Some recipes are wonderfully simple and can be whipped up in a flash. You don’t really have to plan for them (aside from having the ingredients), they’re easy enough to make while your mind juggles other matters, and you can mix them up in the time it takes for your toddler to pull out everything but the last two travel mugs from her favorite kitchen cabinet. Cookies, brownies and muffins all fall in that category for me: the anytime category. Sometimes timing is everything, and the timing you need is fast. But this is not one of those recipes.
This is one of those recipes for which you make the list ahead of time and have a baby wrangler on standby. But don’t let that scare you because it’s well worth the effort!
Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty, make a mess of a half dozen bowls and work those oft forgotten muscles that nothing but a good kneading seems able to reach. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that those lovely cakes lining the glass of the local bakery didn’t appear in an instant, that they were lovingly poured over by a hard-working baker, probably in the wee hours of the morning. This will also serve to remind you exactly why a slice of cake can run you $4 a pop. Oy!
Again I have to say, please don’t be scared off by all of this effort. This cake, though time-consuming, is still relatively simple at its core, as is true with most baking. It’s just a matter of following instructions and enjoying the process. And maybe keeping the kiddos out of the kitchen for a pinch (though a bowl filled with plastic cookie cutters does work as 15 minutes’ worth of wonderful distraction).
In the end, your efforts will be rewarded. Sour cherries and cream cheese make a winning combination, and when baked into a yeasted coffee cake, magical things happen. The cake is rich, sweet and gigantic, which really is ideal because all that time in the kitchen deserves at least a few extra slices.
Sour Cherry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake
Adapted just slightly from Martha Stewart
For the cake:
• ¼-ounce envelope (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons plus a pinch granulated sugar
• ¾ cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• zest of ½ lemon
• ½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for bowl and parchment
• 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream for egg wash
• 1 ½ cups pitted fresh of thawed frozen sour cherries
For the filling:
• 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
• 1 egg yolk
• ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
For the glaze:
• 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
• 2 tablespoons whole milk
To make the dough: Whisk the yeast and a pinch of sugar into the milk in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, the egg, egg yolk and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the foamy yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the flour, kosher salt and lemon zest. Add the egg mixture, and beat on low until it’s fully combined, about 30 seconds. Switch the paddle attachment for the dough hook, add the butter and beat at a low speed (I used speed 2 on my KitchenAid mixer) for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft and slightly sticky.
Butter a large bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead it a few times until it’s smooth. Place it in the buttered bowl, turn it so it gets coated with the butter, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough stand in a warm place for 1 ½ to 2 hours until it has doubled in volume.
To make the filling: Stir together the cream cheese, egg yolk and confectioners’ sugar. Once the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and transfer it to a floured work surface. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 20 by 16 inches (about 1/8 inch thick). Brush the edges with egg wash. Spread the cream cheese filling over the dough, and top that with the cherries. Starting with one of the longer ends, tightly roll the dough like a jelly roll, and pinch the seam to seal. Roll the jelly roll into a snail shape on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush the top with egg wash.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let it stand in a warm place for about 30 minutes, until it has risen by half.
Remove the plastic wrap, and cut six ½-inch slits into the top of the dough. Bake the cake, rotating halfway through, for about 55 minutes, until it is golden. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Continue baking the cake until it is deeply golden, 15 to 20 more minutes (cover with foil if top gets too dark). Transfer pan to a wire rack, and let cake cool.
To make the glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and milk. Drizzle it over the cooled cake. Let it set for 5 minutes before serving, until the glaze has hardened a bit.
This cake officially joins the ranks of our company-approved menu items. Not only is it delicious, but it can also be made ahead and tastes just as good the next day. Make and bake it the night before, then save the glazing for the morning, right before serving. You might even get some oohs and ahs as you drizzle on those finishing touches. Or at the very least, feel free to ooh and ah yourself. Mm, good cake.