From Dulcis in Furno
The picture of this Italian lady's Torta di Ciliegie (cherry cake), with its pale-golden wedges gently dusted with snowy icing sugar, first drew me in. Then, I began to feel confident that I could pull this Dulcis in Furno recipe off in America, with the English translation.
It wasn't until I got my hands into the labor of the recipe itself that I found myself hopping back upstairs to my computer numerous times to translate some of the metric and questionable measurements:
14 oz cherries = about 2 cups
1,86 fl oz Maraschino = between 1/4 and 1/3 cup, and it's the maraschino sauce not the cherries
7/8 cup sugar = a little less than 1 cup
for a 10in cake pan = oops, a nine-incher will do but it won't look as flat and delicate
Getting cherries right now is easy as pie, er cake, however. My husband favors Rainier cherries, the gold and red ones that seem to come straight out of an island horizon. The cherries in this Italian lady's food blog look like they're red. But not any old red. Red from Italy, which means quite often they're white inside. No such luck with these bloody-red (I thought of what my vagina might look like when it's menstruating) Bings. But she said if you don't have white fleshed-cherries, the other kinds are fine; they may slightly tinge the pale gold though.
I bought enough Bing cherries to make several cakes. Which is why I made this one as a kind of experiment, to see if it was worthwhile to make for some friends -- a birthday girl and someone who's been better than professional therapy lately; both very enthusiastic guinea pigs for my baking.
The first thing I had to do was pit and slice the cherries in half. I tried pitting as I cut, but that didn't work. As I stood there frowning about what I could do to make the process go faster, I was struck with a memory of my former roommate giving me an authentic cherry picker from Italy for my birthday once. I stuck it in a drawer and never saw or used it again. I opened the same drawer, foraged past the pizza cutter and the extra tongs to find it. Thank you, Jon Komatsu!
This cherry picker was so clever and so useful, and so fun, that I admit I got carried away pitting way too many cherries until my kitchen counter resembled a homicide investigation. Who knew that cherry juice could be so bloody?
Once I got to mixing, alternating the melted butter with the flour/baking soda, I worried that the batter wouldn't be batter-y enough. Where was the milk, buttermilk, sour cream? As an afterthought, I flicked a thumbful of congealed heavy cream in the bowl, and mixed away. When I alternated the butter with flour, I had both bowls in my hands for efficiency, praying I wouldn't mix it too much and that the batter would hold.
The oven time was almost exactly the 50 minutes the recipe calls for, minus two. What was weird was when I went to check doneness, the middle came out clean but the sides, if you slid the tester in sideways, weren't. I added one more minute and let the cake cool almost completely, for fear of the last cake unmolding incident (where pieces, some raw batter, came flying out).
After I upended the cake in its pan the first time, nothing happened. Stifling my panic, I did what I remembered to do -- I slid a knife around it, felt something give slightly, and the cake came out perfectly intact. When I dusted the top with powdered sugar, it felt almost like magic.
This is why I bake.
The church Ed plays for ate every last slice. He reported that it was almost the texture of pound cake, but very delicious. That's all the feedback I needed. More cherry cake to come this and next week.