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
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved