The first cherry of the season is always the best. Although I know what a cherry tastes like, I’m still always a little pleasantly surprised when I first bite into one after months of going without. But I don’t eat just any cherry. I want a cherry that is firm to the touch, the skin taut with its underlying juices, and deep deep red. Keep those mushy cherries away from me. I want no part of them.

In college, I once got through an especially yawn-inspiring section of Herodatus’ The Histories by treating myself to one sweet cherry for each page I read. I remember sitting on the worn plaid couch in my apartment with a big bowl of Bing’s next to me. I read as quickly as I could, anxiously looking forward to devouring my reward after consuming a page of boring Greek history. I remember nothing of the reading assignment, but will forever savor the memory of those enticingly ripe cherries.

Yet as much as I love simply eating a large bowl of cherries (sans Herodatus, please), I also love to cook with this versatile fruit, especially when I can get them fresh. Usually I make a pie or tart, but this year — with drizzly and cold weather more like November than May — I was in the mood for a hot cup of tea and some cake.

Following is my recipe for Cherry Almond Tea Cake. Made with a healthy portion of almond paste, butter and a smattering of buttermilk it has a rich nutty flavor that underscores the tart sweetness of those gorgeous sun-kissed cherries now available in markets everywhere.

cherry almond cake

Cherry Almond Tea Cake

Makes: One cake

1 1/2 cups fl
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pound almond paste (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter (at room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cup pitted cherries cut in half

1. Preheat oven to 350 (or 325 if using a convection oven). You should also butter a 10-inch tart pan or baking dish for later use now.

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Crumble almond paste into small pieces and place in a separate mixing bowl (use your stand mixer bowl, if you have one) along with the sugar and combine. Then cream the butter into the almond paste and sugar mixture for 2-3 minutes with your mixer on medium high.

4. Add your eggs, one at a time, to your almond paste/butter mixture and cream until smooth.

5. Add in your vanilla and buttermilk until everything is fully incorporated.

6. Gently fold in your flour mixture in batches, being sure not to over mix. When adding the last batch of flour, also add in the cherries and fold everything together.

7. Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish, using a spatula to gently flatten the top and then bake for 1 hour in a regular oven or 40-45 minutes in a convection oven.

8. When you can cleanly pull a toothpick from the cake, remove it from the oven and let cool. Top servings with powdered sugar.

Note: Almond paste is made of ground almonds and sugar. It’s available in most high-end grocery stores and bake shops. It should not be confused with marzipan, however, which usually contains more sugar and so could throw off the recipe a bit.

Cherry Almond Tea Cake 27 May,2010Denise Santoro Lincoln

  • Andrew

    Do you think you would be able to make this recipe out of natural liquid sugars (Like Honey or Agave Nectar)?

    I know sometimes they can make it…too wet you know?

    And for someone who is lactose intolerant (Like me), do you think Almond milk would work instead of the Buttermilk?

    I don’t fully understand how buttermilk is different, so I’m not really sure if it would work.

    What do you think, Denise?

  • Hi Andrew — I’m not sure how a liquid sweetener (like honey or agave) would work, but would be concerned it would make the batter too wet. If you’re up for experimenting, I would try just 1 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups to minimize the liquid. Another idea would be to use a combination of something like apple butter with honey which would have more substance (but again this would be an experiment).

    As for substituting almond milk, I’m not sure this would work as buttermilk is simply much thicker then almond milk and helps create the creamy texture in the batter. How about trying a non-dairy soy coffee creamer instead? I’ve never used it, but my mom uses this in her coffee and it seems to be thicker than almond milk. Again, this would be an experiment, but one worth doing.

    If you do adjust these ingredients, please let me know how it turns out.

    Good luck!


Denise Santoro Lincoln

I am a writer, editor, mother of twins, and enthusiastic home cook. I was raised by an Italian-American mother who, in the 1970s, grew her own basil (because she couldn’t find any in the local grocery stores), zucchini (for those delicious flowers), and tomatoes (because the ones in the store tasted like “a potato”). My mom taught us to love all kinds of food and revere high-quality ingredients. I am now trying to follow in my mother’s footsteps and am on a mission to help my daughters become adventurous eaters who have a healthy respect for seasonal food raised locally. My daughters and I grow vegetables and go to the farmers’ market. We also love to shop at Piedmont Grocery and Trader Joe’s. When I’m not hanging out with my daughters or cooking, I like to contribute to cookbooks (including Williams-Sonoma’s Food Made Fast and Foods of the World series), work as an editor, and write about food for Bay Area Bites and Denise’s Kitchen. My food inspirations are M.F.K Fisher, Julia Child, and Alice Waters — three fabulous women who encompass everything I love about food.

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