The fresh cherry season is almost at an end which means I will have to wait until next year before I can enjoy them again in their full glory. I was rather pleased with some of my culinary experiments with this wonderful fruit. If I say so myself, the cherry sorbet that I made is truly amazing and I will be making a much bigger batch of it next year, which I will store in the freezer and consume as winter approaches and the days get shorter to remind me of warm summer days past and those still to come.
Asides from the fact that it makes sense from and economic and ecological point of view, eating food seasonally, and ideally locally sourced, makes sense from a culinary perspective; you learn to appreciate food more and have a greater natural understanding of those flavours and foods that go well together. Mother Nature is very clever and has designed it so that many foods that are in season at the same time also happen to go very well together from a taste standpoint. To me, it seems absurd to eat fresh cherries in the middle of winter when they have had to be flown half way around the world, cost a fortune to buy and just don’t taste like cherries! You can apply this argument to a range of foodstuffs. And ultimately, what’s the point in buying and eating these foods if they don’t even taste good because they had to be picked under-ripe and were artificially ripened on the journey to this part of the world? Madness!
200g butter, softened
Anyway, I still had a large bowlful of cherries sitting on the kitchen counter, so I decided that I would keep it simple in flavour terms and would bake a chocolate and cherry cake. Although this cake looks quite elaborate, it is not as complicated as it looks. Essentially the cake is made up of three layers of chocolate sponge cake sandwiched together with cherry buttercream icing; the cake is covered with chocolate ganache and then topped with a pile of fresh cherries. The cake tasted divine and just looked so kitsch. I loved it. There’s nothing new about the chocolate/cherry combination, but sometimes, the old reliables are exactly what you need to eat… and you know what? The cake tasted fab! There are times when you want something familiar and don’t want or need your taste buds to be challenged or exposed to weird and wonderful flavour sensations. Sometimes there is comfort in the familiar...
200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
265g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
165g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted and allowed to cool slightly
Cherry buttercream filling:
3 heaped tblsp of cherry jam
135g icing sugar, sifted
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped or grated into small pieces.
150ml double cream
1 punnet fresh cherries
Method:1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Butter and flour the sides of three 15cm round sandwich tins with removable bases and line the base with non-stick baking parchment.
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. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and fold into the creamed mixture, making sure that everything is well mixed together.
3. Next add the chocolate and milk and fold into the mixture. Divide the batter between the three prepared sandwich tins and level the surface with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes until the cake are well risen and springy to the touch and a thin skewer inserted comes out clean.
4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Cherry buttercream icing:
5. Place the cherry jam in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoon of water and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Reduce heat and allow to simmer, still stirring all the time until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and pass through a sieve into a small clean bowl and allow to cool. Discard any solids that have collected in the sieve.
6. Place the butter in a medium sized mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat until light a fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar and keep mixing to create a stiff buttercream. Add the cooled and sieved cherry jam and mix again to create a fluffy butter cream icing. Set aside.
7. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl.
8. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to just below boiling point. Immediately pour onto the chocolate and stir using a small whisk until the chocolate has completely melted. Set aside to cool and thicken slightly.
9. Take the cooled cakes and remove the baking parchment and discard. It is important that the cakes are all level, so if they peaked a little during baking you will need to level the tops by cutting a thin layer off the top of the cakes. Use a sharp serrated knife to do this.
10. Place one layer of the cake on your serving stand and spread one half of the cherry buttercream over it. Top with another layer of the cake. Spread this with the remaining buttercream and then top with the final cake layer.
11. Take the chocolate ganache which should have thickened slightly but still be spreadable and using a thin palette knife, spread over the tops and side of the cake.
12. Arrange the cherries on top of the cake.