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buttermilk cornmeal pancakes with warm Cherry sauce

Earlier this season I was asked to participate in the Northwest Cherries ~ Tree to Table campaign, bringing dishes from chefs around the country to our tables at home. I said Yes, and then…life threw a few curve balls our way. I caught a couple balls but sadly dropped the cherries. Luckily (for us in the NW anyway) our produce stands are still teeming with beautiful cherries so I thought I’d bring you breakfast.

I’m still hoping to bring you one gorgeous dessert from a phenomenal chef, famous in these parts, but recently I’ve learned, while keeping hopes high, it’s best to keep promises to a minimum.

These are whole-grain pancakes made with cornmeal and white whole wheat flour, and it’s buttermilk that keeps them deliciously tender. They’re topped with a seductive warm cherry sauce scented with orange and cloves. It seems to me a fitting breakfast for this time of year caught between warm summer days and crisp fall mornings.

Cornmeal Pancakes with Warm Cherry Sauce


  • 1 cup medium-grind (or fine to medium-) stone ground cornmeal (4 oz.)
  • ½ cup white whole wheat flour (2.25 ounces)
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1½ cups lowfat buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cherry Sauce:

  • 2 cups sweet pitted cherries (about 10 ounces – do not thaw if using frozen)
  • ¼ cup water (+ 1 Tablespoon later)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from about 1 orange)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

* You may have noticed…I generally have a preference for mixing varieties of fruit when cooking with them. I think it’s visually more appealing, but more important I think the flavor profile is broadened and deepened…what one variety lacks, another makes up for. For this sauce, I used Bing and Rainier cherries.


In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and then whisk in buttermilk and olive oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. (Don’t over mix or your tender cakes will turn tough. There should be lumps.) Set aside for 15 minutes – or longer if need be, but not less than.

If you’re going to be making the pancakes all at once and then serving everyone together, place a large baking sheet in a 200°F oven, on the middle rack.

In the meantime, prepare the cherry sauce. Combine the cherries, ¼ cup water, honey, orange zest and cloves in a small saucepan. 

Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, cover partially, and set aside for the flavors to marry.

Cooking the Pancakes: Preheat a cast iron skillet, or a griddle, over medium to medium high heat. When water dances wildly and evaporates quickly, the pan is ready. Prepare the pancakes, using ¼ cup batter apiece. Flip when edges are dry and bottoms are a golden brown, about 2 minutes. Cook about 1 minute on the flip  side. (Reduce heat if pancakes begin to brown too quickly.) To keep them warm, place them single file on the baking sheet. (Stacking would make them soggy.)

To finish the sauce, mix cornstarch with 1 Tablespoon water. Add to the pot with the cherries, and return to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir gently with a rubber spatula, being careful not to crush the cherries. Continue cooking until sauce has thickened and looks bright and clear.

Serve (and of course eat) right away.

Printer friendly pancakes, click here.

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(This recipe modified only slightly from one by Maria Speck in Ancient Grains for Modern Meals )

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28 Comments Post a comment
  1. Val #

    This looks amazing Spree! That last photo is very inviting, almost 3D-like. Frozen cherries are on my next shopping list!

    September 3, 2012
  2. Carolyn #

    Your photos capture such fullness of waning summer. I stare & drool.

    September 3, 2012
    • Here’s your napkin, dear… : )

      September 4, 2012
  3. This would be a great breakfast to serve houseguests, Spree. Your use of both Bing and Mt. Rainier cherries makes the dish look even more enticing. And, as always, your photography is quite beautiful. I was preparing to start my dinner but now I’ll have to wait until these visions of pancakes with cherry sauce quit dancing in my head. This is so unfair! 🙂

    September 3, 2012
    • So unfair, I know…but then again, turnabout is fair play. 🙂

      September 4, 2012
  4. spree.. I’m ensuring that my typing is not perfunctory in the least today (I just had to look up the definition of “perfunctory”). I’m typing very, very slowly and spell-checking as I go. However, I am also sipping a lovely glass of chardonnay whilst typing, so although I am going at a relatively cautious speed.. I must caution you that there may be a lapse 😀

    What a shame for the chefs who wished you to work with them on the Tree to Table Campaign, they would have benefited from your artistic presentation and outstanding culinary abilities! I hope you have a really quiet (except for the good stuff) year and that you can participate in this next year. I bet in the meantime you will be involved in some sort of fall event.. in which case.. this one would take the cake.. er the pancake, er the prize!! spree, I’ve seen all sort of pancakes adorned with various syrups and butters, but this one is sooo pretty, timely and fresh. You never cease to surprise and inspire! I can’t wait to try this one out on my fam.. who are my grateful Guinea Pigs too after the lovely Crab Gazpacho xx Smidge .. now going back to check my spelling…

    September 3, 2012
    • You never fail to make me smile, Smidge 😀 ! Love the thought of you typing ever-so carefully whilst sipping Chardonnay ever-so leisurely, happily, summer-evening-ly! Though we did enjoy this pancake dribbled in warm cherry sauce quite a bit (lick, lick) it’s still not my favorite pancake. That honor goes to lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry sauce. Those are pretty much to-die-for, if I can be so bragadiccio! 😀 (oh dear, it’s not in my dictionary.) (the Grateful Guinea Pig is WILD for those!) xxoo

      September 4, 2012
  5. Such luscious images there Spree, i love your accessories too:)

    September 3, 2012
    • Why thank you Lesley! : )

      September 4, 2012
  6. carolyn #

    Those photos absolutely glisten. Do cherries get any better?

    September 3, 2012
    • Fresh off the tree, still warm from the sun, they do! 🙂

      September 4, 2012
  7. That is an outrageously sexy looking breakfast. Wonderful photography and beautiful layout. I’ve never been able to get my head around big breakfasts, but I can look:)

    September 4, 2012
    • : ) Gotta say Roger, I do love a sexy breakfast! (And thanks so much for your comments!)

      September 4, 2012
  8. I could eat those at any time of day! and it’s great you participated, and you delivered a great recipe too ! Your words “seductive warm cherry sauce ” have me longing for cherries, our season is pretty much over now…..sigh….

    September 4, 2012
    • sigh…sorry! So wish I’d gotten this out earlier for you Claire! It was a good ‘un.

      September 4, 2012
  9. An absolutely seductive post to celebrate cherries and all their glory! This is just gorgeous spreeo – and I swear one of these weekends I am going to try your buttermilk pancakes…I really think me and the family are missing out – I will report back! Love this 🙂 xx

    September 4, 2012
    • Shira m’deara, thank you so much! So happy you’re back – we’ve missed you! And yes, I agree, you should make your darling brood some pancakes! 😀 xx

      September 4, 2012
  10. What an honor to have been asked, and you did not disappoint. (By the way, love what you say about keeping hopes high and promises to a minimum – good advice!) You have such a gift – not only for the exquisite visuals, but also for capturing season and time and place. Yes! What could say summer-to-fall better than these oozing summer juice cherries in the colors and richness of fall?! Love these!

    September 4, 2012
    • Ashley, what kind words you’ve left me, thank you so much! xx

      September 4, 2012
  11. Oh My God! They look amazing!
    That cherry sauce sounds like something I should do, but I’ll do it with my brother, he wants to be a chef and she is already cooking vvery well, last time I tried to make pancakes it was a disaster, the ones made by me were completely brown and the ones made by him looked really delicious 🙂
    I think he should read this blog, and I don’t know why I had not thought about it before 🙂

    September 4, 2012
  12. Seductive warm cherry sauce kept me reading and the photos had me drooling. I’m glad you were able to participate in this event and from my perspective I hope that you won a prize or at least a very honorable mention. Take care, BAM

    September 5, 2012
  13. I tried making cornmeal waffles for a daring bakers challenge and was in love with the effect adding cornmeal made. I planned to try it with pancakes next and your wonderful recipe sounds like the perfect one to try
    As for the cherry sauce..I am honestly at a loss for words!

    September 9, 2012
  14. Dammit janet these photos are so rich. I love the almost sepia warmth of the first one (it’s hard for me to articulate)
    And the food looks darn good!

    September 10, 2012
  15. deb schneider #

    ohhhh, my Mom & I will do our best to try these – luscious! You keep outdoing yourself with recipes . . . and photos 🙂

    September 17, 2012
  16. deb schneider #

    p.s. congratulations, dear talented one

    September 17, 2012

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