as I did last time, and the batter, despite less acid, was nearly as active as the last time. It rises much more than my regular sourdough coffee cake.
It’s a tasty cake, with a strong flavor of browned butter and lots of toothsome cherries. The vanilla could have been stronger, but it’s there, and subtle. Not overly sweet, moist.
I think Mom is working on picking a fight with me, so she said that it was firmer than she thought it would be, but it’s not in the least firm (as cakes go). She also called it “interesting.” For a woman who expects praise for every single thing she does (she asks me how the iced tea is every time she makes a pitcher— iced tea doesn’t vary much from pitcher to pitcher, given that we use the same ratio of hot water to tea bags), she can be somewhat sparse with her thanks and feedback given that I bake her at least one thing from scratch nearly every week (which replaces something far less special that she’d buy off the clearance bakery rack), and make her several fairly labor intensive meals. But fighting with her is not a great use of my energy.
My only objection to it is that it’s just a little more subtle than I’d like it to be. I feel like I’d add more vanilla. I think you could add cocoa to it and have something pretty special. I’m wondering about a little orange or lemon zest— not a lot, just a little something bright, added with the cherries, to provide a bit of differentiation between the rich, dark flavors. I think cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom could work that way, too. Let me know if you try it, and what you think!