Cherries are just coming into season here in Prague – a sure sign summer is well upon us and we have completed another trip around the sun. Cherries and strawberries are just some of the local fruits filling our farmers’ market stalls these last two weeks – and I think, at last. Now that markets are reopening this summer, I don’t take for granted these Saturday morning trips. After a proper doze and lie-in on a Saturday morning, it is coffee and then out with door with market baskets to fill with eggs, vegetables, fruits, and breads.
Summer is my favorite season by virtue of the longer light stretching until ten in the evening, or the lazy afternoons and picnics in the park with cold tomato & black pepper sandwiches, and the early sunrise with the dog on the riverfront which is dappled with swans and their cygnets, the morning still cool from the night air yet warming with the promise of a fresh new day. It could be my endless curiosity to find the right coastal village to plan adventurous (and tasty) seaside holidays in the south that make summer special but it surely can also be the food. Summer is the season of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant – true favorites of mine. I could have them each independently or, on a summer’s day, simmering away together in a French ratatouille. Fried summer zucchini blossoms down in Italy? I mean . . . oh, but I digress. Must be the heat. Yes, cherries.
On Sunday, I had wanted to bake a not-so-sweet cake but something pillowy, zesty fresh, and include in-season fruit. At first I though angel food cake would do the trick but I didn’t have quite enough eggs to both bake and cook the meals I had planned for the week. I remembered I had picked up a heap of cherries at the market the day prior and recalled an Italian olive oil cake with blackberries I had once prepared years ago in my old kitchen in Old Town that could be substituted. That’ll definitely do, I thought. Cherries baked in an olive oil cake – perfecto!
This recipe is simple, quick, and doesn’t require you to run your oven terribly long that would warm your home. You can easily create and take this cake from oven to cooling rack in under an hour. You can also use most fruit you have on hand for example, peaches, blackberries, or cherries. However, do select a fruit that can hold up to an oven’s heat (better to save the raspberries for breakfast müsli). You also do not need a mixer but it does free up your hands to do other activities. So join me as I will walk you through how you too can create your perfect summertime cake.
What You’ll Need
- 2 cups (200g) AP Flour
- 1 cup (200g) white sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh pitted, halved cherries
- Zest of 2 fresh lemons
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup (extra virgin) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (100g) = 1 stick of melted butter
- Confectioners sugar & fresh fruit to serve
Prepare and Bake
- Preheat your oven to 350 F / 177 C and center your baking rack. Butter and flour a 9″/10″ round non-stick baking pan
- In a small saucepan, begin to melt your butter. Once melted set aside to cool (without firming)
- In your mixer or in a bowl, combine sugar and zest. Following, add in eggs and beat for approximately 10 minutes until the egg mixture is pale in color and doubles in size. You should be able to form ribbons with the mixture with a spatula.
- While your egg mixture is mixing, sift your flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
- Return to your egg mixture, slowly add in the oil. This should be as slow as a drizzle. Next, add your lemon juice. Following, slowly add the butter (check with your finger the heat – if it is too hot you will cook and scramble your eggs). Next, slowly add and fold in dry mixture into your wet mixture, folding in carefully from the outer walls to the center. Do not over-fold or deflate your egg mixture.
- Pour half the mixture into the baking sheet, add fruit, add second half of batter.
- Bake for 35 minutes and check with a toothpick. Bake for 3-5 minutes longer, if necessary. Cool and serve with a dusting of sugar and side of fresh fruit. You can also add a topping of mashed cherries with the juice and drizzle over the slices for extra taste and texture. A summer home run.
- Serves 6-8 people.