Bring cherries, 3/4 cup sugar, cornstarch, 1/2 cup water, and, if desired, food coloring to a boil ina medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in 3 tablespoons butter, lemon rind, and almond extract. Pour into a lightly greased 11- x 7-inch baking dish.
Combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add milk, 1/4 cup butter, and vanilla, and beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes. Add egg, and beat 2 more minutes. Spoon batter evenly over cherry mixture.
Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden, shielding with aluminum foil during the last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning, if necessary. Cool in dish on a wire rack 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream.
*3 (5 ounce) cans pitted tart red cherries can be substituted. Drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Substitute reserved juice for 1/2 cup water.