During my years at Eating Well magazine, when we gathered in the test kitchen to sample and evaluate recipes, it was back to the drawing board for any recipe deemed “a little too earnest.” (Translation: we want recipes to be healthy, but not taste like health food.) This cherry cake recipe from Aglaia Kremezi’s Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, is a bit earnest, but in a good way. It’s not that super-sweet, light-as-a-feather cake that many Americans are accustomed to. It’s dense, earthy, and not too sweet. As she suggests, I used olive oil instead of butter for a healthier, more Mediterranean cake. I like it warm with a big scoop of vanilla fro-yo or a dollop of Greek yogurt.
1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
8 tablespoons butter, softened, or ½ cup olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or almonds
Olive oil, for the pan
About 10 ounces pitted fresh cherries (see Note)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, use a handheld mixer to beat the eggs with the sugar until they are creamy and almost white. Add the oil and lemon zest and beat for 1 minute more.
2. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour mixture to the eggs, stirring just to incorporate. Add the walnuts and stir briefly to mix.
3. Line a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper and oil it lightly.
4. Pour in the batter and knock the pan against your work surface to distribute it evenly. Top the batter with the pitted cherries and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown. A knife inserted into the cake between the cherries should come out clean.
6. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
NOTE: If fresh cherries are not available, use canned Oregon pitted tart cherries in water, drained.