Perfect time of year to try these tasty cherry recipes

PUNNETS of cherries are good value in my local fruit and vegetable shop at this time of year. I have been using them in many different ways and preserving them for use later in the year.

There is a recipe here for a chocolate layered sponge that is quite like a Black Forest gateau but much lighter. I used a simple sponge cake recipe and substituted some cocoa powder instead of the flour. The cocoa I use is a very rich powder from Valrhona, it adds a depth of flavour and does not affect the sweetness of the cake as there is no sugar added to it. The trick, as always with a sponge cake, is to whip the eggs and sugar until they are really light and fluffy and then to take care with those precious bubbles when folding in the rest of the ingredients.

I also decided to dry out some of the cherries, they had the consistency of sultanas after I kept them in the oven on a very low heat for about three hours. They are lovely added to cookies or stirred into some granola. Simply pit the cherries and spread the halves on a baking tray. Allow them to dry out in an oven at 150C.

You can also preserve cherries in alcohol. Fill a large, clean jam-jar with the cherries and add a half a tablespoon of sugar. Fill the jar up with vodka, tap it on a counter to get rid of any bubbles, then seal it with a tight-fitting lid. Set it aside and use the liquid as you wish or add the cherries to cocktails.

Making a conserve or soft jam with cherries preserves the taste of summer through the winter months. It can be used instead of the stewed cherries in a chocolate cake or simply spread on buttered toast.

Chocolate Cherry Cake with Whipped Cream

5 eggs

140g caster sugar

35g cocoa powder, sieved

115g self-raising flour, sieved

200g cherries, pitted

½tbs honey

200mls cream

Line two 8in cake tins with parchment and preheat your oven to 180C.

Whip the eggs and sugar until they are completely fluffy and light. They will have about tripled in size.

Sieve the cocoa powder and flour together.

Fold the flour and cocoa gently into the eggs but make sure you combine everything.

Scoop the mixture between the two prepared tins. Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes until they are cooked through.

Test the centre of the cake with a skewer making sure it comes out clean.

While the cake is baking add the cherries, honey and a tablespoon of water to a saucepan. Allow to simmer with the lid on until the cherries have softened. Set aside to cool.

Once the cakes are completely cold, whip the cream. Spread cream and cherries on one of the cakes and place the other on top.

Drizzle the juice from the cherries over the cake just before serving.

Cherry Jam

1.5kg cherries, pitted and halved

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

2 star anis

1kg sugar

Pour a thin layer of water into a large saucepan, just about a millimeter deep. Add the cherries, lemon juice and zest, as well as the star anis. Allow to bubble away with the lid off until the cherries have completely softened.

The most accurate way to make the jam is to gently weigh the contents of your saucepan. Now add three quarters the amount in sugar. For example, if the cherry mixture weighs 1kg add 750g of sugar.

Once the sugar is stirred in, allow the jam to bubble over a high heat, stirring continuously. The jam will start to set and to become stickier.

Spoon a little onto a cold saucer and see if it has set by touching it with your finger. If it starts to pucker take it off the heat and scoop into waiting jars. If not, allow it to bubble for another minute or two and test it again.

Cherry Cookies

250g butter, softened

40g caster sugar

90g golden caster sugar

225g porridge oats

200g dried cherries

Preheat your oven to 180C and line a baking tray with parchment.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in flour and oats and mix well. Add the cherries and mix again. Roll into a log shape and refrigerate until solid.

With the help of a warm knife, the cookies can be easily sliced to the size you want. You should get 10 large cookies.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until they start to turn golden.


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