Torta alle ciliegie: Cherry cake (recipe)

Cherries

This is an incredible time of year, with fruit and vegetables seeming to come into season with the frequency of trains arriving at Santa Maria Novella station in Florence. This week, it’s the turn of cherries. I have two small cherry trees at La Madera which yielded enough fruit for a cake, but a friend with several mature trees offered me a few from her garden. That ‘few’ turned out to be a huge bowl full which left me to put together a long list of things to make.

 

Cherries with maraschino

As I have far to many to make into cakes without ruining the whole village’s waistlines, I decided to preserve some in Maraschino, a cherry liqueur created in modern day Croatia, but at the time the Republic of Venice. To do this, I put the cherries, with stones, into a preserving jar and added sugar. Then I filled the jar up with Maraschino, sealed it placed it in the cellar which is a constant 15 degrees, right next to the limoncello to be. Unlike the limoncello, these will be ready in three months but that means we will have sweet boozy cherries all through the winter, and a delicious cherry-flavoured liqueur to boot. I couldn’t help thinking of Christmas as I poured the liqueur over the cherries, frosted with the sugar. I can’t wait.

Torta alle ciliegie

However, this used fewer than half the cherries and so some of the rest went into cakes. I’ve been wanting to try out my new 8cm baking rings, which I bought on a recent trip back to France, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. I made sweet pastry cases, filled them up with almond cream into which I inserted some fresh cherries, without the stones. The cherries roast slightly, sucking in some of the sugar from the almond cream, enhancing their sweetness just a bit. They are delicious hot or cold, on their own, or with a bit of mascarpone chantilly cream. Buon appetito!

Torta alle ciliegie

Torta alle ciliegie

Ingredients

For the sweet pastry:
120g (8 3/4 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter
80g (2/3 cup) icing sugar
25g (3/4 ounce) ground almonds
1 pinch of salt
1 egg
200g (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
For the almond cream filling:
100g (7 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter
100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
100g (4 1/2 ounces) ground almonds
a few drops of almond essence
2 eggs
1 tablespoon plain flour

 

18 fresh cherries, destoned
Equipment:
6 8cm (3 inch) pastry rings

Method:

Make the sweet pastry:

1. Using a mixer with the leaf attachment, cream the butter until soft.

2. Add the icing sugar, ground almonds, and salt, and mix on low speed until incorporated.

3. Add the egg and continue to mix slowly, and then add the sifted flour. As soon as the mixture comes together, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

4. Line the pastry rings with the pastry, prick the bottoms with a fork, and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

5. Bake at 150° C (300° F) for 20 minutes. Allow to cool, and remove the pastry rings.

 

Make the almond cream filling:

1. Using a mixer with the leaf attachment, cream the butter until soft.

2. Add the sugar, almonds, and almond essence, and mix on slow until incorporated.

3. Add the eggs and continue to mix and then add the sifted flour.

4. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag and then fill the pastry cases to about two thirds. The cream will rise during baking, so be careful not to overfill.

5. Insert the cherries into the cream and then bake at 150° C (300° F) for about forty minutes.

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