Sour Cherry Kuchen

I don’t know Carole Walter, but I love Carole Walter. She is a woman after my own heart. She is an incredibly accomplished baker, teacher and cookbook author and judging from her author photo, a very sweet lady. But the books are what I want to talk to you about today. Specifically, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins and More, her encyclopedia-like cookbook dedicated to these pastries. An entire cookbook about coffee cake, people! You know how I feel about coffee cake! Walter’s books are wonderful resources for anyone interested in baking and I encourage you all to seek out her recipes.

This Sour Cherry Kuchen is a good example of her brilliance. A sweet yeasted crust is filled with pastry cream and sour cherries and then topped with a crunchy streusel. Seriously. If you enjoy this blog and think we have similar taste in sweets, you need to find a copy of this book and start baking. Or simply start here, with this cake, because it doesn’t get much better than this.

This beaut takes some doing. But don’t let the long list of instruction below turn you off, each step is simple and works well, but you do need to devote some time to pulling it all together. Keep in mind that the dough needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight. I found the Morello cherries called for in the recipe at Trader Joe’s. You’ll notice that the kuchen only uses half of the dough. I’ll have some ideas for what to do with the other half of the dough shortly.

Sour Cherry Kuchen (by Carole Walter)

  • 1/2 recipe Simple Sweet Dough (see below)
  • 1  recipe Simple Streusel (see below)

Cherry Filling

  • 1 (24-oz) jar pitted dark Morello cherries in light syrup (about 2 1/2 cups), well drained, juice reserved
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Pastry Cream

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Remove the dough from the refrigerator 1 to 1 1/2 hours before shaping.

In a medium saucepan, combine 2/3 cup of the reserved cherry juice, the cornstarch, and sugar, stirring until no lumps remain. place the pan over medium-low heat. Allow the liquid to come to a boil, stirring gently until the mixture is very thick. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, almond extract, and butter. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir in the drained cherries. Set aside until ready to use.

Place the cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup of the milk and mix until smooth. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the egg yolks. Set aside.

In a two-quart saucepan, heat the remaining 3/4 cup milk and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir until blended. On low heat, bring the mixture to a slow boil. Stir one-third of the hot milk/sugar mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and stir with a whisk to combine. Return the pan to medium-low and bring it to a full boil, whisking rapidly and constantly until pastry cream is thick and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the softened butter and vanilla. Do not overmix. Cover the pastry cream with buttered plastic wrap and set aside until ready to use.

Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan and set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times and shape it into a flat disk. With lightly floured hands, press the dough into the prepared pan, stretching it to completely cover the bottom.  Push the dough up against the sides of the pan, forcing it up to form a wall 1/4-inch thick and 3/4-inch high. Be sure to press it well into the crease of the pan. If the dough becomes too elastic, let it rest for a few minutes. Prick the surface of the dough ten to twelve times with a fork. Cover the pan with a tea towel and set in a warmish place to rise until puffy but not doubled, 25 to 30 minutes.  While the dough is rising, prepare the streusel.

Fifteen minutes before baking, position the rack in teh lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Redefine the lip of the dough with your thumb and gently depress the center with your hand.

Leaving a 3/4-inch rim of dough exposed, drop dollops of the tepid pastry cream around the edges of the pan, Using an offset spatula, bring the pastry cream into the center, smoothing the surface, as best you can.

Top the pastry cream with the cherry filling in one layer. Sprinkle the streusel over the cherries, pressing it gently into the surface. Place the pan on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and wrap the pan with the foil to catch any spills.

Bake the kuchen for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it begins to release from the side of the pan and the streusel is golden brown.

Remove the kuchen from the oven and let it stand on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Release and remove the sides of the pans and allow to cool completely.

Store in the fridge, tightly wrapped in aluminum foil for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving in a 325°F oven for 2-25 minutes, or until slightly warm.

Simple Sweet Dough (by Carole Walter)

  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110°-115°F)
  • 1 package dry active yeast
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, plus 1 teaspoon soft butter for brushing top of dough
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Rinse a small bowl in hot water to warm it. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the warm water to the bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Do not stir. Cover the bowl with a saucer and let the mixture stand for 5 minutes. Stir it briefly with a fork, cover again, and let it stand for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until bubbly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on low speed the 3 cups of flour, remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the salt. Add the slightly firm cubed butter and continue to mix until meal-sized crumbs form, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on upon the temperature of the butter. Stop the mixer.

Using a fork, in a separate bowl, mix the milk, egg yolks, and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the flour, along with the dissolved yeast, and mix on low speed for about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Mix on low speed for another 30 seconds, or until a smooth dough is formed. this is a soft dough.

Lightly butter a medium bowl for storing the dough. Empty the dough into the prepared bowl, smoothing the top with lightly floured hands. Spread a thin layer of softened butter over the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Simple Streusel (by Carole Walter)

  • 6 to 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Place the butter in a 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat until almost melted; remove from heat and cool to tepid.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter and stir with a fork until blended and mixture begins to form crumbs. Gently squeeze the mixture with your hand to form larger clumps, then break them apart with your fingers.  Before using, let the streusel stand for 10 to 15 minutes.

33 comments to “Sour Cherry Kuchen”

  1. This looks *amazing*. There’s a TJ’s one block from me. I may have to pick up some cherries today…

  2. WOW. I’m looking for a copy of this book asap. Yum!

  3. I just ordered the book off your recommendation and the incredible looking sweets. I don’t usually like cherry in desserts, but I would totally make this.

  4. That crust looks insane!!!!! Why do I not have a slice of this now with my coffee?

    Wait, we are allowed to eat this for breakfast, right?

  5. Yes, I think we are allowed to eat this for breakfast (But I did feel guilty about it)!
    Dana + Erin, I think you will really enjoy the book- it is pretty special.

  6. That looks just DELICIOUS. I can’t wait to try this recipe – thanks! By the way, I use those same cherries from Trader Joe’s for a Hungarian sour cherry soup. It’s my mother-in-law Vera’s recipe – I think it’s on my LA Cooking Examiner column if you’re interested. Google “LA Cooking Examiner cherry soup” and you should find it.

  7. Sour cherry soup sounds like something I need to try! Thanks for the tip.

  8. oh man oh man. i don’t care how much work that is – i want to leave my job and make it now!!!!

  9. Caroline Shields @ carolineskitchentable says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Need to make! Might be my new craving for the last two months of pregnancy.

  10. Oh, Caroline, I wish I had that excuse! Enjoy!

  11. Wow, does that look sooo delicious! How did you know I needed a recipe for cherry filling? Thanks- perfect timing!

  12. this brings back memories of all the delicious cakes (kuchen) I ate when I used to live in Germany! I like how they are less sweet and are more fruit-focused than typical american style cakes

    Also, if you like this style of german cake, you might consider looking up a recipe for Zwetschgenkuchen once plum season comes around. It’s best to use small, oval plums rather than the big juicy ones more common in the US.

  13. I took a class with Carol Walter where she taught a tart really similar to this! So delicious and you’re totally right about her: a very sweet lady. Can’t wait to try out this recipe.

  14. Yael, I am psychic!
    Jen, Thanks for the tip, I will look up Zwetschgenkuchen (easy for you to say)
    Claire, Thanks for confirming that Carole is sweet! Exciting that you took a class with her.

  15. looks delicious! what can one do with the other half of the dough? freeze it? what else can it be used for?

  16. This Good German Girl can think of nothing better than a kuchen… let alone a sour cherry one. Can’t wait for those WI Door County cherries to be in season so that I can make up something like this.

  17. Michelle says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    This looks amazing! I’m wishing I still had sour cherries in the freezer from the market last summer-I don’t have a Trader Joes anywhere near me (SOB!). Any other ideas of cherries I could use?

  18. Hi Michelle, if you can’t find Morello cherries online or at a specialty store (I also saw them at an eastern European market). Feel free to use a sour cherry preserves recipe, you can google around. Obviously, this will require some patience if sour cherries haven’t hit your market yet.

  19. This is very gooood recipe, and it looks incredibly tasty. The cake resembles a bit French clafoutis, but addition of crust makes it much, much better. Really, great recipe, I am bookmarking this (I still have to wait for cherries, it is not a season yet).

  20. Carollina says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Oh wow, that’s one of the books I own but haven’t yet explored. I still have farmers market cherries in the freezer-in juice, not syrup. Will the texture of the two kinds of cherries differ? I assume I would adapt by adding more sugar. Any ideas about how much add’l sugar. or should I just add to taste?

  21. That looks incredible! I applaud you – I love to bake, but am a bit lazy if a recipe calls for too many steps, so would probably put this recipe in the too hard basket – however, upon re reading the recipe, maybe I could stretch myself this once, it looks so good…….

  22. Carollina, It is hard to say. Taste your cherries and see how much sugar they need. I don’t like things very sweet so I would start with a couple of tablespoons. I think this will work just fine with fresh cherries, but I haven’t tried it yet. Let me know how it goes if you get to it before me.
    Kate, This one really is easy, just a few steps. I promise it looks much worse than it is.
    Tara, more ideas for dough soon. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen.

  23. Isn’t Carole the best?! I have this book and know it’s pleasures very well! Lovely kuchen!

  24. Oh, Oh my. Oh that just looks like HEAVEN. Streusel, sour cherries, gooey pastry cream… oooonnnnggggg…

  25. I love this book, too. I may have to make this cake with the rest of the cherries in the freezer from last summer!

  26. i am going to try this with blackberries – they are abundant right now!!

  27. Hi Tim!
    I will try this with frozen cherries from last season. Can’t wait to make this. The recipe will go in the recipe box along with the Byerly’s Triple Berry Coffee Cake, my Raspberry Coffee Cake, as well as the Apple Nut Sour Cream Coffee Cake. Your food blog is absolutely the best.

  28. Whew! that is a long recipe. I’ve been craving sour cherries something fierce, and those pictures make kuchen look SO GOOD, but I’m not sure I can handle it! We’ll see, I’ll have to get my hands on some sour cherries first though. Thanks for the recipe!

  29. Okay, you’ve convinced me….next time I’m at the book store I’ll have to check out her cookbook.

    This sounds heavenly but I’ll be honest I’m thinking berries instead of cherries and I’m pretty certain apple would be good too.
    ~ingrid

  30. I LOVE the look of this! Sadly I’m afraid I would eat the entire thing.

  31. WOW that is a long recipe, but it looks too good not to try. Must make it when I have a little extra time at hand. Now heading over to carole walter’s site.

  32. Ingrid, apples would be great. In the book, Water has a variation for a caramel apple kuchen which sounds fantastic. I look forward to trying it when autumn rolls around again.

  33. I’ve never seen a kuchen recipe so close to the one my great-aunt makes. She doesn’t use the streusel topping but maybe I can be untraditional and try it. Thanks for sharing!

    PS I’ve used all kinds of fruit in my kuchen. Apples, cherries, apricots, and prunes are all delicious.

What do you think?