I was searching through various recipe books this weekend, looking for inspiration to bake for a cake sale being held at work today. One of the books in my pile for inspiration was Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet. My criteria for baking were that the item needed to be (relatively) cheap to make, not too time consuming to mix and bake, be sturdy enough to transport without falling apart (getting the bus to work is a pain when it comes to transporting delicate items or anything involving buttercream!) and have an interesting twist. After all, although I wanted it to sell well I wanted to make something new and different too!
After much flicking of pages, I eventually decided on the Sherry and Cherry cake. I had always skipped past this recipe in the past, assuming (wrongly) that it was a cherry cake using glace cherries. I already have a recipe for a cherry cake that I'm very happy with and didn't see the need for a new one. But when I looked more closely, this was made using dried cherries and as I happened to have (a little) sherry in the house this recipe looked very appealing.
I didn't use cherries though - I used sweetened dried cranberries, sometimes known as Craisins. Simply because I appear to have bulk bought them at some point in the past when they were on special offer, and they now need using up. My sherry (of which I used a touch less than specified because I'm running out!) is a fairly standard supermarket amontillado (the same one as I used for my sherry raisin cheesecake). This is labelled medium dry, rather than the sweet specified in the recipe. Ah well!
The slightly unusual method of layering half of the batter into the tin, then topping with half of the cranberries then repeating worked well to stop the cranberries all ending up at the bottom of the tin. Along with the batter being slightly stiffer than cake mix sometimes is, and tossing the cranberries in a bit of flour, my cranberries floated! In fact, the ones on the top of the cake barely moved at all, in spite of me gently pushing them down a bit as specified. The only (very minor) down side to this was that the cranberries tossed in flour that stayed put on the top had a tendency to be a little on the dark side, and looked a little 'floury' in places. Minor quibble. Next time I might only toss half of the cranberries in flour and push the ones on the top in a bit more! A version of the recipe can be found here on the Guardian website. You'll have to buy the book for this version!
A quick note on tin sizes. I have 2lb loaf tins that have internal measurements of 11x22x7cm at the top of the tin, and two sizes of loaf tin that I regard as 1lb loaf tins. These are a squat tin (traditional style) with measurements 15x9x7.5cm and finally, a broader tin with measurements of 19x9x6cm. It was this final size of tin that I used, with the recommendation being a 'deep, 17cm long loaf tin or similar'. I was pleased with this choice - the cake mix would have been dwarfed in the big tin, and the little tin would have taken ages to cook through. I left my cake longer than specified (about 10-15 mins) but it would have taken longer still in the smaller tin.
What a lovely cake! The crumb was quite sturdy - making it idea to transport into work for the cake sale and perfect to accompany a cup of tea or coffee. I found the flavour here really intriguing - I didn't really think that the cake tasted obviously of sherry (and wasn't expecting it to - there isn't that much sherry in the recipe!) but there was a lovely, lovely background note of something I couldn't quite identify but which blended really well with the sweet crumb of the cake and the slight sharpness of the cranberries. Overall very successful indeed.