Many years ago, I became part of an extended family that celebrated almost every birthday, anniversary, new baby, etc, within the large, geographically close-knit clan. That meant at least monthly get togethers, usually in the evening after the many farmers in the group wer through with their chores. There were sometimes sandwiches but most of the time these were dessert events, and kitchen tables would be covered with rows of 9 X 13 pans full of cakes, tortes, and kuchens.
Many kinds of chocolate desserts were year round favorites and every cook was known for at least one special favorite. As the seasons changed, so did the offerings, with lots of fruit based choices throughout the summer.
Here in the upper Midwest, we can't grow sweet cherries in the backyard, but "sour cherries" or "pie cherries" were often found in country yards and orchards, and the German heritage of this family meant lots of cherry recipes could be found.
One of these is labeled "Grace's Cherry Cake" in Great Grandma's recipe box. However, over the years, because Grandma herself often made the cake when she found out how well liked it was, it began to be called "Grandma's Cherry Cake." That is the name I will be including in the recipe below.
In many parts of the country, fresh "sour" cherries are never available, and even here where the trees still grace many back yards, they are hard to find even at farmers' markets. If you aren't able to go out and pick your own, you can substitute a 15 oz. can of pitted cherries (NOT cherry pie filling!), draining the fruit before stirring into the batter.
For those of us blessed with our own (or family or friends') cherry trees, however, this is a wonderfully easy and inexpensive salute to summer. And, since it only uses a cup of cherries, even a small harvest on your tree will make a nice-sized cake.
NOTE: Two changes to the original recipe:
- This initially called for 4 T sour milk, but plain yogurt works well and is something I always have on hand. If you want to go with sour milk, measure just under a quarter cup of milk and then stir in about 1 t vinegar or lemon juice. Allow the milk and acid to sit briefly before adding to the batter.
- The original also called for cake flour, but all-purpose flour works perfectly well instead.
Grandma's Cherry Cake
1 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1/4 c plain yogurt
1 1/2 c flour
1 t soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t cloves
1 c pitted sour cherries--if fresh, include juice; if using canned, drain before adding
1. Combine the butter, sugar, and eggs and beat with a mixer until very thick and creamy. Add yogurt and mix well.
2. Sift together (or stir in a large bowl) the flour, soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Gradually add to the liquid batter and beat just until well blended.
3. Fold in the cherries.
4. Pour the batter into a very well-oiled 9 X 12 pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
If using a glass or disposable foil pan, bake at 325 degrees.