You know how sometimes you get yourself backed into a corner? Like you offhandedly ask your husband whether he thinks chocolate or vanilla cherry cake is better. And the ninja-spouse, sensing weakness, pounces.
"Chocolate, but why are you asking me, since you're just going to do something else anyway?"
Not actually what I was planning to make. I should have taken the advice of my friend Mr. Google and baked this fine cake calling for just one can of cherry pie filling, one box of cake mix, and a can of Sprite. Sadly, we're all out of Sprite. Plus, it occurred to me that all that fruit would make any regular cake wetter than French toast. So, I settled on a brownie batter, since brownies are supposed to be baked long enough to caramelize a layer of fruit. And then, since I'm kind of indifferent to chocolate, I made a blondie version.
4 T butter
1/4 C brown sugar
12-16 oz pitted cherries (however many come in the frozen bag, minus the number your kids eat during pauses in the Insane Nerf Battle, that's the exact right amount)
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
7 T butter
1 3/4 C white sugar
1/4 t table salt
1 t vanilla extract
1/4 t almond extract (if you have it)
1/4 t baking powder
3/4 C flour
1 1/2 C brown sugar
7 T butter
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract (or not, don't make a special trip to the store)
1/4 t salt
3/4 t baking powder
1 1/2 C flour
1 C slivered almonds (omitted here because of whiny kids)
For the Cherry Layer, stir the butter and brown sugar in a skillet over medium flame for a few minutes to start melting them together, then add the cherries. I'm assuming you bought these cherries frozen, which means that they will develop a frosty white film when they hit the pan. Just put the lid on to trap some heat and defrost them for two minutes. (If you pitted fresh cherries yourself, you can skip this part. But feel free to pause for a few seconds to feel holier-than-thou.)
When the cherries have defrosted, take off the lid and leave them at a low boil for a few minutes while you get on with the brownie/blondie batter.
You want to reduce the syrup by about half, but not burn it off. Once you get there, turn off the heat.
For the Brownies, melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave, stirring every thirty seconds. You can also do this over a very low flame, as I did. Up to you, but take care not to scorch the chocolate on the stovetop. Beat in the sugar and then the eggs, one at a time. Your batter will be thin and shiny.
Then add the extracts, salt and baking powder, and finally the flour.
I used a pie dish here, but I would recommend you use a greased 9 inch square pan with sides at least 2 1/2 inches high. You could definitely use the pan you cooked the cherries in, but I get jumpy flipping a hot pot of molten syrup.
Pour the cherries and syrup into your choice of cooking vessel, and spread the brownie batter over the top as evenly as possible.
Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes. When it's done, the edges will be very brown, and poking it with a toothpick will yield moist crumbs, but no liquid batter. Because I remembered to put a cookie sheet under mine, it didn't boil over. If you forget this little insurance policy, you will certainly be blessed with the smell of sugar burning on the floor of your oven.
I must confess: This cake is no beauty. And I don't think powdered sugar would help. What might help, though, is baking it in a square pan and treating it like bar cookies. Something to think about while you're giving it ten minutes to rest before inverting it onto a platter. If it looks like it's not fully releasing, leave it there for a minute and see if gravity pulls it the rest of the way.
Otherwise, you can use your knife to scrape it back into place.
For the Blondies, melt the butter and sugar together over low heat.
Assemble and bake as with the brownies above.
Between Nerf skirmishes, I was able to conduct some polling. Chocolate edged Blondie by a narrow margin. Happy Baking!