I'd bought fistfuls of cherries for my wehani rice salad with cherries, almonds, and mint, and, happily, I had a half bag left over. I grabbed my pitter and my ugliest apron and got busy. Another problem with pitting cherries -- aside from the Lady Macbeth factor -- is that it's tempting to pop them in your mouth as you work. Like one for me, one for the bowl. Three for me, one for the bowl. Eight for me, one for the bowl. After 15 minutes the bowl held about 3 cherries.
I proceeded, and reached for a few sad-looking bananas. Cherries and bananas snuggle up in banana splits, so why can't they canoodle in a cake as well?
This particular cake is a hybrid -- it's more substantial and less sweet than a fluffy dessert cake, but not as firm and dense as my favorite banana bread. And the burst of fresh cherries in each bite lets you know that summer is just around the bend, almost within reach.
Don that apron, stretch those arms, and you're practically there.
Recipe for Cherry Banana Morning Cake
I call this a morning cake because it's not too sweet and serves as a fitting bridge between breakfast and lunch. Flo Braker's Banana Streusel Snack Cake (from Baking for All Occasions, Chronicle Books, 2008) served as my rough model here, but I left off her streusel, covered the cake with cherries, messed with the flour and generally bastardized her recipe. For the record, I'm sure her original version is perfectly delicious as well.
Makes one 8-1/2" square cake
1 cup cake flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup mashed bananas (2 or 3)
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
5 ounces cherries (about 1 cup), stemmed, pitted, halved
2-3 tablespoons demerara (coarse) sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-1/2" square cake pan with nonstick spray and fit the bottom with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and granulated sugar until creamy and light, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Mix the mashed banana, milk, and two extracts in a small bowl and add them to the mixer, beating well until all the ingredients are incorporated. (The batter will look curdled. Don't be alarmed.) Add the flour and beat just until the batter comes together.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and lay the cherries, cut side up, on top in any pattern you like. (I prefer a rustic, haphazard placement.) Sprinkle the whole cake with the coarse sugar, making sugar to get some in the cherries.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, and then carefully unmold and continue cooling. Wait until the cake has finished cooling before cutting it into generous squares.