Fresh tart cherries are a lot harder to find on the west coast than in some other parts of the country. We have tons of sweet cherries available, and while I love sweet cherries, I’m always on the lookout for the tarts. Also known as sour or pie cherries, these beautiful bright red gems are mainly used for cooking and baking. When mixed with a bit of sugar, they have an extraordinary flavor that outshines all the sweet cherries I’ve encountered.
I had never even tasted a fresh tart cherry before my trip to Michigan last year where I attended the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. It was there that I learned about the fantastic nutritional benefits of this antioxident-filled fruit. I also toured beautiful cherry orchards, ate the best cherry pie I’ve ever tasted in my life, fell in love with tart cherry juice concentrate, and met some of the friendliest people around. I really can’t wait to get back to that part of the country someday!
But until then, I satisfy my cravings with delicious dried tart Montmorency cherries from Trader Joe’s, smoothies and drinks made with tart cherry juice concentrate (I order it online for now, but am hoping it will become more widely available soon), and the occasional jackpot of fresh tart cherries when I can find them.
I felt like I had struck gold when I found some fresh tart cherries at an international market here in Fresno recently. They weren’t labeled as tart cherries, but I could tell from the shape that they weren’t the usual sweet cherries I find around here. I had no clue what variety they were and there was a bit of a language barrier between myself and the woman behind the register, so I never did figure that part out. I just knew I had to buy some. They were rather expensive, so I only grabbed about a pound. While a pound of tart cherries isn’t enough for a pie, I knew I’d figure out something fun to do with them.
What I decided to do was sprinkle them over the top of a chocolate cake batter. We all know that chocolate and cherries go really well together. But I feel that chocolate and tart cherries are a match made in heaven. Remember my tart cherry chocolate chip cookies? I didn’t have any particular recipe in mind, I just wanted to try adding some fresh tart cherries to a basic chocolate cake batter. I ended up adapting a recipe from Baking Bites and making a plain square chocolate cake.
First I pitted the cherries by squeezing them between my fingertips. There’s really no need for a cherry pitter, the pit comes out quite easily! Next, I sliced all the cherries in half.
After adding the cake batter to the pan, I just sprinkled the fresh cherry halves evenly over the top of the batter. I didn’t even bother pressing them in.
Finally, I just baked the cake as usual. I was surprised that the batter didn’t rise up and over the cherries much, but I’m kind of glad it didn’t. I love the way the cake looked with the cherries visible on top. The cake turned out to be absolutely delicious! The tart cherries were such a great contrast to the sweet chocolate cake and just as I expected, the flavors were perfect together.
So as the title of this blog post suggests, this isn’t an actual recipe, just a recipe idea. If you already have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, I suggest baking it in a sheet pan and sprinkling some fresh tart cherries over the top. You won’t even need to bother with frosting. I think it might be fun to try with brownie batter, too, although you might want to actually push the cherries into the thicker brownie batter before baking.
Let me know if you try it!
- Dark Chocolate Cherry Chews
- Green Beans with Bacon and Tart Cherry Balsamic Glaze
- Cherry Banana Muffins with White Chocolate Chips
- Cherry Pecan Bran Muffins
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