Throughout the years, my feelings regarding Valentine’s Day have run the gamut. In elementary school, I loved it: I relished getting to have a party during school hours, exchanging cards with classmates, and experiencing the general merriment sugar rush. But the parties ended by the time I got to middle school, and by high school, I dreaded Valentine’s Day, when it became a painful reminder of my perpetual singleness, as I watched the never-ending parade of giggling girls flouncing around with over-the-top, sappy gifts from their boyfriends and/or secret admirers. In college, I was immersed in my studies and generally couldn’t have cared less—except for the year I had to clear out of the apartment so that my roommate could enjoy a romantic dinner with her boyfriend…and the next morning I found two lobster carcasses in the kitchen trash, creating a smell so offensive that I’m pretty sure it could have constituted a crime against humanity.
These days, I find Valentine’s Day a pleasant enough affair, provided that it doesn’t bring with it expectations of grand gestures or exorbitant expenditures. One sure-fire way to keep costs down is to make a special meal at home, and since Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, it’s the perfect time to whip up a decadent brunch! This cherry pie French toast casserole will make everyone at the table (and their taste buds) feel exceptionally loved—and it feeds a crowd, so invite your family and friends to join in! I’m a firm believer that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples; it’s a fun opportunity to do nice things or make little treats for all the loved ones in your life.
When I first drafted the recipe for this cherry pie French toast casserole, I fully expected it to turn out well, but the finished product surpassed my expectations like whoa. The challah makes for a delightfully fluffy and springy texture to the casserole base, and dollops of cherry pie filling create pockets of juicy sweetness throughout.
Don’t you kind of want to dive head first into that pillowy-soft challah?!
To top things off, a sprinkling of cinnamon almond streusel provides a buttery crunch!
The smell alone is enough to conjure up that cozy feeling of a leisurely weekend day spent at home without a care in the world. As for the taste, well…conversation while we were eating it was pretty much limited to “Oh man, this is SO good,” “Mmmmm,” and “Wow, this is amazing!” So if you’re looking for a way to make Valentine’s Day memorable from start to finish, this cherry pie French toast casserole has got the morning covered!
Where do you fall on the spectrum of feelings regarding Valentine’s Day?
- 3 cups tart cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 loaf challah (1 pound), cut into cubes or torn into chunks
- 8 eggs
- 3 cups milk (non-dairy is fine)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine (non-dairy is fine), chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and ground cinnamon. Mix the dry ingredients together with the pitted cherries. Heat the cherries in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat until the white coating of sugar and cornstarch has turned completely translucent and small bubbles are forming in the liquid. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened (you want it to be about the same consistency as canned pie filling). Remove from the heat and stir in the almond extract.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13 pan. Put the bread chunks in the pan. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread chunks.
- Spoon dollops of the cherry pie filling in between the bread chunks.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients until the largest pieces are no bigger than the size of peas. Stir in the sliced almonds and sprinkle the mixture on top of the bread chunks.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, depending on the consistency you prefer: 40 minutes for a softer/wetter texture, up to 50 minutes for a firmer texture.
- The casserole can be assembled in advance, covered, and refrigerated overnight. I recommend taking the casserole out of the refrigerator while the oven is preheating. You may also need to bake the casserole a few minutes longer, since it is going into the oven cold rather than at room temperature.
- If you are using frozen cherries, you do not need to thaw them first. You can make the cherry pie filling ahead of time, in order to speed up the prep time in the morning.
- You can also substitute canned pie filling (approximately 1 1/2 cups) if you can’t find fresh or frozen tart cherries. If there is more than 1 1/2 cups in the can, just go ahead and throw in the whole thing—no one is going to complain about too many cherries! If you use canned pie filling, I recommend that you still stir in 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon almond extract.
- Casserole recipe adapted from The Casserole Queens Cookbook.
- Pie filling recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.
- Streusel topping recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.
This looks amazing! I think I know now what I’ll make on Valentine’s Day:)
Thanks! I hope you love it as much as we do 🙂
chef mimi says
Beautiful! Valentine’s Day? I was thinking that this would be great for company during the holidays!!! It’s pretty and sounds fabulous!!
Honestly, I’d be happy to eat this any day of the year, holiday or no holiday! Thanks for stopping by!
Cake Lover says
If ever there was a reason to eat dessert for breakfast, this recipe would be it! Just reading the post this morning almost made me swoon.
Breakfast…dessert…whatever you call it, whenever you eat it, it’s phenomenal! I hope you get a chance to try this!
That sounds absolutely lovely. Combining casserole and toast is a perfect combination for me.
Thanks! It’s definitely on the fast track to becoming one of our household favorites.
Sinfully Tempting says
I whole-heartedly agree. Thanks!
Mary Ann @ thebeachhousekitchen says
French toast casseroles are my all time favorite breakfast treat! Love this one!
Ooh, then you should definitely give this a try sometime! Let me know what you think if you do 🙂
Megan - The Emotional Baker says
My feelings about Valentine’s Day are just like yours! I love celebrating it with family and friends & a brunch would be perfect this year – I’m in love with this French Toast Casserole!
I hope you get a chance to try this! I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day 🙂
Rachel @the dessert chronicles says
I just came across your blog and had to tell you how obsessed I am with your blog name. So cute! But I can’t leave out this french toast. OMG, drooling over here!
Thanks so much, Rachel! And I’m glad to hear you like the blog name!
This looks so wonderful, and I love tart cherries! What a great way to use them!
This might be my favorite tart cherry recipe to date – not that I don’t love a good cherry pie, but this casserole is way easier to make than a pie! Thanks for stopping by!
HomeSweetJones (@HomeSweetJones) says
After that fateful V-Day in 2012 when we spent an hour sitting in traffic to drive to a restaurant 2 miles away, Brad and I vowed to never again go to a restaurant on National Eat Out day. We’ve had the best celebrations cooking at home together. This tart would be perfect for this years menu. Gorgeous!
Wow, an hour to go 2 miles?! That sounds excruciating. I hope you get a chance to try this – I’m seriously obsessed with it already!
We don’t tend to do much for Valentine’s Day…my husband and I are both pathetically not romantic at all. But this looks like a yummy treat! I bet my kids would love it!
We really don’t do much for Valentine’s Day either, but I have a feeling this casserole might become a tradition! I hope you get a chance to try it. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing the post on Twitter!
This looks so good, I’m featuring it tonight at #FoodieFriDIY! 🙂 Sending lots of foodie love your way too!
Wow, thanks so much! I’m honored 🙂
This recipe looks so delicious! Visiting from Foodie FriDIY.
Thanks, Anita! I’m glad you stopped by!
What a clever idea :). Loved it!!
Thanks so much!
Kaila (GF Life 24/7) says
I love the idea of a Valentine’s Sunday Brunch. Yum! And, this looks absolutely scrumptious. Happy FF, and have a marvelous weekend! 😀
Thanks, Kaila! I hope you have a great weekend as well!
Dad Whats 4 Dinner says
What a great idea. Yum and Pinned! Happy FF!
Glad to hear it! Let me know what you think if you make it!
This sounds like a perfect brunch! 🙂
It’s certainly the perfect brunch for me – I’m now going to be craving it every weekend!
Life Diet Health says
🙂 It has cherries. It has cinnamon! Sold! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Thanks! I’m glad this caught your eye!
Michelle @ Giraffes Can Bake says
Valentine’s brunch sounds just perfect to me, and this french toast casserole looks so yummy!
Thanks, Michelle! I hope you get a chance to try it.
Oh yum! This looks really good! Would love to have you share it on the “What’s for Dinner” linky party!
Thanks! I’ll be sure to check it out 🙂
Helen Fern says
Thanks for sharing on the “Whats for Dinner” linky party! And I love the name of your blog!!
Oh wow! I am always looking for new treats for breakfasts and brunches and this casserole is the most exciting recipe I have seen in ages!! I am definitely bookmarking this one! I know how you feel about Valentine’s Day… we don’t do too much except maybe go out for a dinner, and we try not to get into the huge commercial circus that it can be. Thanks so much for sharing this with us this week! 😀
I’m so glad to hear that this recipe piqued your interest! I hope you love this as much as we do. Thanks for being one of the hosts this week!
Gorgeous, I absolutely love the pop of red from the cherries and you had me at “cherry pie”. Pinned!
I agree – I love how cherries keep their color when baked, unlike some fruits. Thanks for being a host this week!
I love your version using cherries and challah bread. Sounds just as good, if not better, than my apple pie French toast using Great Harvest Cinnamon bread 🙂
Thanks! That sounds delightful as well – the more French toast recipe, the better!
What a perfect brunch recipe! Happy FF!
I’m glad you agree! Thanks for stopping by!
Looks yummy. Happy FF#105!
Julie is Hostess At Heart says
This is one beautiful breakfast dish. I’d much rather wake up to this than a card any day!
Me too! Thanks so much, Julie!
My husband would seriously eat a French Toast casserole every day if his waistline would allow it! 😉 This is a fabulous treat for any special occasion- mouthwatering!
If I could, I would too! I hope you get a chance to try this – let me know if you do 🙂
Angela @marathonsandmotivation.com says
You had me at Cherry Pie French Toast! I pinned this recipe to try ASAP, as I love cherries & I think my kids will be over the moon with the combine french toast! I would love for you to share this in my Sunday Fitness & Food Linky at http://www.marathonsandmotivation.com
Thanks, Angela! I’m sure any kid would be excited to see this coming out of the oven. Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for Linking up at Sunday Fitness & Food! I have pinned this recipe and I am looking forward to trying it. Hope to “see you” next Sunday on our Linky 🙂
All about a Mummy says
Oh my that looks divine! #recipeoftheweek
Divine is a good way to describe this – thanks!
Patty K says
So heavenly and perfect! You said it best..”it’s a fun opportunity to do nice things or make little treats for all the loved ones in your life” should be the new Valentine’s day mantra!
Thanks, Patty! I’m glad you agree. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
Dragons And Fairy Dust says
This looks amazing. I bet it did not last long
You are correct – sadly, this French toast casserole was not with us for very long. I’ll definitely be making it again soon, though!
Angela / Only Crumbs Remain says
Ooh this sounds and looks so good. We’re big fans of Chollah here, it’s simply a gorgeous bread, but the way you’ve teamed it with all of those scrumptious flavours makes it a winner in my book.
Thanks, Angela! I hope you get a chance to try it sometime!
I love Cherries and I love French Toast. What a beautiful way to combine these 3 into a beautiful casserole! Love it! So Yum! Pinning!
I’m so glad this caught your eye! Thanks so much 🙂
Gorgeous! I love the sound of the streusel on top to provide some crunchy texture as well. What a perfect breakfast and a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day!
That’s exactly why I decided to add the streusel, to give an added element of texture – not that I really needed a *reason* to add streusel! Thanks for stopping by!