Red Wine Cherry Almond Upside Down Cake
Cherries and almonds are one of natures perfect pairings and this amazing cake certainly proves the point. Red wine and cherries cook together to form a naturally sweet layer that pairs perfectly with the biscuit-like almond cake. No oil or butter in this recipe makes this dessert a bit more innocent than other cakes, but you would never guess it from the amazing flavor.
I had forgotten about this cake until recently at the market something clicked when I saw the mounds of North West sweet cherries. My friend Yelena had prepared this cake several times for gatherings and I had really enjoyed it. I recalled how I especially liked the way the sweet fruit complemented the not-so-sweet cake, and also because it had reminded me of my grandmother Inga. Being from Europe my grandmother would bake what I considered some of the most delicious cakes and breads full of wonderful flavors, but not over the top sweet. I was sure that I had Yelenas recipe filed away, so I loaded up a bag full of the red delights and headed home to complete my mission.
The hardest part of making this dessert for me is pitting the cherries, I find this task a bit tedious. There are different methods used to accomplish this chore like the safety pin or chopstick method, but I find using the tines of a dinner fork work best for me. I don’t attempt this task very often and not having a cherry tree I have never justified purchasing a mechanical pitter. So what ever method you use the two things I would suggest are to work over a bowl to catch every bit of the delicious juice, and to be very thorough in your pitting, biting down on a cherry stone is not a good thing.
Cook the wine and sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to bubble. After the sugar has dissolved add the cherries along with any juice you collected during pitting and cook them until they are somewhat tender. Depending on how ripe your cherries are will make a difference in cooking time, you do need to cook them long enough to release some of their liquid and to become soft.
Once the cherries are soft remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl. Mix the cherries with the lemon juice then arrange them in the bottom of your greased cake pan. I place a parchment in the bottom of the pan to make sure everything comes out clean. Kick up the heat a little and bring the wine and sugar mixture to a slow boil and let it reduce until it is a thick syrup. Watch the pan and stir often, hot sugar expands as it bubbles. I have made the mistake in the past of not allowing the liquid to thicken enough which made for a messy cake. Drizzle the thickened syrup over the cherries in the bottom of the pan making sure to distribute evenly. Then on to the cake!
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet or on a sheet pan in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes. When the almonds are cool place them in your food processor with two tablespoons of sugar and pulse. You want them to be a fine crumb but not a paste. It is better to error on the side of coarser than turning them into a butter. Mix the batter and spread over the top of the cherries. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until the center is set. Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes before turning over onto a serving plate. You need the cherries to still be warm but not hot to get them cleanly out of the pan., they do need to set up a bit, but if you wait too long the sugar will stick the cake to your pan. I run a hot knife around the edge of the pan to help with the release.
This beautiful cake would be a great dessert for the fourth of July in place of a cherry pie. I like it as it is but you could certainly top it with some home-made ice cream, and since the cake is lower in calories it leaves plenty of room for a scoop or two. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
- 1 ¼ cups sugar divided
- ¼ cup dry red wine
- 2 pounds dark sweet cherries pitted
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- ¾ cup whole raw almonds toasted
- 2 large eggs
- 2 egg whites
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Position shelf in the center of the oven and heat to 375° F. Prepare an 8” cake pan by lightly greasing bottom and sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and lightly grease paper.
- Combine ¼ cup of the sugar and wine in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Stir in cherries. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 -15 minutes until cherries begin to soften, stirring often.
- Remove cherries from the pan with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid in the pan. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss with lemon juice. Transfer cherries to the prepared cake pan in an even layer.
- Cook wine mixture over medium-high heat about 3 – 5 minutes or until reduced to a syrup-like consistency, about ¼ cup. Stirring frequently. Remove from heat and pour over the cherries
- Place almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor. Pulse until finely ground, be careful not to process into a paste.
- Place eggs and egg whites in a large mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy, slowly add remaining sugar. Beat until thick and lemon colored.
- Whisk flour and salt together in a separate bowl. Slowly sift flour mixture over egg mixture and fold in. Fold in ground almonds mixture. Spread batter evenly over cherries.
- Bake 40 - 45 minutes or until center is set and golden brown. Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes before inverting onto a plate.
When pitting the cherries work over a bowl to catch any juice which should be added along with the cherries.
Be careful to remove all of the cherry pits. Biting into a cherry stone is not a good thing.