Sour Cherry Coffee Cake


You all know how obsessed I was with cranberries this autumn. Well, their summertime rival is the sour cherry which has finally made it’s way to farmers markets in the Midwest. Sour cherries have a painfully short season and as soon as they arrive I feel panic set in. I know that there isn’t much time to try to bake all of the recipes I have been saving that require their tart electric sweetness. I hoard them. On my way to the market I am worrying that they may be sold out. I freeze them. I find excuses to bake things for friends. In short, I am obsessed.


I’ve also already shared my love of coffee cake with you so you won’t be surprised that this sour cherry coffee cake was at the top of my must-make list. The recipe combines two of my favorite things into one thoroughly enjoyable dessert. The crumb is nice and crunchy and the cake is rich and tender. The sweetness of both are nice foils to the tartness of the ruby cherries. I know, I know, it might seem to you like all I do is make coffee cakes, but who could blame me? This one will easily become a classic in your house.


Apologies for posting so infrequently in recent weeks! We’ve had a bunch of friends visiting and my eating has either been at our favorite restaurants or whatever we scrape together as we frantically clean the apartment and try to keep up with daily life. Plus, I’ve been working on some exciting outside projects which I’ll be sharing with you in the coming weeks. All good things! One more trip (to Montreal!) and then I will be back in the kitchen as usual. Can’t wait.


Sour Cherry Coffee Cake (adapted from Martha Stewart Living, July 2009)

For the topping:

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for dish
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dish
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2  cups fresh sour cherries, pitted

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch round baking dish,  dust with flour, tap out excess.

In a medium bowl, stir together butter, flour, sugars, salt, and cinnamon. Set topping aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Working in alternating batches, add flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined. Pour into prepared dish, and smooth with an offset spatula. Dot top with cherries, and sprinkle with crumb topping.

Bake until golden and a tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool before cutting.


38 comments to “Sour Cherry Coffee Cake”

  1. Perfect timing! I have a quart of sour cherries on my counter just waiting for a perfect recipe. YUM.

  2. Oooh how I want to pinch off those big clumpy pieces of the crumble topping above – I can taste it with these fabulous photos !! Love it !

  3. I had to laugh at the sour cherry panic – I bought 3+ flats on Thursday! I will certainly be doing lots of baking and preserving, too!

  4. I don’t blame you for being sour cherry-obsessed! They’re amazing. I grew up with sour cherry trees so we did exactly what you talk about: hoard them, freeze them, bake with them. I just put in a sour cherry tree this spring and the little thang made about ten cherries, which was a surprise. Birds got nine of them though!

    Have you made straight up sour cherry pie? It’s my favorite pie. With luck I’ll be able to scrape together enough next spring to make it.

  5. Hey, I appreciate your obsession with coffee cakes! This one looks insanely good especially that crumb topping.

  6. Mmm…I just picked up some sour cherries at the farmers market, now I know what I’ll be using them for!

  7. My coffee looks pretty lonely without that coffee cake. Yogurt just isn’t cutting it.

  8. You’ve just motivated me to buy my first pint of sour cherries.

  9. Dawn in CA says:

    July 13th, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    It’s like a cake and a cobbler all rolled into one. I can almost taste it from the photos… which are beautiful, as always.

    I would love to see some reviews of your favorite restaurants. One of these days I hope to visit Chicago (after a single business trip there, my husband opined that it was one of his favorite cities). It would be great to have a list of yummy places to try.

  10. Hey Dawn! I am working on a Chicago guide- unfortunately life keeps getting in the way. I hope to have something up by the end of the summer. If you need recommendations sooner, you can certainly shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help.
    And thanks, as always, for being such a loyal and supportive reader!

  11. I love the cake to crumb topping ratio. Now I’m hungry!

  12. Tim, this looks amazing and I would bet it tastes even better than it looks! i have been seeing sour cherries at the market, maybe I’ll grab a pint this Saturday and test this recipe out!

  13. I panic, too, when I don’t think I can get enough of what I’m dying for…and that goes for many things!

  14. Dawn in CA says:

    July 14th, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Hey Tim! Unfortunately, I think my Chicago trip won’t be happening for some time. It’s on my very long list of places to visit — anew or again. But I like to file away little tasty tidbits so I’m ready when the day comes. ;) We ARE heading down Mexico way in a few weeks… which I guess really has nothing to do with Chicago. It will involve lots of good food though, so that’s how I’m going to justify the segue… ¡Disfrute la vida!

  15. Mexico sounds pretty perfect right now. Eat well and happy travels!

  16. I just bought a cherry pitter so that I can fully enjoy sour cherries! Tomorrow I think I’ll bake a pie, but maybe this weekend I’ll make this coffee cake!

  17. Kaitlyn: Check out the Cherry Pie recipe I posted, it remains the best cherry pie I have ever eaten. Brilliant recipe:
    I love my cherry pitter, also works well on olives. Enjoy!

  18. I just received sour cherries from our CSA and had a class breakfast yesterday to prepare something for. This recipe was fantastic. I was surprised how easy it was to pit the cherries by hand. I was also worried that all that liquid from the cherries would be a problem, but the recipe handled that beautifully.
    The only bad side was the rest of the parents ate the rest – no left-overs for my family!

  19. you inspired me.
    they had sour cherries at the Aurora farmer’s market and besides snacking on them, this coffeecake will be made!

  20. woow i wonder i can make it in my house.hehe i really wanna try this :D

  21. I suppose this could turn out well with any fruit, right?

  22. Megan! So glad you liked the recipe. Such good cherries!

  23. YUM! I have a big bag of sour cherries in my fridge, I picked them from my neighbor’s tree last week. There are still more there, but I need to get over there and get them before they go to waste! I made a Sour Cherry Almond Cake that was incredible.

    Oh and howdy neighbor, I’m in Twin Lakes, WI :)

  24. Can’t wait to try… have picked my cherries this morning!!
    Will substitutes Cinnamon for Lemmon cause my boyfriend doesn’t like cinnamon!!
    Wish me Luck!!

  25. Good luck!

  26. I love your website. After reading this post, I am now bound and determined to find sour cherries (or some other fruit) at the farmers’ market tomorrow morning and bake my fool heart out! :)

  27. I made the recipe, and oh. my. God. :) They weren’t sour cherries, but they were the sweetest, most awesome cherries I ever tasted, and so I can’t wait to dig in to the cake!

  28. I made this last night, and while I could not find sour cherries I did use sweet bing cherries…it is so delicious! I brought it to work with me this morning – my coworkers agree that it is moist, not-too-sweet, and are asking when I’m going to make it again. Thanks for the recipe!!

  29. Great, Jessica! I am glad it was a hit.

  30. i made a rhubarb coffee cake not long ago and thought that the frozen cherries i had recently bought would be a nice variation…thats were this recipe came in! I made this a few nights ago but with some substitutions; used dark brown sugar in place of light since that was all i had on hand, replaced the buttermilk with an almond milk lemon juice mixture and used 2 egg replacers for the eggs- to my delight these changes were completely undetectable! Been having a slice of the cake with greek yogurt for breakfast for the past two days, sooo yummmy. thank you so much for the recipe! Next time however i think i will add more cherries. yes, there will definitely be a next time ;)

  31. This is sitting on my counter cooling and I’m dying to dig in! My friend has a sour cherry tree and gave me a huge bag, and this is the recipe I found via Google that I couldn’t stop thinking about. It sure looks lovely and I’m sure it tastes amazing. Love your blog!

  32. This is an awesome cake! I have made it three times and each time it is great!

  33. It is great! Great crumbly top

  34. This is in the oven right now……..I know it’s going to be great!
    Thanks Tim (I know, I am 6 years late to the party!).

  35. Stacy! Never too late. I just made this again a couple of weeks ago and I still love it…hope you do too.

  36. Hi there. Will this work w frozen sour cherries? I froze several pounds after u-picking this summer and my girlfriend liked this so much she is requesting it as her birthday cake!

  37. Yep! Will work with frozen cherries!

  38. I am anxious to try this but my cherries are frozen. I suspect I should drain the water after I defrost them. Has anyone tried this with frozen cherries?

What do you think?