Sour Cherry and Velvety Chocolate Loaf Cake

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Light as a feather and velvety smooth with a delicious tang in the aftertaste, this is wonderful.

I have made it my New Year’s resolution to think up more cake recipes. I have found in the past that I have shied away from actually developing my cake ideas as the precise nature of baking demands skills in construction I felt I was lacking in.

Are there rules with these things?

Once you get past a basic sponge (a foolproof method is supplied here), it does seem from recipe books that there are no hard and fast rules for success. Unpicking the secrets however seems easier with American style recipes so I have started with an offering borrowing some ideas and ingredients from across the pond.

I had an urge to buy buttermilk and a packet of sour cherries this week, now that the supermarket shelves are clear of the festive staples, without any real plans. Consequently the kids ended up with blueberry buttermilk pancakes this morning, and once the buttermilk pot was open this cake idea followed swiftly on behind. It has gone down very well. It tastes great, warm or cold and all the cherries have not sunk to the bottom!

You will need: one large loaf tin the base of which should measure around 19/20cm x 8/9cm and around 6cm deep.

Ingredients: 190g Unsalted Butter, softened, 190g Caster Sugar, 3 large Eggs, 150g Plain Flour, 50g Cocoa Powder, 1 tsp Baking Powder, pinch of Salt, 125ml Buttermilk, 75g (1 packet) Sour Cherries (dried), 1 tbsp Kahlua (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C, grease and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Just screw it up into a ball and smooth it out again and then line the tin with it, nothing too precise.
  • Pop the sour cherries in a bowl and steep in the Kahlua, if using, otherwise cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using something like a kitchen aid or hand-held mixer.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, slowly, and beating well between each addition.
  • In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and then sift gradually into the egg mixture folding carefully as you go. The mixture might seem a little dry but never fear as you are about to fold in the buttermilk followed by the sour cherries and their residual liquor if using.
  • Dollop carefully into the loaf tin and push gently into the corners then bake in the oven for about an hour. Check after 50 minutes or so and you can turn the oven up 10°C if you wish at that point. Anyway a cake tester should come out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin initially on a cooling rack and remove from the tin and greaseproof paper once just slightly warm.

You can eat this warm or cold, with or without cream, yoghurt, custard etc. The moist interior means it works just fine on its own. However a little piece of luxurious eating at this abstemious time.

The American influence would be the buttermilk and dried fruit in a sponge recipe, a combination I adore, but hasn’t really caught on here …… yet.

From Alaska to The Black Forest via SW19

So my fascination with meringues continues and as I promised an easy chocolate cake recipe I have decided to combine the two. I know this looks a bit extreme, very ‘over the top’ but as you breakdown the components, just think gateaux not cake.

I saw the idea for combining cake and meringues in Annie Bell’s book Gorgeous Cakes, and admittedly, she had much smaller morsels of meringue adorning her’s so if you are deliberately making a batch to top a cake you might like to scale accordingly. Also the meringues can be used as art, so the above cake (more of an unfinished experiment) has the currently ubiquitous Union Jack/ Wimbledon theme echoing through it, whereas meringues which are a deeper pink and purple might make this cake seem more like a crown or feed into the Black Forest gateaux idea. Another scenerio might be to colour the meringues with caramel, either actual or food paste, and then drizzle chocolate over the top to give a more sophisticated look. The possibilities are endless!

I think this one would be called Death by Strawberries and Cream as the strawberry sauce drizzled across it gives a delightful grizzly sense of that….

So we have meringues as described in the previous post which you can find here and then:

You will need: 225ml of double cream, some strawberries (or fruit of your choice or not as the case may be), strawberry sauce (optional), reduced sugar Morello Cherry Jam and a Chocolate Cake.

The Easiest Chocolate Cake

This is my Mother’s recipe and is the cake that was baked typically for birthday parties when I was a child. I’m going to give the quantities in imperial as that is how the recipe comes, with an approximation of the grams etc.

6½ oz (187g) Self Raising Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

2 heaped tbsp Cocoa Powder (sifted)

2 large Eggs

5 oz (150g) Caster Sugar

¼ pint Milk (150ml)

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

5 oz (150g) Butter or Margarine, melted and allowed to cool a little

Preheat the oven to 300 °F/Gas 2/ 150°C/Fan 130°C. Grease sides and bases and then line the bases of 2 7″ sandwich pans, the non-loose bottomed, old fashioned type, and add about a tsp of flour to the bases. Turn the pans on their sides and tap the flour round the sides of the tins to coat, tip out any loose flour.

Combine all the ingredients and whisk to form a smooth batter with a balloon whisk or using a paddle attachment with a mixer.

Pour into the prepared tins.

Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack.

That is it! There is nothing to it. I love this recipe as it takes us back to an era, essentially post WW2, when eeking out ‘fancy’ ingredients was a necessity: 2 eggs, 2 tbsp of cocoa powder. This is not a rich chocolate-y cake but something of it’s time. My Mother’s generation can still seem nervous to bake a cake with four eggs in it. Sponge cakes, in particular, I’m often asked how I get to ‘look like that’,

‘Well for starters it’s got four eggs in it.’ The decadence of it!

‘Really, four eggs in this cake!’

Yet the Baby Boomers are the wealthiest sector of the population by far, own their own houses, foreign holidays all the time, pay the grandchildren’s school fees etc., but the post war rationing they grew up with still colours their baking view.

Anyway, once you have made the cake and meringues, it is an assembly job.

Reduce Sugar Morello Cherry Jam: great stuff, more like cherries set in jelly, not runny and not too sweet, a bit of a must with everything else that is going on. Widely available in supermarkets. If you need to, level the base layer of the cake just a touch using a large sharp knife, and use about ½ the jar of jam as filling. Then sit on the top layer. Whisk the double cream until stiff. You could use half cream half 0% fat greek yoghurt instead, or whipping cream, and spread over the top of the cake. Arrange your strawberries and meringues as you wish. Drizzle with strawberry sauce. This can be bought, or made using misshapen strawberries, a dessert spoon of sugar and the same of water. Heat in a saucepan over a moderate heat until you have a jammy mush, press through a sieve into a bowl to remove the seeds and heat again until thick and treacly. Allow to cool and drizzle with a spoon or if you can make a greaseproof piping bag, go that route.

Epic.

The fact that the cake itself is not too rich does help here, but this really is for those with a sweet tooth. Fridge any left overs due to the cream. It is still good with coffee the next day.

If you want just a basic chocolate cake use the chocolate fudge icing, method given here to fill and coat the top with the following quantities: 3 oz (75g) Icing Sugar sifted, 1 oz (25g) Cocoa Powder, sifted, 1½ oz (40g) Stork Margarine or Butter, 2 tbsp Water, 2 oz (50g) Caster Sugar.

N.B. Strawberries were courtesy of Child 2’s strawberry patch, thanks muchly gorgeous creature (despite the lack of front teeth) ♥.

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