Getting Fresh: Cherry Wonderful

Local cherries are here, which means that stone fruit season has begun -- and I have a date with some red flesh and a pit collection bowl this weekend.

As much as I love eating them out of hand, cherries are stellar in desserts. Now's the time to indulge your sweet tooth because these ruby-red gems are here for just a few weeks.

The cutest treats ever: cherry-almond tea cakes. (Kim O'Donnel)

Of all cherry desserts, pie tops the list, but I'm also a sucker for cherries and almonds, a marriage of mysterious and wonderful proportions. The two just love each other, and I love them.

As I'm wont to do while flying, I had a stack of magazines in my lap earlier this week and put the brakes on when I spotted a recipe for cherry and almond tea cakes in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Better still, they're teeny tiny, as in two bites, and use the entire cherry, including pit and stem. They looked so pretty in the picture I just had to see if they'd translate into home-cooked reality.

Success! These are the cutest things ever and pack quite an almondy punch in just two bites. The cherry tucked inside is like a surprise toy in a box of Cracker Jacks, a lil' extra sumthin'.

Just because they're called tea cakes doesn't mean they're tea time-only vittles. I can imagine some very happy Dads this Sunday biting into a handful of these precious pearls.

A few notes: The original recipe calls for 10 tablespoons of unsalted butter, and I reduced the amount to 8. I think you could get away with just six or seven tablespoons and still get a buttery result.

Right now, the price of almond flour is out of control, nearly double than what I paid in the spring, around 13 bucks for a six-ounce bag. To cut costs, I recommend buying slivered almonds in bulk and grinding them at home in a food processor.

The recipe calls for a mini-muffin tin. I suppose you could wing it with a regular muffin tin, but I'm unable to vouch for the variation at this juncture. I'm assuming you'd get a batch of 12, rather than 24. And that reminds me, the recipe yields 24 cakes, rather than 30, as originally published.

Share your favorite ways of eating cherries (sweet or sour) in the comments area below.

Join me today at 1ET for a special edition of What's Cooking about my recent experiences as a volunteer chef in New Orleans.

Recipe below the jump.

Tiny Cherry and Almond Tea Cakes
Adapted from the July 2007 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine

1 stick unsalted butter
Nonstick spray for greasing muffin tin
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups finely ground unblanched almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 large egg whites
4 teaspoons kirsch, Chambord or natural cherry flavoring (I think vanilla extract would work here as well, but I'd reduce to 2 teaspoons instead)
24 sweet cherries, stem on

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffins tins. Place mini-muffin paper liner inside each cup.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to sputter, reduce heat. Cook until butter has lightly browned. Skim foam from top and remove skillet from heat.

Whisk together flour, ground almonds, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add egg whites and whisk until smooth. Stir in flavoring. Pour in butter, leaving any dark brown sediment in skillet and whisk to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes.

Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup, filling about halfway. Push a cherry in each, keeping stem up. With a small spoon, smooth batter over cherries to cover. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean and cakes are golden brown, 12-15 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges to loosen, and unmold. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.

Makes 2 dozen.

By Kim ODonnel |  June 14, 2007; 10:55 AM ET Getting Fresh , Spring Produce
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These cherries should be pitted, right?

Posted by: duh | June 14, 2007 11:45 AM

The recipe calls for both spray and a paper liner--did you really find it necessary to use both? I've always just done one or the other and never had a problem. Are these muffins particularly sticky?

Posted by: Phoebe | June 14, 2007 11:49 AM

Duh, Actually this is a point worth repeating. Pits stay intact, which means you need to warn your friends to mind the obstacle. Let me know if you find a way to pit the cherries and keep stem intact. Othewise, you can remove both and still have a tasty treat.

Phoebe: I always find a little spray on the trays extremely helpful, particularly on a first go-round of this recipe. I used spray instead of butter and did away with the recommended flour. Let me know if you try yet another way to do this; I'd love all reports.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | June 14, 2007 11:55 AM

I think you could use a cherry pitter from the side of a cherry rather than top to bottom and keep the stem intact (although you'd have a hole right through the cherry). But what's wrong with just removing the stem and pit and putting the pitted cherry in the middle of each mini-muffin? I think they'd look even cuter without a stem and be more user-friendly.

Posted by: LCS | June 14, 2007 12:21 PM

Hi Kim,

I love reading your blog and have found ways to translate many of your non-vegan recipes into a delicious vegan friendly form. However, I'm stumped with this one. Do you have any suggestions with finding vegan unsalted "butter." I typically use Earth Balance as my butter substitute but it is too salty for many baking recipes and I LOVE to bake. Obviously, I can leave out the salt in the recipe but in past recipes, I have found that the salted "butter" is still too salty.

Thanks for any tips you or other readers might have.


Posted by: Vegan Girl | June 14, 2007 12:23 PM

Speaking of cherries, I have a load at home and was going to transform them into a batch of sorbet tonight (after a very successful batch of strawberry sorbet last night!). Love the idea of adding almond flavoring. My first thought was to add almond-flavored liquer, but since I don't have any on hand and I do have almond extract on hand, I was wondering if you think that would work? Or would it taste bitter since it wouldn't be cooked? I could mix it into the simple syrup over the stove for a bit for adding to the cherries and pureeing - what do you think?

Posted by: Sorbet Gal | June 14, 2007 12:25 PM

For vegan butter ... if you're willing try Smart Balance. I'm almost certain it is a vegan product, it has a nice buttery flavor. I know it comes in a "lightly salted" form. not sure about unsalted.

Posted by: Nzinga | June 14, 2007 12:39 PM

To me, the arrival of cherries is clafoutis time. Mmm.

Posted by: rm | June 14, 2007 12:43 PM

Super easy , quick Cherry Cobbler recipe adapted from the origional blueberry cobbler in Jane Brody's Good Food Book. This works great for cherries , blueberries , peaches , apples. I actually do these both in 1 qt baking dish and cupcakes (with paper lining and I halve the butter)

2/3 cup flour (or pastry flour if available)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

2/3 cup skim milk
2 T melted butter
2 cups pitted cherries
(optional 1/2 t vanilla ,1/4 cup chopped almonds or walnuts)

Mix dry ingredients , add milk , pour batter into 1 qt baking dish coated with melted butter and then add fruit on top

350 degree preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned. (approx 25-30 min cupcakes or lightly browned)

Serves 8 or makes approx 8 cupcakes

I make the dry ingredients up into small packets and keep 4-6 on hand so all I have to do is add milk , butter and fruit. Between cherries , peaches , blueberries I'll make this often this time of year.

Posted by: stosh wychulus | June 14, 2007 12:43 PM

Can you recommend a place to buy locally grown cherries?

Also, are there pick-your-own cherry orchards nearby?

Posted by: novi | June 14, 2007 1:05 PM

I'm no math whiz, but you eliminated one-fifth of the butter (8 instead of 10 T.) from the original recipe, then added a note that it only yields 24 muffins instead of 30, as though the 20 percent reduction was a surprise of some kind? FYI: Not having a muffin tin (mini or otherwise), I used a 9-inch round baking pan and only got ONE!

Posted by: Audentes | June 14, 2007 1:23 PM

1) As you can see from the recipe, butter is not the only (or even, I would argue, the main) ingredient here. It seems strange to me that reducing the amount of one ingredient would have such an enormous impact on the recipe. Thanks for the heads-up, Kim.
2) Baking in a single tin and only getting one cake??...Thank you for sharing that shocking discovery. :) Actually, I like the idea of baking a tea cake studded with little cherries, although it would make removing the pits even more important.

Posted by: 51 | June 14, 2007 1:57 PM

Dang. I am on a diet. I want some cherry almond muffins!

Posted by: Hungry | June 14, 2007 2:19 PM

For pick your own in Maryland, go to Larriland Farms. We go every year for berries and tart cherries. I have never gotten sweet cherries there before but I imagine they are good too.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 14, 2007 3:07 PM

I am definitely going to try these. I think the little stems poking out are really cute -- and a good reminder that the pits are still there.

Posted by: Kary | June 14, 2007 5:12 PM

Hey. Here's another thought. Chocolate mini-muffins with cherries this way would be great also. Both kinds would look great together on a plate.

Posted by: Kary | June 14, 2007 7:07 PM

Kary, sounds like you're onto Black Forest cherry muffins. GO FOR IT!

Posted by: cherry girl | June 14, 2007 9:08 PM

Smart Balance isn't vegan.

In recipes with both salt and unsalted butter, I sometimes use Earth Balance and leave out the salt. Other times I just use canola.

You may find it easier to go with recipes that were vegan to begin with rather than veganizing others. Go to for lots of recipes. Mona's Brownies, for example, are incredible.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 15, 2007 9:14 AM

These sound yummy, but I don't know if I can resist eating the cherries raw long enough to use them in a recipe!

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | June 15, 2007 9:59 AM

My favorite way to enjoy cherries?

Get in car.
Drive to Northern Michigan (not the U.P., just near the top of the mitten).
Stop at any of the dozens of roadside stands offering "Fresh sweet cherries for sale."
Buy at least a couple pounds.
Drive on down the road.
Play the Indigo Girls on the stereo.
Pop cherries in mouth (WHOLE, do NOT attempt to bite them or you'll literally be sprayed with juice).
Spit pits out the window.


Seriously... you may think you have eaten cherries, but if you haven't gotten 'em fresh from a roadside stand in Northern Michigan, you've never really eaten cherries.

Posted by: Divine Ms K | June 18, 2007 12:04 PM

This recipe sounds like my idea of heaven. Thanks! FYI, the last time I was at Trader Joe's, their almond flour/meal was just as inexpensive as ever, around $4-6 for a one-pound bag. I don't know how they sell it so cheap given the price of almond flour elsewhere, so get while the getting's cheap!

Posted by: IHateParis | June 18, 2007 2:17 PM

Love adapting your recipes to my taste and that of my friends....But most of all the recipes are inspiration... for which I THANK YOU. Ayee Da Costa

Posted by: adacosta | June 22, 2007 5:04 AM

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