When I bake, I like to use the freshest, best ingredients possible, and I tend to want fruit that's in season because, well, it just tastes better. I love cherries of all kinds, including maraschino, so when cherries came in season a week or so ago, I HAD to get some and bake! My inspiration for making cherry vanilla cake was actually the ice cream in my freezer, but whatevs, inspiration can be found anywhere. And since cupcakes would be easier to tote along to Moniker's birthday party in Westchestie, I made those.
I'll admit, I am not that great at coming up with winning cake recipes; I have to live off of others and modify it to my needs. I knew I wanted to make a basic vanilla cake with lots of cherries folded in, but when I googled "Cherry Vanilla Cake" I was amazed by the lack of good recipes to follow. I went with this tea cake recipe from Epicurious, and modified from there. First, I had fresh cherries, not canned (dealing with this was the true experiment), second, I went with low-fat sour cream since it is bikini season, not that I'm wearing a bikini anytime in '08, and last, but not least, I was making cupcakes, not cake, so the baking time was actually 15 minutes.
Hmm, so how do you take fresh cherries and use them in a recipe calling for canned ones? Why, you pretend to can them! Except I've never canned a single thing in my life. Ever. This is when ye old Joy of Cooking came in handy as it has a canning recipe to follow. Apparently there's a whole anti-browning step that involves putting the cherries in a watered down acid, and then you boil them in juice or water. When the boiling was over, Bez and I pretended to can, in mugs. Amazingly enough, this worked pretty well; we were quite proud of ourselves for pulling a fast one on Epicurious.
My shortcut was the lemon peel. I had known about the greatness that is Penzeys Spices, but it was Lil Bobo's waxing poetic about their orange peel that made me pick up the lemon peel. It's dehydrated, but 15 minutes in water and you wouldn't know the difference from fresh zest. If you ever need to zest, you have to go out and get this stuff. Good call, Bobo.
This doesn't look half as good as it smelled. I sort of just wanted to eat that.
Mixing ingredients together.
The cherries precoated in flour prior to folding.
Folding in the cherries!!
Since I didn't know how high these would rise, I decided to fill up to the lower side of half. I know now that I should have filled to between 1/2 and 2/3rds.
All begging to be eaten NOW!!
At this point, it was late; Bez and I were tired and they needed to cool anyway before frosting, so I can just do that in the morning! Well, morning came, and as usual now, I was running late. I had decided on this dark chocolate frosting from Cooks.com, and I was going to stick to my guns. Unfortunately, I had about a half hour to make it before catching a train. I melted, boiled, stirred, packed a whisk, and placed a hot, melty, sugary frosting in tupperware and was OFF! Yes, I stirred during cooling on the LIRR and Metro-North. But it was all worth it!
The finished product, hanging out in the woods of Westchestie!
Verdict: a hit! Next time, I will quarter the cherries so that there are more in each cupcakes, but in general, this recipe was moist, delicious, and not too sweet. The vanilla tea cake was the perfect complement to the sweet cherries. I don't know how this would come out with sour cherries. The frosting was good, not too greasy, it was a bit cloying though, so I might go with a higher cocoa next time, or cut some of the sugar.