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Cherry and walnut cake

What do you do when you’re awake at 4am (again…)? Well why not make a cake! Recently I have started following a great blog called Eating with the Ancestors where the writer is gradually unearthing her great grandmothers’ recipe books, researching their lives, and cooking some of the recipes. The latest recipe was for a pound cake. Pound cake was traditionally made with a pound of flour, butter, eggs and sugar – plus any flavourings you like. It’s a versatile recipe and can be used as a blueprint for many different cakes. A couple of weeks ago I made a seed cake which was basically a version of pound cake with caraway seeds. Caraway is quite an old fashioned flavour, and took me right back to childhood, as seed cake was something my grandmother made.

Seed cake – flavoured with caraway seeds

Nowadays a cake made with a pound of flour (about 450g) would be pretty enormous (or perhaps they made two?) and it’s more usual to find a recipe based around half a pound, or 200-220g. Looking in the cupboard I found some glacé cherries and some mixed peel, plus some walnuts. I used this recipe as the inspiration and tweaked it a bit. I added chopped peel, a few more cherries than stated (might as well use up the pot!) and also a couple of tablespoons of ground almonds for texture as well as flavour. And I used butter not margarine – again for flavour.

Top tips: if your eggs are straight from the fridge it’s a good idea to bring them to room temperature – they beat up better. If you don’t have time for that then put them in a bowl of tap hot water (you don’t want to cook them) for a few minutes – while you get everything else ready. The texture of the cake batter should be quite soft but not runny. To see if you have to add a bit more liquid – milk in this recipe – get a good dollop of mixture on your wooden spoon and tap sharply on the side of the bowl. If the mixture plops off nicely then you are good to go. If it’s stubborn then add a little more milk. Just a little or it will turn into pancake batter!

I’ve made cherry cake before – see the post and recipe here – and sometimes just cherries is what you want. Today I thought it would be nice to have some walnuts too. One of the advantages of a pound cake, compared to a sponge, is that they tend to keep moist for longer. They’re also denser than a sponge because they contain more flour proportionally. They’re ‘store cupboard’ cakes, and in my mind a good every day sort of cake. Not that I eat cake every day!

This type of cake is good with a cup of tea or coffee. Madeira cake, which again is based on a pound cake flavoured with lemon, was enjoyed with a glass of Madeira wine and was popular in the nineteenth century.

I think the cherries may have sunk to the bottom.

Once you’ve got the hang of the basic recipe it is easy to make it your own with whatever you like, or whatever is to hand. And it is such an easy recipe there’s no reason not to try it this very weekend!

The best cherry cake ever

I’ve been making this cake since I was a teenager, and that’s a long time ago now! Talking About Cakes by Margaret Bates was first published in 1964, and my copy dates from 1978. I’ve made quite a lot of the cakes and biscuits in this book. Reading through its yellowed pages, which are falling out, takes me on a journey back in time. I can remember making a meringue layer cake – layers of meringue, sponge and coffee cream – for my grandad’s birthday when I was probably about 15. Very “Bake Off”! And my first excursions into Danish pastry were from recipes in this book. This cherry cake was a particular favourite of my uncle Jack, and I made it for him a few times. It is based on a pound cake really, with added ground almonds. It’s moist, with a lovely lemony flavour. Even when it’s getting a bit stale (I made it over a week ago, and we are just finishing the last slice!) it still stays quite moist because of the juicy cherries.

You can buy this book on Amazon still. It gets great reviews too!
I did actually have a slice for breakfast on Boxing Day. Cake for breakfast. It’s what Christmas is all about.
I had to make this cake in a loaf tin, not my first choice. I just could not find my 8”/20 cm round tin anywhere. As it was Christmas Eve I didn’t have time to turn out all the cupboards in my search. I hope I find it, as I have had it for about 35 years!
Luckily for me the recipe fits onto one page, so I don’t need to write it out for you! It is so old it’s in ancient imperial measurements.

Now it’s January and the whole of media land is awash with salads and vegetable shakes. I will carry on baking. Someone has to!