1 can pitted sour red cherries
1 cup sugar, divided
3 Tbl. butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
1 Tbl. butter or margine, melted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup allpurpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
powdered sugar, whipped cream or ice cream (optional)
Drain cherries, reserving 3/4 cup juice. Stir together juice and 1/2 cup sugar in medium saucepan, cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and set aside. With mixer at medium speed, cream together 3 tablespoons butter with remaining 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla. In separate bowl, mix together flour and baking soda, add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with milk, mixing until smooth after each addition.
Generously grease moist clay cooker with melted butter. Spread batter over bottom of clay pot, spread cherries over top of batter in an even layer, pour cherry syrup over cherries. Cover baker with lid, set in cold oven. Set oven temperature to 450°F and bake until top is golden and wooden toothpick when inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until top browns, about 5 minutes. Top with powdered sugar or whipped cream OR serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.