A Cornish girl's food adventures

Cherry and tonka bean layer cake

The blossom is just starting to appear on my cherry tree and it reminded me that there was a little stash of last years fruit in my freezer. But what should I do with this treasure that I squirreled away? Make a delicious cake of course!
I am completely besotted with this recipe. I can’t get over how well the tonka bean goes with the cherries, I suppose it’s because it has flavours of vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and almond, which all go really well with cherry.
The ermine (cooked) frosting is delicious, light, silky and fluffy – so much better than just beating together some butter and icing sugar. The light, golden sponges are just a classic Victoria sponge, which you can never really go wrong with can you!

If you can’t find tonka beans then 1 tsp of vanilla, a pinch of ground cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg does a fairly decent impression of the flavour.

serves 12
4 eggs
the weight of the eggs (inc. shells) in softened butter, sugar and self-raising flour
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tonka bean, finely grated
3 tbsp milk
filling & frosting
250g pitted cherries (frozen is fine)
squeeze of lemon juice
150g + 3 tbsp sugar
30g flour
2 tbsp cornflour
200ml milk
200g softened butter, cubed

fresh cherries and dark chocolate to decorate

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease and line 3 identical cake tins.
Beat together the butter, salt and sugar until they are pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, following each one with a spoonful of flour to reduce the risk of the mixture curdling. Sift the remaining flour with the baking power and grated tonka bean before sifting for a second time into the batter mixture. Briefly beat again until the mixture is smooth and then stir in the milk to leave you with a nice dropping consistency. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins, smooth off the tops and bake for 25 minutes, until the sponges are nicely risen, golden and feel springy to the touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Make the filling and frosting whilst the sponges are baking and cooling. Roughly chop the cherries and combine them in small pan with three tablespoons of the sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the juices thicken and the fruit becomes soft and pulpy. Set aside to cool.
Prepare the frosting base by mixing together the remaining 150g of sugar, the flour and cornflour with two tablespoons of juice from the cooked cherries. Stir it together before adding the milk (this will prevent the cherry juice from turning the milk sour). Make sure it is all well blended and there are no lumps before gently heating the mixture. Stir it continuously until you have a very thick, smooth custard. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and leave to cool completely.

Use an electric mixer to whip the custard base before whipping in the butter, a few cubes at a time until you’re left with a thick, fluffy, silky-smooth buttercream. Place half of this in a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Beat the cooked cherries into the remaining frosting.
To assemble the cake place one of the sponges onto a serving plate and spread it with half of the cherry/frosting mixture. Pipe small blobs of the plainer frosting around the edge before carefully topping with another of the sponges. Repeat the filling and piping process and then pop on the final sponge. Pipe a generous swirl of the plain frosting on the top and then use a pallet knife to spread and smooth it out. Pipe 12 blobs of the buttercream around the top of the cake and top each one with a chocolate dipped cherry. Sprinkle a little grated chocolate onto the centre of the cake. Chill before serving to allow the buttercream to firm up.

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