Saturday 11 July 2015

Roasted Almond & Fresh Cherry Cake and a Fond Farewell to Blogging

It is with slight trepidation and a mix of sadness and excitement that I wish to let you know that I have decided to finish blogging. I started this blog in my first year of uni, nearly 9 years ago (scary). At the time there were only a handful of food blogs around and when you mentioned to someone that you wrote a blog they looked at you blankly. It was new, exciting, secretive and a bizarre thought to think that something I wrote could be viewed by people all over the world. The world of social media and blogs had not yet fully taken off and it felt like I was joining a secret society. I never expected my little blog to have continued for as long as it has.

At the time it was something to keep me occupied between classes and gave me a reason for trying new recipes. However, I soon fell in love with it and it became part of my life. I became one of those people who spent hours reading blogs, browsing recipes, going on shopping trips specifically to find new spoons or coloured backgrounds for taking shots of food. I’d make a cake and not let anyone near it until I’d photographed it, often much to my family’s annoyance.

As time has gone on, my life has changed. I’ve graduated from uni, had 3 different jobs and lived in 3 different locations. Around the middle I was also diagnosed coeliac which at the time threatened to be the end of the blog and my love of baking. How can someone who loves cakes and baking so much suddenly be told they are not allowed to eat those things any more?! Yet it was actually blogging that got me through it. After a few weeks of crying whenever I walked near the bakery section in the supermarkets, it was experimenting with new recipes, sharing both my successes and failures and reading and learning about other gluten free ingredients and gluten free recipes/bloggers that provided me a whole new exciting food challenge and one I shall be forever grateful for.

I still love blogging and I will certainly never stop baking, but I have found over the past few months it has felt more and more like a chore than a hobby. After Christmas I started a new job which involves long hours, split shifts and working weekends. I am starting to create a new life in London and find I have less and less time for blogging. Rather than let it slowly peter out, until one day I simply never post again, I have decided to finish with a clean cut. There are now so many fabulous blogs out there that people have so much more to choose from that in order to be successful you really have to work at your blog, and I want to bake for enjoyment, rather than worry about whether the light is right for photos, or not making the same thing twice etc

I’ve had some amazing experiences, met some wonderful people, baked some delicious food and learnt so much about different cultures, ingredients and cuisines. Thank you all for reading over the years and providing such wonderful inspiration. I’ll keep reading and commenting, but for Apple & Spice it’s time to wish you all a fond farewell. Happy Baking! J

Roasted Almond & Fresh Cherry Cake
I wanted to end with a delicious cake. For me, it’s always been about the cake! This cake is a cross between a cake and the filling of a frangipane tart. It’s dense, moist and nutty as ground almonds make up most of the dry ingredients called for in the recipe. Very little flour is required meaning it was very easy to convert to being gluten free. It also only uses egg whites, rather than whole eggs which lends it a wonderfully light but slightly sticky texture.

The original recipe is from Rachel Allen and she uses pears and describes the recipe a pastryless tart rather than a cake. You can see a video of her making it here.

I adore the flavours of cherry and almonds together and as fresh English cherries are at their peak at the moment, (I even picked my own!) I decided to showcase these. I also roasted and ground my own ground almonds, which gave the cake a wonderful nutty, deeper almond flavour than using the pre-ground almonds. I also left the skin on mine which gave the cake a slightly darker speckled appearance, compared to Rachel’s pale golden affair, but I like this rustic look and it certainly enhanced the almond flavour.

The fresh glossy red cherries looked so pretty dotted into the cake and when cut into, they provided little pools of ruby juice against the golden cake. Eating a ripe, freshly picked, still warm cherry is also a wonderous thing. Really sweet and juicy with a great cherry flavour. So delicious when paired with the nutty almonds.

Roasted Almond & Fresh Cherry Cake
(Recipe adapted from Rachel Allen)
60g skin on almonds (or ground almonds)
90g butter, melted
90g icing sugar
30g buckwheat flour
3 egg whites
2 tsp lemon juice
Large handful of fresh cherries
20g flaked almonds

Heat the oven to 200C. Line the base of a 6inch cake or tart tin with greaseproof paper and grease the sides.
Place the skin on almonds on a baking tray and roast them in the oven for 6-8 minutes until smelling lightly toasted. Leave to cool before blitzing in a small food processor to create ground almonds. It don’t need to be as fine as flour.
Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.
Sieve the icing sugar and buckwheat flour into a clean bowl and stir in the ground almonds.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites for 30 seconds, until just frothy. They don’t need to be peaky, just slightly aerated.
Add the whisked egg whites, melted butter and lemon juice to the dry ingredients and mix together with a spatula until combined and smooth.
Pour into the tart/cake tin and dot the top with the fresh cherries (you can de-stone them first, but I didn’t bother). Scatter over a few flaked almonds.
Bake in the oven at 200C for 12 minutes, before reducing the heat to 180C and baking for a further 12-15 minutes. It should be ever so slightly golden in colour, with a shiny, slightly sticky surface.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin to room temperature before serving. Warn your guests to look out for cherry stones if you’ve left them in!
Store any leftovers in the fridge.
Makes 1 x 6inch cake

Note: I’ve also made this cake with fresh plums, blueberries and nectarines