I've not had a decent cherry cake for years. It sounds so Enid Blyton-ish. It's the sort of cake my grandmothers would make and cannot be replicated by a supermarket, not even the best ones. It's the moistness of the sponge that does it, then a delicious, sweet bite of a cherry.
So I am extremely grateful to Abby Clements for including a cherry and almond cake right there on the first page. Anna, one of the sisters in Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop, is, dare I say it, a bit like me. She likes to mess about in the kitchen making cakes and experimenting with flavours. She's also very close to her grandmother, Vivien. So the story begins in Elderberry Avenue, where her grandmother lives, with Anna serving Vivien a slice of her cherry and almond cake. An experiment she'd been working on all morning and she fervently hopes that her grandmother likes it.
Vivien always looks well turned out. To Imogen, Anna's sister, she looked like a 1940s film star. She would wear high-heeled shoes, eyeliner, full-skirted dresses and would always smell of the bath oil she used. Yet, there was another side to her that made up the complete grandma package. She would also smell of home-baking. And she would always have homemade treats available for her two grandaugters, such as lemonade and flapjacks.
I've always said, and I know I'm repeating mysef here, people make cakes and foist them on people as a way of showing they care. And grandmothers are no exception. Mine always used to make a lemon cake whenever one of her grandchildren was coming to visit and my other one would, and still does, make fairy cakes. And Anna, and myself, look like we're following in our grandmothers' footsteps.
Don't be put off by the almonds in the recipe. It won't actually taste of almonds, but instead adds a depth, a richness to the sponge, so when you bite into it you think you're in heaven.
Mixer, bowl, baking tin – lined with baking parchment. (I made mine as a traybake in a 24cm x 24cm baking tin but you can also make this as a loaf cake or, even, in fairy cake cases.)
200g caster sugar
4 large eggs (I used duck eggs)
150g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
300g glace cherries (one and a half tubs)
1tsp vanilla powder
Extra sugar for sprinkling on top
- Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees (fan).
- With the butter slightly softened, add the sugar and whisk.
- Add the eggs and whisk again.
- Add the flour and almonds and whisk again.
- Cut the cherries in half (I find scissors are good, just roughly snip) and add to the mixture along with the vanilla. Mix.
- Pour into your prepared baking tin and place in the oven.
- Bake for about 30 minutes – depending on your type of tin. (If baking as a loaf cake you will need to bake for about an hour. Fairy cakes would be about 20 minutes.)
- Check if the cake is cooked by pressing the top gently. If it springs back it is done. If it doesn't, give it a further five minutes then check again. (If it is getting too dark on top then turn the oven down slightly.)
- When cooked, remove from oven, and sprinkle with caster sugar.
- Allow to cool.