The last few weeks have flowed like syrup. Dark, sticky and heavy with the promise of thunder. Thoughts move slowly, my body even more so as I do my best “Edwardian lady” impression – floating around the house in diaphanous gowns and drinking endless cups of tea.
Any proper afternoon tea should come with a cake of some sort. No delicate little fancies for me however, what I require is a cake that matches the weather: dense, moist and almost (but not quite) a little too sweet.
In my head, Cherry Bakewells mean Mr Kipling. I experienced no other as a child and I can’t say I cared for them all that much. I found them too dry, too small and not nearly almond-y enough for my palette. This is a shame really as I consider cherry and almond to be a flavour combination made in heaven, and one that is perfect for summer. This recipe is not like Mr Kipling’s Cherry Bakewells. Nor is it like an authentic Bakewell tart, which is an entirely different entity. It is a sort of hybrid: a were-bake: a Franken-well… but one that tastes very nice.
- This is not necessary a quick recipe. The various stages are simple enough but it does take time. For people with limited “spoons” like me this can be problematic. I’ve found I can reduce the time by completing each stage in the order given below and/or actually making the pastry in advance and freezing it. (It freezes perfectly well for several months) I also love my food processor. It saves me so much time and effort, and I can even put it in the dishwasher. I know they’re expensive (mine was a gift from my Dad) but if you cook a lot it might be worth the investment. The good news is, simple ones work just as well for day-to-day cooking as fancy ones with all the attachments. It’s also possible to find old 70s/80s food processors at flea markets and car boot sales being sold for next to nothing. My Mum has had her food processor for around 30 years and it’s still going strong.
- So far, I have made this recipe using eggs and have also made it completely vegan, using chia seed goo instead. Personally, I prefer the fully vegan version as it is much denser and stickier. But, if you are not vegan and prefer a lighter, more risen sponge layer then the eggs are for you. See my recipe here for how to make the chia seed egg replacement. It’s really easy and only takes a few minutes.
- Similarly, if you are using gluten free flour for the pastry then I’ve found that an egg or chia seed substitute helps to bind it all together a little better. But if you are not using gluten free flour then this is not necessary at all.
- If you don’t use polenta or ground almonds very much and don’t want a situation where you have half a packet lurking in the back of the cupboard forever more, you can replace them in the pastry with the equivalent amount of flour. They’re not vital ingredients at all, they just make the pastry taste that bit nicer.
- I nearly always use golden caster sugar in my baking because I like the slight caramel taste but you don’t have to – normal caster sugar works just fine.
- The amount of water used in the icing seems tiny but go with it. For years I made icing too runny by adding more water than I should because it seemed right at the time. It wasn’t until I discovered this ratio that I finally achieved the perfect consistency of “firm enough not to run all down the sides but runny enough to not be fondant”. I promise you, it works.
- 6oz gf plain flour
- 1.5oz polenta
- ½ oz ground almonds
- 1 heaped tsp xanthan gum
- 5oz (vegan) butter
- 2oz golden caster sugar
- EITHER 1 egg OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (1/4 tablespoon chia seeds + 1 tbs water)
- A little water
- 4oz gf self raising flour
- 4oz ground almonds
- 8oz (vegan) butter
- 8oz golden caster sugar
- 1tsp almond essence
- EITHER 4 medium eggs, beaten OR equivalent vegan egg replacer (4 tbs chia seeds + 16 tbs water)
- About half a jar of jam – strawberry, raspberry or cherry works nicely
- 300g icing sugar
- 3tbs water
- 25g flaked almonds (toasted)
- 20 glace cherries
First make the pastry (this can always be done in advance to save time).
The method is pretty much the same as with any pastry, and if you have a food processor you can skip the faff, pop all of the ingredients in together and watch the magic happen. If not, do the following…
1. Mix the flour, polenta, ground almonds and xanthan gum together in a large bowl.
2. Cut the butter into small chunks and add to the dry mix. “Rub it in” using the tips of your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
3. Mix in the sugar.
4. Add the chia seed egg replacer/egg yolk and mix in well.
5. Add a tiny bit of water at a time, mixing with a spoon and then your hands until the mixture comes together to form a solid ball. The amount of water you will need depends on the individual mix so go slowly. If you are using a particularly large egg you may not need any water at all.
6. Ideally, wrap the pastry in clingfim and chill in the fridge for half an hour (if you are pushed for time you can skip this step).
7. Grease the inside of a large roasting tin with oil and dust with flour to coat the surface.
8. Roll out your pastry to fit the tin. Rather than attempt a complicated transfer process with fragile, crumbly gluten free pastry, I find it easier to simply roll it out part way, and then squish it out the rest of the way into the corners of the tin with my fingers.
9. Prick the pastry all over with a fork. (This helps the pastry to stay flat and crisp)
10. Spread a generous layer of jam all over.
While the pastry is chilling, make the filling… (That rhymes!)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6.
2. In a large bowl, cream (mix really hard) the butter and sugar until pale in colour.
3. Add the “eggs” a little at a time, stirring after each addition.
4. Add the almond essence and ground almonds.
5. Sieve in the flour and fold it in, in a “figure of 8” pattern.
6. Spoon the mixture over the jam-covered pastry and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown.
While the filling is cooking, make the icing… (That doesn’t rhyme. How disappointing)
- Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl to remove any lumps.
- Stir in the water.
Put it all together!
- Once the filling is reasonably cool, spread the icing over it (leave it in the tin at this stage) and sprinkle with the flaked almonds.
2. Place 20 glace cherries evenly over the surface.
3. Cut into 20 squares with a sharp knife.
4. Leave in a cool place for the icing to set a little more and lift the squares out of the tin.