Must-Have: Cherry Clafoutis (French Custard Cake)

Every summer during my early 20’s, I’d head to the Okanagan’s Similkameen Valley to pick cherries. The valley is classified as semi-desert land with less than 30% annual rainfall. It’s windy and dry with high mountains on either side of the valley that hold the heat long after sunset. It’s this climate that creates optimal conditions for growing outstanding fruit, cherries included.

Of the almost 2000 acres of fruit grown in the Similkameen region almost half are organic, making it the organic capital of Canada. Growing cherries organically is no small feat either, and when I first stepped onto the Rolling Sage Orchard, the cherry trees stole my heart.

Many of the trees were already over 30 years old; majestic in size and sight. The contrasting colours from the silver-grey bark to the deep red, heart-shaped fruits held me spellbound. The orchard consisted of several varieties including Vans, Lamberts, Sams and Celeste.

That first year of picking was sheer delight. Thanks to ideal weather conditions, the valley was experiencing an unprecedented bumper crop. It was an impressive sight and the harvest was exceptional. Excitement was in the air. I remember the trees being so heavy with fruit their branches had to be continually propped up. It sure made for easy picking with cherries dangling near to the ground!

Cherries are the first harvest of the summer (end of June to mid-July) and a welcome indulgence. They are sweet, juicy and delicious. The season is short (about 2-3 weeks) so picking is fast and exciting. Cherries are a delicate fruit and when the cherries are ripe time is of the essence – they are very susceptible to heat damage and splitting from rain and they expire quickly, especially if the stems come off.

Picking crews often wake up when the moon is still out and the air is cool; with the Similkameen early morning winds blowing off any residual humidity from the night. The picking would continue until it got too hot, usually by noon. Afterwards a dip in the river and maybe a little cherry wine would finish off the day.

Ahhh sweet summertime…

But I digress. I’m here to share a must-have recipe for cherry clafoutis “klah foo TEE” the classic French dessert.

Cherries for clafoutis

Cherries for clafoutis

We were sitting on the porch after a day of cherry picking and a slice of clafoutis came my way. First off, let me say, I’ll never get tired of eating cherries. Morning, noon and night, fresh off the tree, frozen or baked in a cake, cherries are divine and this cake was perfection.

The cherries were so juicy with ribbons of cherry juice marbled throughout each slice. The deep colour of the cherries was contrasted by the creamy, golden batter.

Clafoutis is made with eggs giving it a soft custard-like texture, a refreshing change from typical cakes. The addition of whole sweet cherries and a touch of almond flavouring make it a heavenly treat.

Clafoutis is the perfect summer dessert; you can enjoy a slice in the afternoon, or even have it for breakfast! It’s very simple to make and excellent served warm with a sprinkle of icing sugar or a dollop of yogurt. While cherries are the classic choice, you can substitute a variety of fruits as the seasons change. Try peaches, plums, raspberries or blueberries as alternatives.


“In fond memory of John Hutchinson – Rolling Sage Orchard “


Classic Cherry Clafoutis (courtesy of Irene Hutchinson)

Making cherry clafoutis


NOTE: Traditionally, clafoutis’ are made with cherries that still have their pits, which add a slight almond flavour but make the cake a little more difficult to eat. This recipe calls for pitted cherries – Cherry pitters (an inexpensive and handy tool) can be found at most kitchen and hardware stores.


1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups milk (almond, coconut or soy works as well)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

Roughly 3 cups cherries (pitted)

Sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon or cardamom. Your choice!
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 10-inch round baking dish. Add cherries to the prepared dish.

Put all ingredients in a food processor, or large bowl and blend/whisk together to combine. Pour batter over cherries and bake until set and puffy, about 40-45 minutes or until it starts to look solid and brown on top. Serve warm with a dusting of powdered sugar (optional).




Written By:

Holly Brooke is a true B.C. gal. Having lived on the west coast most of her life, except for several years in the Kootenay's where she canoed and fished and lived in a tipi, she's very much at home outdoors and in the kitchen. ...

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