Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Birthday Cake for Ringo Starr

I am having a hard time believing its already Week 6 of our CSA. The summer is flying by and the amounts of veggies keep increasing. I've hit the point where I'm having a hard time keeping up. I blame the heat. It is time to spend a day or two catching up.

Today's box of veg included lettuce, scallions, sugar snap peas, parsely, more cucumbers (day of canning pickles, here we come), summer squash/zucchini, and the most gorgeous bulb of fennel I have even seen. I need a recipe that uses the fronds and stems, as they are easily 2 feet in height. Anybody have one?

We also have received our weekly egg share and another beautiful bag of cherries. As I still have cherries at home from last week, it seemed prudent to have the cherries be a part of the Baking with Grandma Project.

For those who patronize the Schenectady Green Market, you'll know that there's a family farm truck, run by a mother and son. They sell in season stone fruit (cherries, plums, peaches, etc), followed by many varieties of apples and pears come Fall. These include Japanese pears so good that they never make it all the way home in one piece. Two summers back, I asked the mother/grandmother of the family what to do with sour tart cherries. Her suggestion is one of the most easy and delicious cakes of summer. If anyone knows the name of the farm and the gentle lady behind the table (I believe they're from Maynard Orchards), please comment below, so I can give credit where credit is due.

The cherries are pitted, and laid out in a single layer on the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. They are sprinkled with a handful or two of brown sugar. Then, yellow cake mix is poured across the top, and baked according to the box. You will need additional cooking time for the added moisture, but that is really the only high maintenance part of the recipe. Once baked, you turn the cake out (or not) and serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It looks fancy, tastes delicious, and only you know exactly how simple it was.

Now, I embarked on this project at my in law's house, which means there was not a cake mix to be found. My mother in law (Grandma Cheryl, to my girls) is an amazing baker, and cake mixes are simply not a necessity for her pantry. Grandma was game for a from scratch cake, and she suggested a cake recipe from one of her coworkers. It is a yellow cake, from the butter and farm fresh egg yolks, that is enriched with a bit of almond extract. My mother in law correctly surmised that the almond flavor would be an excellent complement to the cherries.

The best part of this cake recipe was that it is absolutely shameless in being a cake. It embraces its dessert status, calling for 5 eggs and 3 stick of butter. I repeat: 5 whole eggs, 3 sticks of butter in one 9 x13 sheet cake. Our cooking time was 20 minutes extra due to the added moisture from the cherries, but what finally emerged from the oven was one of the most decadent, moist moist, most delicious cakes I have ever had, bar none.

If, like me, you are up to your eyebrows in cherries, this is a fabulous way to use them up. If you are squeamish about short on butter, go ahead and use Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines. If you are feeling inspired, I invite you to try out this recipe. You will share, you will enjoy, you (and all at your table) will come back for seconds.

A Grandma's Cherry Upside Down Cake
Adapted from recipes from Cheryl P. and the lovely lady from Maynard Orchards, who always has a smile, a kind word for my girls, and the best fruit at the market

1. Grease a 9 x 13. Wash and pit enough cherries to line the bottom in a dense single layer (2/3 of this weeks share, for us). Sprinkle one to two handfuls of brown sugar over the top of the cherries.

2. Mix up a yellow cake mix, according to the box directions, pouring the completed mix over the top of the cherries. Bake according to the package, plus 10 minutes or so, until toothpick or strand of spaghetti inserted in the center comes out crumbs/clean. Alternatively, follow the following instructions:

3. Allow cake to cool. Serve alone or with whipped cream/a la mode. Share and enjoy!


  1. looks delicious!!!!!!!!!!! but sooo not on my diet. LOL

  2. Diet, shmiet. Ringo Starr's birthday only comes once a year!

  3. I am most definitely going to try this once August comes around. My Paleo diet challenge will be over July 31st!

    side note: were you aware that taking a box mix and stirring in a can of any diet soda produces a deliciously moist cake? Try combinations like chocolate cake mix and a diet orange soda. Or a yellow cake mix and a diet cherry soda. Lower cal because no eggs or oil added! Delicious as cupcakes too :)

  4. So, we're talking one box mix, one can soda, and then bake according to standard directions?

  5. fantastic site. enjoyed reading all the posts, admiring the food and the girls.