Very Cherry!
Get ready for English cherry season with these scrumptious desert recipes

It is believed cultivated cherries were introduced to Britain in the first century AD. Legend has it that you can trace the route of old Roman Roads in Britain by looking out for wild cherry trees. Story tellers insist Roman legions spat the stones from the fruit as they marched.

Cherries have a unique combination of the antioxidants anthocyanin 1 and 2 which can have anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries are one of the few foods that contain trace amounts of melatonin which can assist with healthy circadian rhythms and sleep patterns.  They contain vitamin C, fibre and potassium.

The Latin name for the sweet cherry is prunus avium meaning ‘plum and bird’; possibly due to the fact birds have a particular taste for cherries, as farmers will testify.

The English cherry season will last from the last week in June until early August.

White chocolate and cherry cheesecakeWhite chocolate and cherry cheesecake

All American favourite

A great pudding to take to a barbecue party. Make the day before as it improves with chilling.

Serves 10-12

Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 40-45 minutes
Chilling time: overnight or 6 hours

Ingredients

Biscuit base

  • 50 g (2 oz) butter, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 250 g (9 oz) digestive biscuits
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup

Cheesecake

  • 200 g (7 oz) white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 675 g (1½ lb) Philadelphia full fat cream cheese
  • 75 g (3 oz) caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 200 ml (7 fl oz) double cream
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 225 g (8 oz) British cherries, stalks and stones removed

Topping

  • 250 ml (8 fl oz) carton full fat crème fraiche
  • 175 g (6 oz) British cherries

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4. Lightly butter a 23 cm (9 inch) springform tin. Put the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or blitz in a food processor. Melt the measured butter in a saucepan with the golden syrup, stir in the biscuit crumbs, mix well then press over the base and two thirds of the way up the tin sides.
  2. Bake the biscuit crust for 5 minutes then take out of the oven and lower the oven temperature to 150ºF/300ºC/Gas Mark 2.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Take off the heat, stir briefly and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together in a bowl with an electric whisk or in a food processor. Gradually beat in the cream until thick once more then beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth before adding the next one. Stir in the melted chocolate.
  5. Scatter the stoned cherries over the biscuit lined tin then spoon the cheesecake mixture over the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes until the cheesecake is firm around the edge and just beginning to colour while still slightly soft in the centre. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave to cool completely. Chill in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  6. When ready to serve, loosen the edge of the cheesecake with a knife, remove the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Spread the crème fraiche on top then decorate with the cherries on stalks. Cut into wedges to serve. 

Blackforest cupcakesBlackforest cupcakes

Extra special

Remember those towering chocolate layer cakes served in posh hotels back in the 70s, this simplified cup cake version is just as delicious but much easier.

Makes 12

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients

Cakes

  • 100 g (4 oz) soft margarine
  • 100 g (4 oz) caster sugar
  • 85 g (3½ oz) self-raising flour
  • 15 g (½ oz) cocoa
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping

  • 300 g (11 oz) British cherries, stalks and stones removed, fruit halved
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1½ teaspoons cornflour
  • 100 g (4 oz) butter, at room temperature
  • 200 g (7 oz) icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon semi skimmed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons Kirsch, optional

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4. Separate 12 silver foil cake cases and arrange in the sections of a muffin tin.
  2. Add all the cake ingredients to a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until smooth. Divide spoonfuls between the foil cake cases, smooth the tops level then bake for about 15 minutes until well risen and the tops spring back when pressed with a fingertip.
  3. Transfer the cakes in their cases to a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile make the cherry topping by adding the cherries, sugar and 5 tablespoons of water to a saucepan, simmer gently for 5 minutes until the cherries begin to soften and the juices run. Mix the cornflour with the remaining tablespoon of water then stir into the cherries, increase the heat and cook, stirring until the sauce has thickened. Take off the heat and leave to cool. 
  4. Beat the butter with half the icing sugar until smooth then gradually beat in the remaining sugar, milk and the vanilla, beating until very soft and smooth. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.
  5. When ready to serve, skewer the top of the cakes and drizzle the kirsch over the top, if using. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of each cake then carefully spoon the cherry mixture into the centre and arrange on a serving plate.

Cherry Clafoutis  Cherry Clafoutis

French classic that’s ideal to serve after a Sunday lunch, made with a sweetened batter, not unlike Yorkshire pudding, it tastes great served with scoops of vanilla ice cream or a soft spoonful of crème fraiche.

Serves 6

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Standing time: 15-30 minutes
Cooking time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 100 g (4 oz) plain flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 50 g (2 oz) caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Grated rind of ½ orange
  • 50 g (2 oz) butter, melted plus extra 15 g (½ oz) to grease the tin
  • 300 ml (½ pint) semi skimmed milk
  • 300 g (11 oz) British cherries, stalks and stones removed
  • Icing sugar, sifted, to decorate

Method

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, add the sugar then the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, orange rind and melted butter, whisk until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth and frothy. Set aside for the batter to rest for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC /350ºF/Gas Mark 4. Generously butter a 20 cm (8 inch) diameter by 4 cm (1½ inch) deep round cake tin with a fixed base, add the cherries and heat in the oven for 5 minutes until sizzling hot. 
  3. Quickly pour in the batter then return to the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the pudding puffs around the edges and the centre is just set and cooked like a custard tart. Take out of the oven, dust the top generously with sifted icing sugar and serve warm with spoonfuls of crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream. The dessert will sink as it cools so don’t be alarmed.

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