Holiday Baking Revisited 2/3 – Cherry Cake

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 Cherries are one of my favourite things about summer – there is something very special about the short-lived summer stone fruit season. With a birthday that shortly follows Christmas, and a similar love of the tiny dark fruit, they seemed an apt addition to my mother’s birthday dessert this year. Early in the cherry season she had talked to a lady at the green grocers with restraint enough not just to eat the cherries straight from the bag on the way home from doing the shopping (admirable indeed, in our family’s books!) – instead using them in a delicious cherry cake. Mum’s ears pricked up, and I have to admit, my interest was piqued as well. We were on a beach holiday by the time her birthday rolled around and I decided to make a first attempt at creating a baked something that was cherry inspired. Without a fully equipped kitchen I relied heavily on this simple recipe that did not require the use of electric beaters – adding the cherries and changing the oil to butter à la Julie Powell (“… is there anything better than butter?”).

Ingredients:
2 large eggs
200g caster sugar
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp lemon juice
280g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup chopped, pitted fresh cherries
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries (optional)
250ml plain yoghurt
120g butter, melted

Cream cheese icing:
a heaped 1/3 cup of cream cheese
2 tbsp soft butter
1 cup icing sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC.
2. Begin by whisking the egg and sugar together till they become thick and creamy, this will take about 3 or 4 minutes.
3. To this add the lemon zest and juice, beating till the whole mixture is combined.
4. Sift the flour and baking powder over the egg and sugar mixture, gently fold though before mixing in the yoghurt and (slightly cooled) melted butter.
5. Lastly, stir through the cherries and pour into a lined cake tin (mine was a circle about 25cm in diameter but I am sure other shapes and sizes would work with some adjustment of cooking time).
6. Bake for 35-45 minutes or till ‘done’ when tested with a skewer. Allow to rest in the tin a little before removing it and setting it on a cake rack to cool completely.
7. Blend the icing ingredients together till smooth, adjust the quantities to taste – the icing for the cake pictured was very (very) loosely measured (my only excuse is that I was on a beach holiday when I was baking it!) but I think that these quantities will give you something to go off!
8. Spread the cooled cake with this icing, decorate with fresh cherries and candles, sing and share!

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A little party

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A little friend turned two. We celebrated with tea, tarts, cakes and cookies. A bunting lined room was mirrored in the cake decoration. The party design credits need to go to her lovely (and quite creative) mum – we helped with cooking and I made a little bag as a present. I thought I would share the recipe for the little tarts and some of the pictures from the day. The tarts were based on the Taste.com recipe linked here. I however, made a few changes recommended by other readers. The quantities made enough for 24 mini tartlets.

Ingredients
3 sheets of frozen, sweet short-crust pastry
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
4 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
4 tablespoons lemon juice
100g butter, chopped
finely grated lemon rind, to serve

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Line the muffin cups with frozen short crust pastry. Use a cup/cutter to cut rounds of pastry that fit the tray you are using. Press the pastry rounds into the muffin holes and ‘dock’ (use a fork to make holes in the base of each tartlet).
3. Freeze for 15-20 minutes (till pastry is firm).
4. Make the lemon curd by whisking egg, egg yolk, sugar, lemon rind and juice in a small saucepan with a heavy base. Add butter and place saucepan over a medium heat. Keep whisking till butter is melted through. Keep string till mixture coats the back of a spoon (it can be easier to swap to a wooden spoon to check this after the butter has been mixed in!).
5. Pour into a small bowl allow to cool.
6. Fill the tartlets and sprinkle with some remaining lemon rind.