I love a Cherry Bakewell and in days past I could sit down with half a dozen of them along with a cup of tea and run out of cakes before I’d emptied my mug… Those days of excess are thankfully behind me but when I was planning my next “office bake” I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way of getting more of a cherry-almond fix without having to demolish a whole box of cakes? Yes, I could make a giant Bakewell Tart but could anyone really manage that much franginpane in one sitting? The solution comes in the form of this glorious Cherry Bakewell Cakewhich is packed with flavour but in a much lighter, easier to eat (and easier to share) format.
For those of you from outside the UK Cherry Bakewell is more than a dodgy name for a drag queen. Rather it’s a popular tea-time treat, comprising a shortcrust pastry shell filled with jam and frangipane topped with either flaked almonds or icing. When iced they’re also generally topped off with the king of kitsch – a glacé cherry. They’re unapologetically naff but all is forgiven as they taste so good.
I suspect that part of their attraction to me is thanks to them (mostly) containing one of my biggest sweet-tooth weaknesses: Icing. To be clear I’m not talking about any old sugar-based topping for a cake – frosting and buttercream are very much their own separate things in my world. I’m talking about good old fashion white icing made from two ingredients – icing sugar and water. I like pretty much anything that has a simple water icing top – I even think that there’s a place in this world for Iced Buns. They shouldn’t be allowed to exist as they’re essentially a hot-dog roll with icing on top yet I still like them.
Clearly when it comes to icing I have neither boundaries nor class. To many the thought of covering the top of a 20cm wide cake with a shiny white pool of sweetness, studded with glacé cherries and flaked almonds, would be horrific. For me… well, a picture paints a thousand words, right?
For the cake itself I wanted to be sure that I found a balance between the lightness of a sponge and the experience of frangipane. I started with a basic pound cake recipe and replaced half of the flour with ground almonds. Admittedly this is a lot closer to the sponge end of the spectrum, but my goodness does that almond make it moist! To really bring out the flavour I added in a generous teaspoon of almond extract too.
Oh and it’s filled with a really basic homemade Cherry Compote – made from boiling down frozen cherries with some icing sugar and lemon juice. You can get the recipe for that on the site (Basic Cherry Compote) but a shop-bought Cherry Preserve would likely work just as well.
This recipe goes to show that you don’t need to overthink a cake to get a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Though I still reckon that covering almost anything with icing would yield the same results…
- 225 g Butter or Margarine softened to room temperature
- 225 g Golden Caster Sugar
- 4 Large Eggs
- 1 tsp Almond Extract
- 125 g Self-Raising Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 100 g Ground Almonds
- 200 g Cherry Jam or Cherry Compote
- 200 g Icing Sugar
- 5 tsp Cold Water
- Flaked Almonds to decorate
- Glace Cherries to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Grease and flour two 20cm sandwich tins and put to one side for later.
- (I should confess that since owning a Bundt pan, which is unforgiving if you don't grease it properly, I tend to go reach for the cake release as it's never failed me).
- Put the butter and sugar into a large mixing bowl and cream together until the mixture has become lighter in colour and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs and almond extract, thend beat again until everything is well combined.
- Sift the flour into a separate bowl and add the baking powder, followed by the ground almonds. Mix to combine the dry ingredients before adding to the wet mixture in the other bowl. Mix well but be careful to not overwork the flour.
- Divide the mixture between the prepare cake tins, spread it to the edges and level the top. Put into the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and cooked through - a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake will come out clean when they are cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. I tend to let them cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning them out to cool completely.
When you're ready to assemble the cake start by placing one of the sponges upside down on your plate - i.e. you want the flat bottom of the pan side to be facing up. Spread the cherry jam or compote over what is now the top of the cake, making sure you go the whole way out to the edges. Place the other sponge on top, with the flatter side down to sandwich in the cherry filling.
- Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl and add in the water a tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition, until you have a smooth-yet-thick paste.
- Spread the icing over the top of the cake, again making sure it goes all the way to the edges, but don't worry if a little trickles down the sides here and there. It's nice when you can tell a cake is homemade.
- Finally decorate the top with halved glacé cherries and flaked almonds in the design of your choosing.
Store the cake in an airtight container - it should be ok for a few days, but as with any baked goods it's best eaten fresh. In my experience they never stick around for long enough to go stale anyway.