Saturday 5 June 2010

Cherry Cake - perfect for a picnic

I think this cake has to be one of my strongest associations with my childhood - there was often cake in the cake tin, and this cake, along with flapjack (always referred to as 'crunchie' in my house) and tea loaf, was a regular feature. A quick slice on arriving home from school, a sneaky chunk late at night before bed, taken on a picnic to be carried to a (relatively) remote location, this cake is perfect for all occasions. The appeal is many-fold; the cake is easy to make and requires no attention after baking - this isn't a cake to decorate, the lovely bright cherries are visually attractive and the cake is enhanced by the juicy moistness of the cherries.

There are myriad recipes out there for cherry cake, but this is the one I always come back to. Delia recommends including a proportion of ground almonds to help prevent the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the loaf (no good for me!). This recipe by James Martin, published in a recent BBC GoodFood magazine has all the cherries at the bottom in spite of having ground almonds in it - the tip at the bottom suggests that whole cherries will sink, whereas those halved or quartered will 'float' better. J is adamant that the way to make the cherries distribute evenly is to wash them of their syrupy juices before adding them to the mixture. And her cherries are never always stuck at the bottom! This is the method I use; washing them first and I generally then cut them in half. And since I'm actually writing this as the cake is baking I don't know what is happening to the cherries - the suspense is killing me!

Edited (with relief!) to say obviously, from the photos my cherries have stayed suspended, woo-hoo!

Cherry cake (adapted from an old Good Housekeeping cookery book)

225g self raising flour

110g soft margarine (I used this as J always did, I might now use butter, but wanted to keep to the true taste of my childhood - this has the advantage that in cooler weather you don't have to wait around for butter to soften)

110g caster sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

60-105mL/4-7tbsp milk (I used 7tbsp this time)

200g glace cherries, washed and halved

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line the base and long sides of a 2lb (900g) loaf tin.
- Weigh the flour and Stork into a bowl and rub the fat into the flour until you have a coarse breadcrumb texture. Add the sugar and stir to mix.
- In a jug, beat the egg with the milk (start with the smaller amount of milk if you're not sure) and vanilla extract if using (I did this time, because I like the flavour of vanilla, J never does, partly because vanilla flavouring was rather more common than genuine extract until relatively recently, and we all know the one is not a patch on the other....)
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat well with a spatula to mix. The mixture should be fairly slack, add a little more milk if you think necessary.
- Fold in the washed, halved cherries and pour/spoon into the prepared loaf tin.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Slice, admire and enjoy!

Ah, cherries the whole way through. This was popular, and disappeared fairly quickly.

J, I now have the recipe written down and won't need to keep phoning you for it!


Chele said...

I have to admit C, your post has made me laugh! How many times have we all sat infront of the oven door hoping to find the result of flouring cake additions will stop them from sinking. So pleased yours has worked well for you - the cake looks lovely.

Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial said...

I adore recipes like this one, C! Simple but just so tasty, baked in a loaf tin, and easy to slice and share. I always find wet batters --> sinking fruit, not matter what I try, so I'm most impressed by your suspended cherries! :)

Sticky Penguin said...

Oh, that looks so tasty - will definitely be giving it a try (especially if I can avoid my usual habit of eating the glacé cherries straight from the packet!). Have been hunting for a fruity cake recipe that didn't use sultanas (much as I love them, my fiancé doesn't) and suits aack of available fresh fruit (winter down under). If I get really keen, I'd love to try combining this with the custard cake recipe too...

Suelle said...

This looks really good. I like cherry cake with either ground almonds or desiccated coconut added - not to stop the cherries sinking but for the flavour.

Have you tried halving the cherries before you wash them? In my experience, the hole in the centre of a glacé cherry contains a lot of syrup which is best washed away too.

@ Blue Penguin. I can recommend Dan Lepard's sultana-less Tropicana Banana Cake, if you can stop the fruit sinking:

Caroline said...

Chele, washing the cherries really does make them 'float' well.

Celia - glad you like the look of it - it's the perfect cake tin cake - always ready for another slice!

Blue Penguin - let me know how you get on if you try it!

Suelle - I guess almonds would add a good flavour, especially as fresh cherries are often paired with almonds. Halving the cherries before washing would probably be even better (and I sometimes do) but I do wash them quite well, so I guess quite a bit of the syrup in the centre gets washed out anyway.

Lucie said...

This looks so good! I love cakes that evoke memories for people :)

Johanna GGG said...

I am not really into glace cherries but even so this cake fills me with nostalgia - I am not sure how often my mum made it but it was always at cake sales and afternoon teas

I love you discussion on how to keep the cherries from sinking - well done for your success!

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely cake. This is my first visit to your blog and I had intended only to say hello and then move on. I, instead, began to read your earlier posts and stayed much longer than I planned. I really like your recipes and the welcoming tone of your blog. I'll be back often to see what you've been cooking. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

The Caked Crusader said...

Hurray for the floating cherries!

Suze said...

My fiance's favourite cake is my homemade cherry loaf cake. I have a tried, trusted and successful recipe that I always use, however, I aim to use your recipe when O make his cake on Sunday. The only hcane I'll make is ti sub the Stork for butter as I never use margerine for anything. I have just dicovered your Blog and have saved it to my favourites...thank you!


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