Hungarians use sour cherries in several dishes - including in a cold cherry soup. There are several ways in which sour cherries (called meggye) appear in desserts. Here they appear in a low rise sheet cake - though I will, in time, share a version where they are paired with a lighter sponge Genoise type cake. If you Google "meggyes pite" and view the Image results you'll see that there can be some variation in the desserts labelled as such - including one that is sort of like a slab pie. 

This recipe is slightly adapted from Saveur - which, interestingly, tends to offer very nice recipes linked to Eastern European cultures. They describe this as a cake often eaten at breakfast. Never heard of that - but it's worth a try! 

You'll notice that this recipe uses Kirsch aka Kirschwasser. Though made from morello cherries "kirschwassers have a refined taste with subtle flavors of cherry and a slight bitter-almond taste that derives from the stones." [Source] Easily available at a liquor store, I tend to always have this on hand for other recipes - for example, my Mrs London's Cake. The original recipe says it's ok to substitute brandy - but it will not be the same...

Getting Ready:

  • be sure you have Kirsch
  • bring butter and egg to room temperature
  • prep the cherries (see Notes)
  • butter a 13" x 18" x 1" baking sheet, and dust with flour (see Notes)
  • preheat oven to 375 F (see Notes)
  • mix dry ingredients

2 lb. pitted sour cherries (see Notes)
1⁄4 cup flour (optional)

(Optional) Toss cherries with 1⁄4 cup flour in a bowl; set aside. (see Notes)

16 TB unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 TB kirsch or brandy
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, kirsch, and vanilla on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 TB baking powder
3⁄4 tsp kosher salt

1 cup milk

In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt.

With the mixer running on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk in 3 batches to make a batter.

Spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth evenly. Sprinkle the cherries over the top. Bake at 375 F until the cake is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let the cake cool 30 minutes, then cut into squares to serve. After the first 24 hours, store in the fridge (if there's still some left) and warm it slightly for an ideal treat.

Notes and Tips...

  • Sour Cherries - the original recipe suggests fresh or frozen sour cherries. Though there are fresh sour cherries at markets as I write, I have not yet tried this with fresh sour cherries - though I am curious about the difference, since frozen / thawed cherries tend to be more wet. Fresh cherries: if you don't have a pitter use a paper clip - I even made a video of how to do that, but lost it - so here's a YouTube. Frozen cherries: I like to buy my sour cherries, already pitted, from Cherry Lane, here on the Niagara Peninsula. Thaw the cherries and use paper towels to pat them dry. Cherries in a jar: these are available in European delicatessens year round. You'll need more than one jar - drain them and pat them dry.
  • Cherries: Quantity - my cherries were frozen in 3 cup portions which turned out to be only 1 lb. and a bit, instead of the specified 2 lbs. Clearly more cherries would be better and may affect the bake time - will update this the next time I make this.
  • Cherries + Flour? - the original recipe suggests tossing the cherries with 1/4 cup flour - obviously an attempt to counter-act the moisture. I'm not convinced this is necessary - but if you do it, then stir until the flour moistens, otherwise the result will be pasty looking cherries. Mind you - if you sprinkle the cake with icing sugar that flaw goes unnoticed.
  • Baking Sheet - Important: the batter will be spread thinly, so this Note is not trivial; the original recipe calls for a pan with sides - professionally referred to as a "half sheet pan" (18" x 13" x 1"). (See all info re sheet pans.) Some people call these jelly roll pans, however, officially, jelly roll pans measure 10.5" x 15.5" x 1" or 12.5" x 17.5" x 1" - clearly the latter being closest to what you should use.
  • Flour - the recipe suggests whole wheat flour, but I am sure all purpose would be fine.
  • Oven temperature and Bake Time - Important - I suggest 375 F for 30. The original recipe specified 400 F for 45-50 minutes. This seems crazy when you see how thinly the batter is spread, and sure enough, the first time i made this the cake was beginning to burn at 20 minutes!! (I removed it at 25 - it was still edible and delicious - but I don't advise that method.)
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