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Lemon Cherry Coffee Crumb Cake

lemon cherry coffee cake pictureHave you seen Jamie’s Cherry Lemon Scones? They look delicious and reminded me of an all time favorite flavor combo: lemon and cherry. You might be wondering why I need reminding of a favorite. (Oh, you clever people, you!)

See, I think of lemon cherry being a summer flavor. Bright and sunshiny, sweet and tart, it’s almost like the flavor alone can cool you off. But, actually, some of the best citrus is in season during winter. And, you may have noticed cherries in your market lately. (More on that in a minute.) Maybe lemon cherry isn’t just for summer! Or maybe it doesn’t matter because who couldn’t use a bit of summer in this weather?

This crumb cake—which is as scrumptious as it sounds—is the perfect way to celebrate lemon and cherry in winter. The sweet and tart flavors combine with buttery cake and cinnamony crumble to make a warming treat perfect for breakfast, snack or dessert.

But here’s the skinny (ahem!) on the seasonality of this cake:

Lemons are easy. Citrus fruit is in season right now. In fact, make the most of it and consider splurging on sweeter Meyer lemons that are only available this time of year.

Cherries are tricker. Sadly, these yummy tree fruit consistently make the Dirty Dozen, a list of the 12 most pesticide ridden fruits and vegetables. According to the Daily Green, 2010 was no different:

“Even locally grown cherries are not necessarily safe. In fact, in one survey in recent years, cherries grown in the U.S. were found to have three times more pesticide residue then imported cherries. Government testing has found 42 different pesticides on cherries.”

Things look even more bleak for conventional fruits and veggies grown abroad. And guess what. Cherries in January? Not grown here.

Why am I telling you this while also giving you a recipe that calls for cherries? Because frozen organic cherries are a great all-year around option and perfectly acceptable for this recipe. (That’s why!) Both Cascadian Farms and Woodstock Farms package frozen organic cherries. Check your local grocery store or natural foods grocer for availability. Oh! And next summer when fresh cherries are back at our markets, be sure to throw a bag in your freezer.

Lemon Cherry Crumb Cake

for the cake
1/4 c milk
1 tsp + 2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (meyer lemon if you can find it)
1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp lemon zest
4 c pitted cherries, fresh or thawed frozen (organic if possible, see note above)

for the crumb topping
5 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
3/4 c flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9″ baking pan. Whisk together milk and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Set aside.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside

3. With an electric mixer, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and zest until well combined. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk/lemon juice mixture and, lastly, the remaining dry ingredients. Beat each until just combined. Gently fold in remaining 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Pour batter into the prepared pan and spread cherries across the top.

4. Make the crumble topping: put the butter, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bow. Work with your hands until they are well combined and turned into a crumble.

5. Sprinkle crumble over the cherries and bake cake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the cake and placing it on a rack to finish cooling. Serve warm or at room temp.

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