This Comfort Food post is a little bit of a strange choice for me because although I love cake, I am not a fan of cherry cake because of the glacè cherries in it. But nonetheless it does bring back memories for me of my childhood Christmases – which makes me think that perhaps this post would have better suited to December – but watching Mary Berry show viewers how to make the perfect cherry cake has inspired me. So cherry cake it is!
A cherry cake is traditionally a sponge cake that contains halved or quartered (usually) red glace cherries, which is then topped with icing, flaked almonds and more glacè cherries. Even though a freshly baked cherry cake is not my idea of bliss due to the use of ghastly glacè cherries, they most definitely do take me back to childhood Christmases back in the 1980s. When my sister and I were younger – before we were joined by our two other siblings – Mum used to bake an array of baked goodies every Christmas. In fact she used to bake so much, there must have been more than enough for the entire neighbourhood! Of course one of these bakes included cherry cake which was one of Mum’s favourites.
Even though I’ve disliked glace cherries since I was a very young child, I did like Mum’s cakes, so I would always have a slice – and just picked out the cherries. But what was most memorable about these cakes was that, we always had a slice of cherry cake after we got home from midnight mass. So cherry cake – offending glace cherries or not – always bring back happy memories of Christmas, midnight mass, and Mum’s large-scale baking!
But even though I have mixed feelings about cherry cake, I know that most people, like Mum, absolutely love it! It is a very old-fashioned, very traditional English cake which I’ve been told is usually linked to Easter, rather than Christmas. It’s a very versatile cake and fits the bill for just about everything: picnics, afternoon tea, lunch boxes, bake sales and it is the mainstay of traditional tearooms, not to mention one of the most popular cakes to be baked among the Women’s Institute. And although it may sound simple to make, quite often it isn’t as the cherries are notorious for sinking to the bottom of the cake. However people have their own methods for preventing this from happening. One of them being to rinse of the sticky syrup from the cherries before dusting them with flour. Delia Smith believes n mixing two-thirds of the cherries into the cake mixture before poking the remaining third through the top of the cake just before it goes into the oven.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love cherries just not glace cherries. But I’m wondering if I can substitute the glace cherries in the cake for dried, fresh or tinned cherries. I’d definitely have no problems with eating it then! But despite my reservations regarding cherry cake, nothing can take away the fact that cherry cake is a very memorable part of my childhood and evokes memories of Christmases gone by…
So here’s a recipe for cherry cake from Mary Berry for a traditional cherry cake. Try it and enjoy!
- 200g/7oz glacé cherries
- 225g/8oz self-raising flour
- 175g/6oz softened butter, plus extra for greasing
- 175g/6oz caster sugar
- 1 lemon, finely grated zest only
- 50g/1¾oz ground almonds
- 3 large free-range eggs
- For the decoration
- 175g/6oz icing sugar
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 15g/½oz flaked almonds, toasted
- 5 glacé cherries, quartered
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- Grease a 23cm/9in bundt tin or savarin mould with butter.
- Cut the cherries into quarters.
- Set aside five of the quartered cherries for the decoration later.
- Put the rest of the quartered cherries in a sieve and rinse under running water.
- Drain well then dry thoroughly on kitchen paper and toss in two tablespoons of the flour.
- Measure all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and beat well for two minutes to mix thoroughly.
- Lightly fold in the cherries.
- Turn into the prepared tin.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes until well risen, golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.
- For the icing, mix the icing sugar together with the lemon juice to a thick paste.
- Drizzle over the cooled cake using the back of a spoon, sprinkle over the toasted almonds and reserved cherries.