Our family had a genuinely lovely summer. The kind of summer that after fall settles in, we can all look back and say, “that was nice!” It started with a trip to Florida where our oldest son, a high school senior, visited Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, his number one choice of colleges to attend. That visit only took the first half of one day and the remainder of our week was spent splashing in the warm gulf waters of Siesta Key, flying kites and having a wonderful visit with our Florida family. The rest of the summer was pretty uneventful and I’m happy to say that most Saturdays found us at our favorite little farmer’s market not far from our lake cottage.
Here, we found scads of treasures, some big and some small. Most were edible of course but a number of local artisans camped out there on Saturdays, selling antique furniture, custom soaps, and some beautiful art and jewelry.
One of our most treasured finds of the summer were these delicate little fruits, carefully encased within a natural brown, paper-thin wrapper. When I asked the farmer who was selling these what they were, his reply was something I had never heard of before.
“Ground Cherries,” he answered. Without hesitating, I opened up one of the little treats, brushed it off and popped it in my mouth. In taste, a cross between a cherry tomato and a grape, and about the size of either. I picked up up pint of these having no idea what I would do with them.
The boys and us nibbled on these for a day or so. Then, they just sat. For a couple of weeks at our cottage, this bowl of little fall fruit made a great display of impending fall, but I wanted to make something out of them.
There aren’t a lot of recipes that use ground cherries. Mostly jams, and spreads, but I was looking for something of more substance. I found it in this coffee cake recipe, which I have to say – I loved.
It’s not just easy to make and easy to look at; the taste is genuinely delightful. It’s light, it’s mildly sweet, and the addition of these ground cherries offers a seasonal freshness that truly makes it unique. Keep an eye for some ground cherries; you will be amazed at their light autumn flavor. I hope you find some, and i hope you try this dessert. Happy fall. -Dan
Ground Cherry Coffe Cofee Cake
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
- 10 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter cubed
- 1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ cup buttermilk or regular milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar
- 1 large egg
- 2 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2-3 cups ground cherries or other berries or fruit, husks removed
- 1 cup chopped pecan pieces untoasted
- ½ cup packed dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 9" cake pan (the taller the sides the better) or bundt pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter with two table knives until butter is combined with flour and is the size of small peas. Remove 1 cup of flour & butter mixture into a second bowl and set aside (you'll use it for your topping later).
Add in baking powder and soda to base flour mixture and whisk gently (or sift before hand). Add buttermilk and egg and stir until mixture is free of flour streaks. Lumps are ok as your butter is still chunky, but streaks tell you it's not quite mixed enough.
Pour flour mixture into prepared pan. Scatter ground cherries (or fruit of your choice) over the top. Next, add nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to your small bowl of flour that is set aside. Stir and sprinkle over the top. It will be thick, that's ok. It equals crunchy goodness.
Bake for 60-75 minutes (depending on the color of your cake pan) until a skewer (wooden or metal) comes out crumby, but clean. If your nuts start to get too dark (dark brown good, burnt bad), apply foil over the top of your pan to halt that process and allow the cake to continue cooking. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes in the pan. Serve and enjoy!