I don’t know if you could tell, but there was a certain amount of resignation creeping into my voice at the end of the last post. At the back of my mind, perhaps while I was slowly ingesting the rather claggy ‘buns’ from last week, the thought had begun to occur that this was a fool’s errand. I was, let’s face it, unlikely to get an edible result at the end of all my guesswork and re-calculations. Worse, now I’d have to go through with this anyway. I could see my future for the next however many weeks: my husband trying to come up with many different versions of his ‘no, I think it’s lovely’ routine, me stubbornly chewing through slice after slice of rubbery, crumbly or soggy cakes.
Well. I am here to tell you that the Mary Bradley Project has had its first success: a recipe for a cherry cake that I don’t mind suggesting for your attention and cake-making pleasure. What follows is not a sophisticated or novel dessert but for a calm afternoon snack, perhaps with a cup of tea, you could do a lot worse than this simple loaf-cake.
Here is Mary’s original recipe:
280g flour (+ 2 tsp additional)
140g caster sugar
115g butter, room temperature
1.5 tsp baking powder
a 2lb loaf tin
And I’ll quickly give the method before I go off on dozens of tangents.
Heat the oven to 160C.
Grease and line the loaf tin
Using an electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until the mix is noticeably paler and fluffy.
Beat together the eggs in a jug
Pour the eggs into the butter and sugar and mix little by little, about a teaspoon full at a time.
Sift the flour and baking powder together into another bowl
Now, still using the electric whisk to mix, mix the flour, which should also be introduced gradually: I put in about a serving spoon’s amount at a time.
Once the flour is all mixed in, mix in the milk.
Rinse the cherries, and dry on kitchen towel. Now coat the cherries in the additional flour.
Carefully mix the cherries into the cake batter.
Bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out clean
Cool in the tin for 10 mins or so then turn out on to a cooling rack.
The cake will be split in the manner of Madeira cakes. Skewer a few more holes in the top of the cake then sprinkle over the whiskey. Leave to cool.
More detail in this week’s method?
Yes. I remembered that one of the reasons I wanted to do this is because I didn’t know much about baking and wanted to learn. To which end I bought a book:
I know, I wouldn’t have called it that either, but it is quite a helpful little book with instructions on different cake making methods, why your cakes might be too dome-shaped, why they might sink in the middle and so on. From this I learnt the importance of making sure the butter-sugar-egg mixture stays as an emulsion and getting air into the mix. Probably half of my cake mixes before now have curdled when adding the egg – I just thought it was one of those things that mixes did. My previous results have always been edible, but the lightness and fine crumb of this cake have convinced me that it’s worth taking a bit more time to add the ingredients gradually.
Also I learnt from this book that the flour-heavy ratio of ingredients above is good for supporting fruit in a cake – yay! – and means it is more of a Madeira-type cake. This was reassuring when the cake started to split when baking, because I believe (hope?) this is what Madeira cakes are supposed to do. I did hollow out the centre of the cake before putting into the oven but it just does rise a lot.
You’ll notice that Mary says ‘preserved’ cherries in her notebook. I found some pricey cherries in kirsch in Waitrose but I thought that the kirsch was likely to fight with the whiskey. I was resigned to glace cherries, and I thought it was unlikely that this was what Mary meant because she refers to ‘glazed’ cherries elsewhere. Luckily I found the jar of Romanian cherries above in a local shop – these are just preserved in sugar and water. They are not too sweet, and work nicely in this cake – the only drawback is that they are not pitted. If you’re of an optimistic bent you may choose to see this as an advantage as you can play ‘tinker tailor soldier sailor’ with the cherry pits. I may experiment in the future with tinned or glace cherries.
Shame, really, that that’s such a terrible photograph. You can at least see though that the cherries have not sunk to the bottom of the cake. I put this down to the advice – which also came from the book above – to coat with flour before adding to the mixture.
I bought myself some whiskey specially for this project as I thought I’d be another step closer to divorce if I were caught using the single malts for cake-soaking. Here’s what happened though: I took the cake out of the tin and sprinkled with whiskey. I left it for about half-an-hour and had a slice. Nice, I thought, but can’t really taste any whiskey. I put some more whiskey on the cake and went out for the afternoon. I had a slice after my dinner. First slice: oh this is a nice cake oh look I’m at the end of this slice and I forgot to concentrate to see if I could detect whiskey. Nothing for it but to have a second slice – now, if I think whiskey thoughts, I can just about tell that some whiskey has been near this cake. Then I thought, I could cut myself another slice of cake to see whether if I really really think about it there’s enough whiskey there already or I can pour more whiskey on the cake. Fortunately something distracted me at that moment before either the cake or the whiskey ran out. It is pretty good to eat as it is.
(Edited to add name of the cake in the title & because I had ‘tinker tailor’ etc the wrong way round!)