Slowly eating England: Cherry bakewell

I’m a big fan of food that encourages, nay obliges, you to get messy. Sticky barbecue ribs, doughnuts, chicken wings—things that end up all over your hands, face and shirt; these are the foods I love. And cherries. Have you ever tried to eat a bag of cherries and not ended up looking like you’ve been punched in the mouth? Me neither.

But cherries are so worth it. Yes, they’re expensive. Yes, you need to remove the stones if you’re going to do anything beyond scarf them up raw. And yes, if you’re growing them, the tree requires constant vigilance and judicious netting lest the birds feast on them first. But ignore all that, because there are so many amazing things you can do with them.

Cherries have some natural bedfellows. Duck with cherries was a seventies dinner party staple, and with good reason. The richness of the duck with the sweet cherry sauce is a perfect marriage. Cherries and chocolate—bliss. Cook them gently and put them in a pie, a pancake, a crumble or a cobbler and you have a dessert everyone will love. But for me, the perfect partner for cherries is almonds. And as luck would have it, I have both trees growing in the garden. The almond tree has yet to produce anything edible, so this recipe was made with cherries from the tree and almonds from the supermarket. But whether from the garden, the store or the pick-your-own it’s a winning combo.

Recipe: Cherry bakewell

Bakewell tart is a classic English dessert combining jam and frangipane on a pastry base. This super-simple version omits the pastry and replaces the jam with cherries, creating a cross between a pudding and a muffin. I made the individual bakewells in ramekins, though a muffin tin would work equally well. Whichever you use, make sure to grease it well and be careful when removing the bakewell if you don’t want to end up leaving half the mixture behind (full disclosure: this happened to me, but a generous spoonful of cream hides a multitude of sins). They can be served warm with cream as a dessert, or cold with a cup of tea at four o’clock. Either way, one is never enough.

For six or so individual bakewells, depending on the size of your ramekin/muffin tin:

cherry bakewell150g butter (plus extra for greasing)
4 medium eggs
150g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
50g flaked almonds
Around 7 pitted cherries per bakewell (two good handfuls in total)

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease your ramekins generously with butter. Place cherries in the bottom of each ramekin. If the cherries are a little under-ripe you could cook them down a little first, but make sure they retain some shape.

Melt the butter and leave to cool. Blitz the eggs, sugar and ground almonds in a food processor or beat well together with a wooden spoon. Toast the flaked almonds in a dry pan, taking care they don’t catch. Now add the cooled butter to the frangipane and mix together. Pour the frangipane over the cherries and top with some toasted flaked almonds.

Bake for around half an hour, but have a quick peek after 20 minutes as timing will depend on the size of your bakewell and the quirks of your individual oven. They should be golden and risen. Leave to cool briefly before removing from the ramekin. Or just leave it in and eat immediately. It is your pudding after all.