Cherry and hazelnut cake

I don’t recall nuts when I was a kid. I do remember mum passing around a square each of Cadbury’s fruit ‘n nut after the fish & chips were done, and dad’s Christmas jar of chocolate coated peanuts not so generously shared. But apart from those, nuts were not a thing.

I like them now. My pantry is well stocked with almonds and pecans and walnuts and cashews and peanuts. Oh, and hazelnuts. I love hazelnuts. They’re sweet and nutty and come dressed in little brown husks. They’re especially good for baking, though for this purpose they are best undressed. I toss a cupful into a dry frypan and toast them. Once scorched their husks come away with ease and their little bottoms glisten.

Honestly, yesterday was a downer. Feeling glum about the extension of Melbourne’s lockdown 4.0 and my cancelled trip to the Whitsundays, I needed something to warm an ailing spirit. So I pulled my hazelnuts out from the pantry and a little stash of pitted cherries from the freezer and set about baking a cake. They say life is always better with cake. And it is. Even my beloved said this one was good, and she’s not big into cake.

You should try it.

Here’s what you need

  • 150g softened butter
  • 150g raw castor sugar
  • 1 lemon, finely zested
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 50g almond meal
  • 100g undressed hazelnuts, each one cut into two or three pieces
  • 20-30 pitted cherries: if you don’t have any fresh cherries stashed in the freezer, you can easily buy a jar of pitted cherries at the supermarket
  • A spoonful of extra castor sugar
  • A spoonful of marmalade or apricot jam

Here’s what you do

  • Heat the oven to 180C, or slightly less for a fan-forced oven.
  • Grease and lightly flour a 22 cm springform cake tin. You know, the one with the little leaver on the side. It means getting the cake out once it’s cooked is a breeze.
  • Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest into an electric mixer and beat together on medium speed for five minutes or so. You can do this by hand, but really, why would you?
  • Add the eggs one at a time while the beating continues.
  • Add in the flour, almond meal and hazelnuts and mix together by hand until just combined. Don’t overdo it at this point. There’s nothing gained.
  • Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and level it out with a spatula.
  • Add the cherries one a time, nicely spaced, pressing them down into the cake mixture just a little. It’s best to keep them away from the edge by a centimetre. The cherries can burn and stick if they are nestled up against the metal of the tin, and that’s unpleasant.
  • Scatter the extra castor sugar over the top of the cake.
  • Place the cake in the oven for around 30 minutes. You can test it with a skewer to be sure it’s cooked through.
  • Take the cake from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes or so.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and place it carefully on a fine looking plate.
  • Heat the jam or marmalade in the microwave for few seconds and coat the top of the cake with a pastry brush. It leaves it with a lovely sheen.

While the cake is still warm, serve generous portions with cream and forget the Whitsundays. Who needs them anyway!?

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