Cherry, cherry, quite contrary! For this month’s On the Table recipe, leave cherry pie to others and try your hand at France’s favorite cherry dessert: clafoutis.

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Here in the greater Grand Traverse region, we all get really opinionated about who makes the best cherry pie. Is it the 100-year-old Cherry Hut in Beulah, where my mother worked (and learned to drink coffee) in high school? Is it Traverse City’s Cherry Republic or Grand Traverse Pie Company? What about Friske’s Farm Market in Ellsworth? Is it Grandma’s pie, with that secret ratio of butter and lard? Our neighbors across the pond have a better answer to this riddle: Cherry clafoutis.

Instead of sandwiching thickened sour cherries between pie crusts, French cooks love to bake clafoutis—an eggy, custardy, single-layer cake of sorts that is studded with sweet cherries and can double as breakfast or dessert. It’s the texture of a crêpe, but much thicker.

Cherry Cloufitis

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Traditionally, this peasant recipe from the farming region of Limousin is assembled with the pits still in the cherries. A bowl is placed in the center of the table for discarding the pits. It’s been said that leaving them inside helps pull all the flavor from the pits during baking. That said, as good as this dish may be, I’m thinking it might not go over well if I brought this as my dessert to share at the next yacht club barbecue, with a note about spitting pits. Instead, for this recipe, I pit the cherries, but capture all their flavor by first steeping the pits in the milk that ultimately gets poured into the batter. While I’m not sure what French traditionalists will say about pulling the flavor of the pits in this way, I am sure that there’s no harm in thinking beyond pie and mixing up our repertoire here in cherry country. And who better to draw a little kitchen inspiration from than the French?

Cherry Clafoutis Recipe

Makes 8 wedges

  • 3 cups sweet cherries, washed and stems removed
  • 1 1⁄4 cups whole milk
  • Knob of butter (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1⁄3 cup granulated cane sugar
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 Tablespoons kirsch or cherry brandy
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
  • confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Cherry Cloufitis

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Cherry Clafoutis Cooking Directions

1. Working over two food storage containers, pit the cherries, placing pits into one container and the fruit in the other. Pour the milk into the container with the pits to soak. Cover both containers and refrigerate overnight.

2. The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

3. Place a generous knob of butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet and use a paper towel to rub it around the bottom and sides of the pan to coat. Add cherries to the pan and shake until they form a single layer.

4. Crack eggs into a blender and whiz at high speed until they are frothy on top, about 30 seconds. Working over a strainer, pour the milk into the blender, separating and discarding the pits. Add sugar, salt, brandy and vanilla, and pulse a few times to combine. Working in small batches while the blender is running at medium speed, add flour and blend until the mixture resembles frothy cream.

5. Pour the batter over the cherries and place the skillet onto the center rack of the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

6. Remove the clafoutis from the oven and allow to sit until the edges pull back from the side of the pan, about 15 minutes. While still warm, dust with confectioners’ sugar, cut into wedges and serve.

Cherry Cloufitis

Photo by Sarah Peschel

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as restaurant critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Photo(s) by Sarah Peschel