Michigan Cherry Upside Down Cake

or a deliciously light and indulgent treat for the body and soul

Growing up, my mom used to take me and my sister out to the orchards and farms to pick strawberries, raspberries, and cherries.  We had just as many stressful memories as happy ones from those experiences, red stains from the fruit on our clothes and joking about being weighed on the way out for the berries we sampled along the way, but the happy ones will always hold a special place in my heart.  I love how I feel nostalgic and get a sense of childhood joy just being out among the cherry trees now, it takes me back to those times when my biggest concerns were finding the darkest sweet cherries possible and not getting caught while climbing the trees.  That kind of peace of mind is hard to come by, and when I can find it I try to go back there as often as I can so every Spring/Early Summer you will find me out at the orchards for at least one glorious morning - just enjoying the moment (and stocking up on "you-pick" cherries of course).

In Michigan the sweet and tart cherry season overlaps ever so slightly, providing the perfect opportunity for locally grown produce based sweet and tangy treats.  I usually try to can the sweet cherries that I pick but this year I had some health problems that started the day after our trip to the orchard so I was not able to properly process them.  Instead they were frozen (some in light syrup and some sugar packed) for further use, after I consumed a fair amount to start.  Well now that tart cherries are in season, I have managed to acquire a fair amount of those from the orchard as well and am happily well-stocked in the cherry department.  I always make my mom's cherry cobbler with the first batch of the season, and that was as always delicious, but I wanted to try something new.  

I haven't experimented with desserts in a while, so the idea was exciting to me.  One dessert that I've always wanted to rework was pineapple upside down cake - I'm really allergic to pineapple and therefor unable to enjoy this delightful looking treat.  So since I had heard that there are other recipes out there for using peaches or apples instead it got my mind to working, and as you might guess it drifted towards the piles of sweet and tart cherries I am now in possession of in my freezer.  After a slight "mistake" in application of the intended recipe, using half the original amount of butter, I actually found that it resulted in a surprisingly light and delicious cake recipe in the end.  My husband immediately declared after tasting it that I was not to share the rest "his" cake with anyone else, and that was all I needed to call this a success!  Here's what I found:

1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
½ tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

⅔ cup buttermilk, low fat

¼ cup butter, melted
⅔ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ cup pitted sweet cherries
¾ cup pitted tart cherries

Hardware: 1 round cake pan

1. Cream together softened butter and sugar. Once whipped smooth, add the eggs one at a time. Still using the electric mixer or stand mixer, add in the vanilla and almond extract and mix well.

2. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt to a separate bowl and mix well.

3. Alternate between adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the initial base. Mix well to blend thoroughly as you go until all is incorporated.

4. Spread the brown sugar over the bottom of the cake pan and top evenly with the melted butter. Spread the cherries over top, either in design or in another manner that equally distributes the sweet and tart varieties.

5. Pour the batter evenly over top and bake for 40-45 min on 350 degrees.  Flip out onto a parchment lined dish and allow to cool before serving.

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