Saturday, 9 August 2014

Cherry Cake inspired by GBBO

One of my favourite cookery programmes has just started its fifth series – the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) which is shown on BBC1. For anyone interested in baking or cooking this programme is an absolute ‘must-see’… I absolutely love it. Essentially the programme is a baking competition fought out between 12 amateur home bakers. The weakest baker is eliminated each week until one is finally crowned the champion. Along the way, the bakers face a number of baking tasks and technical challenges, some of which are quite tough and testing. Without a doubt, the Great British Bake Off has to be one of the reasons that baking has become so popular again and that more and more people are taking out the weighing scales, mixing bowls and spatulas!

Due to the phenomenal success of the programme in Great Britain, the format has been sold to a number of other countries including the USA, Australia, France, Belgium and many others. There is also an Irish version called the Great Irish Bake Off, which is great and the standard of baking every bit as high as on the British version.
Another favourite cookery programme is of course MasterChef and having been a competitor and eventual finalist on MasterChef Ireland, I have to say that it is my favourite version of that particular television franchise.
Anyhow, the GBBO is bake on our screens and I am thrilled to have something entertaining and inspiring to watch on a Wednesday night as the days shorten. In the first episode the judges – Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood set the bakers the technical challenge of baking a cherry cake. Given that I have recently been experimenting with fresh cherries in my baking and cooking, I thought it would be nice to bake an old fashioned cherry cake using glacé cherries. I have to admit that my very first experience of cherries was not of the fresh kind but rather of glacé cherries – the type preserved in a sugary syrup and used in cherry cake, rich fruit cakes and as an ingredient in my grandmother’s pineapple upside-down cake. As such cherry cake holds a certain nostalgia for me.

The recipe that I give here is not unlike that given by Mary Berry in the programme, but it is the recipe that I inherited from my grandmother and which I have been using for years. I really liked the idea of baking the cake in a savarin cake tin rather than the usual loaf tin that I use, so I have borrowed that idea. I also loved the idea of sprinkling some toasted flaked almonds on top of the iced cake, so I have included that element in my recipe.

This is a great cake which looks really retro but tastes fantastic.


175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
175g plain flour
35g self-raising flour
35g ground almonds
2tblsp Amaretto
200g glacé cherries, quartered and then rinsed in a sieve, sprinkled with 1tblsp flour
To finish:
125g icing sugar
1-2tblsp boiling water
25g flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan
6 glacé cherries, halved


1. Pre-heat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 23cm savarin or ring tin with butter and dust well with plain flour, shaking out the excess and set aside.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, cream together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, mixing well after each addition. Sieve the plain and self-raising flour together and fold into the creamed mixture making sure that it is well incorporated. Add the ground almonds and Amaretto and mix through.
3. Finally fold in the washed, dried and floured cherries. Spoon the batter into the prepared savarin tin, levelling out the surface with a spatula.
4. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 30-35 minutes until well –risen and golden brown and a thin skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, before turning out on to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
To finish:
5. Mix the icing sugar and boiling water together to create a smooth slightly runny icing. Place the icing into a disposable piping bag and snip a small it off the end of the bag. Pipe the icing over the cake. (You can also just spoon the icing evenly over the cake, letting it drizzle down over the cake naturally). Before the icing sets, sprinkle the toasted flaked almonds over the cake and arrange the halved cherries on top.

Serves 8-10.