Cherry Almond Coffee Cake

I love cherry pie.

Here in New England, where blueberry pie is king, you don't encounter it all that often, so I am generally forced to make it at home or hold out for my Midwestern holiday visits (where we bully my dad into making it for us, even though he doesn't particularly like it).

Once summer is here and cherries are in season (and God-willing, Whole Foods hosts their $1/lb cherry day), I'll be sure to post a beautiful recipe with fresh cherries.

Until then, however, I am happily tempted by the big pretty jar of Morello sour cherries at Trader Joe's. I couldn't pass them up this weekend, and decided to make a batch of Cherry Pie Bars.

Now, these are not what I would call Cherry Pie Bars. I scanned many recipes and eventually landed on this one as a base, although I subbed in my own cherry mixture for the canned cherry pie filling and cut down the sugar. Still, what I ended up with, though beautiful, cakey, and sweet, wasn't much like cherry pie.

What it was like was a moist coffee cake, full of almond flavor and dotted with tart cherries.

And that's not so bad.

So, I may still be on the hunt for a great cherry pie bar (I think a crumble topping may be the ticket), but in the meantime I can have this gorgeous coffee cake for breakfast or dessert.

Cherry Almond Coffee Cake
makes 12-15 servings
recipe adapted from The Recipe Critic

{Cherry Filling}
  • 1 24oz jar Morello cherries, drained, but reserve liquid*
  • 1/4 cup reserved cherry liquid
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9"x13" pan with aluminum foil and grease with butter or cooking spray.

For filling: whisk corn starch into reserved cherry liquid until smooth. Combine all filling ingredients in a medium bowl; set aside.

In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth and light. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 3 batches, mixing until incorporated.

Spread 3 cups of batter into prepared pan. Top with cherry mixture and spread into an even layer. Using a cookie scoop, top the cherries with the remaining batter (I got about 20 scoops out of it).

Bake in pre-heated oven for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with only a crumb or two. Cool completely on a wire rack (if need be, speed this up in the refrigerator).

Combine all glaze ingredients and pour into a zip-loc or piping bag. Snip corner of bag and drizzle over cooled coffee cake. Let glaze set for ~15 minutes, then slice into servings.

* I couldn't stand to throw away the rest of the reserved cherry liquid, so I cooked it down into a concentrated syrup. Stay tuned to see what came of that!