Happy Birthday to Miss S and Miss E. Sixteen already! I blinked and my babies turned sixteen this week. How is it even possible? It’s a paradox, raising kids. Time moves at a glacial pace during the everyday mundanity, but it’s a blink of an eye when you stop to take a breath.
To mark the momentous occasion I thought I’d better make a momentous birthday cake; something more sophisticated than usual. I fancied having a go at one of those tall, dramatic layered confections I’d never dared try before. If not now, then when?
In my mind I’d pictured some kind of chocolate uber cake, but of course everything changed as it usually does when I get into the kitchen. I fancied cherries, heaven knows why with the sky high price they are right now, but cherries it was, paired with almonds and a hint of amaretto. I used a new, as yet untried cook book, highly recommended by my sister, and cobbled together two different recipes. You know what, it wasn’t quite as tall or as slick as the ones on Pinterest, but for a first go I think it turned out splendidly!
Here’s my recipe which is based on two different cakes from the excellent Stirring Slowly by Georgina Hayden, but converted to a gluten free version by me.
- For the cake:
- 250g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
- 325g gluten free plain flour
- 100g almond meal
- 150g fresh cherries (keep a few aside to decorate)
- 150g sour cherries (in a jar)
- 500g caster sugar
- 6 large free range eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 300ml milk
- 2 tablespoons flaked almonds
- For the frosting:
- 500g icing sugar
- 250g butter, at room temperature
- 200g cream cheese
- 2 tablespoons amaretto (or a bit more if you like)
- Preheat oven to 180C
- Grease and line with baking parchment 2 x round 20cm diameter loose-bottomed cake tins
- Remove stones from the fresh cherries, combine in a food processor with sour cherries and puree
- In a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and light
- Beat in the eggs, one by one, followed by the almond essence and salt
- Combine flour, baking powder and xanthan gum
- Beat half the flour mixture into the butter mixture enough to just combine
- Next beat in the milk
- Gently fold in the remaining flour mixture with a large metal spoon, followed by the almond meal
- Spoon in a third of the batter divided between the two cake tins
- Evenly spoon in a third of the cherry puree divided between the two cake tins, gently rippling into the batter
- Repeat two more times , so both mixtures are used up
- Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for around 50 minutes, until golden and cooked through
- Leave to cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely
- While the cake is in the oven lightly toast the flaked almonds by dry roasting in a pan on a medium heat, turning so they don't burn. Put aside to cool.
- For the frosting, cut the butter into cubes and beat in a mixer for 3-4 minutes until pale and light
- Cut the cream cheese into cubes, add to the butter and beat enough to just combine - too much and it will become runny
- Sift half the icing sugar into the mix and beat on slow until fully combined
- Sift and beat the remaining icing sugar at a higher speed for about 4 minutes until pale and smooth
- Add the amaretto and beat briefly until combined, tasting as you go. Don't overdo it!
- Place the bowl of frosting in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up
- When the cakes have cooled completely, carefully cut them in half horizontally
- Layer them up on a serving plate or cake stand, with cream cheese frosting between the layers of cake
- If your cake tower is a little unsteady, as mine was, cut 2 or 3 wooden skewers just a bit shorter than the cake and push them though to secure - you wont see them on the finished masterpiece, but remember them when cutting the cake
- Carefully brush away any loose crumbs, and use the last bit of frosting to cover the top and a scant frosting around the sides of the cake with a palette knife. Try to make it as smooth as you can
- Decorate the top with the toasted almonds
- Place back in the fridge for about 30 minutes before serving, to give the frosting time to firm up a bit
- Just before serving add fresh cherries and flowers to decorate for more drama
Serve dainty slices – this cake is seriously sweet!
Thanks to Safari Living for the loan of their beautiful serving ware.