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.