Monday, August 27, 2012

Bake-along week one: upside-down cake

Week one of The Great British Bake-Off and the bakers attempted variations on a retro classic: pineapple upside-down cake.

Alongside that, there were Rum Babas, and, of course, that kind of cake where, when Paul got a massive knife and unceremoniously chopped them in half, they sort of looked like something else. Neither of these things tempted me for my bake-along.

The upside-down cake? That did. I love fruity cakes: I've made a few clafoutis in my time, the odd tarte tatin, and peppered classic sponges with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries… in my opinion a yellow, fluffy sponge (or airy batter, or flaky pastry) is only improved by a slightly-tangy explosion of a berry, or an autumnal slice of apple. I did like the look of Cathryn's appley, hazlenutty confection but I want to do this bake-along my way. And the obvious fruit to me for an upside cake? Cherries. Who doesn't like cherries?

Just look at them, all burgundy and delicious. So I adapted a classic pineapple upside-down cake recipe (Nigella's versh, to be specific) replacing the pineapple with cherries (around 400g). Yes, you do have to pit the cherries. Yes, you will have red fingertips. No, it's not going to make you wish you'd never started (unlike peeling tomatoes, which, one tomato in, makes me think I'd rather peel my own eyes than attempt one more). Just run a knife around the belly of the cherry, twist like it was an avocado, and the pit should, after a little gentle encouragement, slip right out. The most difficult bit for me was not chucking the pit into the cake tin and throwing the cherry half into the bin. Smart.

Nigella's recipe uses pineapple juice in a classic sponge batter. So I replaced that with vanilla-infused whole milk (when I say infused, I mean mixed up and heated briefly in the microwave), to make sure the consistency of my batter matched hers. Taylor & Colledge Vanilla Bean Extract is my absolute favourite and though it seems expensive, will instantly improve your sponges.

The only other changes to Lawson's recipe: firstly, halve your cherries and line the bottom of your buttered and sugared tin, like so:

Isn't it satisfying to see them lined up like that? Secondly, and obviously, omit the glacĂ© cherries. All that's left to say? Yes, this was delicious. I served it with cream, and, according to my boyfriend, the best bit was the edges, where the sugar turns the cherries all sticky and divine, and the edges of the cake batter turn a touch more golden and just the right side of crispy. The proportions are perfect – it seems like it will be a thin sponge, and it is, but all that means is you get more cherry in each forkful. Which can only be a good thing.

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