Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Babcia's Cherry Cake

Though my mother's baking repertoire was small, she did bake regularly and this is my favourite of all of the cakes she made. I have very special memories of sharing the first piece with her straight from the pan while it was still warm (before supper!) whenever she made it.

I know this as "Mum's Cherry Cake" - even my dad calls it that - but to my children, it's "Babcia's (grandmother in Polish) Cherry Cake".
Getting the recipe for this was no small feat. My mother never wrote it down so it took me several tries to finally perfect it, initially standing by her side trying to quantify the ingredients (she used a fine bone china tea cup to measure flour and sugar and approximated the amounts of everything else!) then baking it repeatedly, making adjustments each time until it was right, which family certainly didn't mind since even the "fails" were delicious!  
The cake is a rich and sturdy coffee cake, but it's moist, not too sweet and has great vanilla flavour - a perfect contrast to the tart cherries. Excellent with a cup of tea.

Babcia's Cherry Cake
yield: 23cm x 32.5cm/9" x 13" cake; 24 pieces
prep time: 30 minutes
baking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients (batter):

390g/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
250g/1 cup plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g/1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
240g/1 cup full fat (14%) sour cream

60ml/1/4 cup milk, at room temperature

Filling:

1 540ml/18.2 fl. oz. can cherry pie filling

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease and flour a 23cmx32.5cm/9"x13" pan or line with parchment or foil first before greasing and flouring. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, measure the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to blend and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high (stand mixer) or high speed (hand mixer) for 5-7 minutes until fluffy and light in colour. Add the eggs one at a time and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and mix until blended.

Add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Add the sour cream; mix until blended. Add the rest of the flour and mix just until it disappears. The batter will be very thick.

Assembly:
thick batter batter base
Dollop ~2/3 of the batter on to the bottom of the prepared pan. Using a spatula, spread it evenly. It helps if you dip the spatula in cold water from time to time so the batter doesn't stick to it. Create a lip of batter around the edge of the pan to hold the fruit in.
cherry filling cherry filling2
Distribute the cherry pie filling over the cake base and spread evenly with a spatula.
batter topping batter topping2
Add the milk to the remaining batter and beat by hand or with a mixer until smooth. Spoon the batter over the top of the cherries, starting with the outer edges of the pan, working your way towards the centre. With a wet spatula, use short, light strokes to spread the batter, sealing the edges first, then sealing all of the fruit inside. Too much pressure and the batter will start to mix with the fruit filling and you don't want that.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden and firm.

Allow to cool completely in the pan and cut directly from it or, if you've lined the pan with foil or parchment, lift the cake to a cutting board by the foil/parchment handles, cut and serve.
As with most cakes, it's best eaten the day it's made but this one does keep well in the refrigerator in an airtight container; make sure to bring it to room temperature before serving.

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