Wild Cherry Cake

Wild Cherry Cake 1

When it came to creating a cake to accompany Where the Wild Cherries Grow, I knew I wanted it to contain three things. Cherries – as might be found on Emeline and Aaro’s secret tree – were a must. Almonds too; the medieval Catalan recipe collection The Book of Sent Sovi is full of recipes featuring fragrant almonds, in broths, sauces, creams and puddings…

Last of all, I wanted it to contain a hint of sweet, heady wine, the kind I drank during my visit to French Catalonia. Banyuls is vin doux naturel, a strong dessert wine made in only four places along the Côte Vermeille: Banyuls-sur-Mer, Port-Vendres, Collioure and Cerbère. It’s almost a metaphor for the spirit of the place; the vines have to be hardy to grow in the rocky, arid soil, but they’re helped along by the bright sunlight that ripens the grapes and la Tramontana, the wind from the mountains, that sweeps any pests out to sea. In my memory, Banyuls tastes honeyed and deep, like peaches and apricots baked slowly in a clay pot over embers.

Sadly, Banyuls is notoriously tricky to find outside of France, so I’d suggest using whatever good quality, rich dessert wine you can lay your hands on. Of course, if you do happen to find a bottle, you know who to call if you want to share…

Wild Cherry Cake 2

Wild Cherry Cake

For the cherries in syrup:

  • 150g morello cherries, fresh or frozen (and defrosted)
  • 3 tbsp good quality sweet dessert wine
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

For the cake:

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
  • Large handful dried cherries
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Handful flaked almonds
  • Icing sugar, to decorate

Allons-y!

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Place the cherries, wine, cinnamon and sugar together in a bowl and toss gently until combined. Set aside to infuse.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg to the butter mix, along with a tablespoon of the flour (to stop the mixture from splitting) and beat well. Repeat with the rest of the eggs, beating well in between.
  5. Add the rest of the flour in thirds, folding in gently until it is just combined and no streaks are showing.
  6. Gently stir in the ground almonds, vanilla and dried cherries.
  7. Spoon two-thirds of the infusing cherries onto a plate and toss in the remaining 1 tbsp of flour. (This’ll stop them all sinking to the bottom) Put the syrup and remaining cherries to one side.
  8. Carefully stir the flour-coated cherries into the mixture, making sure they’re evenly distributed. Add a splash of milk if the mixture needs loosening.
  9. Dollop into the tin, smooth over the top and bake for around 30-35 minutes, or until golden and risen, and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in its tin on a wire rack.

To decorate:

  1. While the cake is still warm, prick holes all over the surface with a skewer.
  2. Spoon the cherry-wine-cinnamon syrup over the top so that it soaks in.
  3. Lightly toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes. Keep your eye on them, because they’ll catch quickly.
  4. Decorate the cake with the remaining infused cherries, almonds, and a dusting of icing sugar. Eat with a glass of brandy or sweet wine and dream yourself away to a warm summer’s night, outside a seafront café, at the very end of France…

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Official Cover Reveal and Release Date

So I’ve had quite a few pieces of exciting news in the last week or two. The first one is that The Confectioner’s Tale is being published a little sooner than planned: release date is now scheduled for 23rd April 2015! It was originally intended to be May 21st, but publication dates shift with remarkable flexibility; far more than I would have originally assumed. (There’s a good reason for the change, I promise, I just can’t mention what it is at the moment…)

The absurd, ridiculous coincidence is that my sister Lucy’s book is coming out ON THE SAME DAY. This wasn’t planned; in fact, it’s happened this way after both of our release dates were moved, twice. Double gin and tonics for us.

It’s going to be a bit of a whirlwind from now until then, but hopefully we’ll have time to put together a launch party or similar: more on that later.

Last Friday I was in London, and the day was jam-packed with meetings (business and social, both enjoyable) and all manner of food wedged into the free spaces. (Including pizza at Homeslice, cakes at Bea’s, cocktails at 5cc…) Anyway, before all of that I met the lovely folk at Transworld for breakfast, and Harriet, my editor, showed me the final cover design for TCT.

The confectioners tale front only

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There it is! Everyone on the art and design has done a wonderful job, and I can’t wait to hold a physical version in my hands. The quote from Leah Fleming took me by surprise too – I had no idea she was reading the book – but am delighted she enjoyed it. It’s still an exceedingly strange feeling, that somewhere out there, unbeknownst to you, people are reading your words.

This hopefully means it won’t be long until a box lands on my doorstep with copies of the book itself. Don’t worry, I’ll be yelling on and offline, loudly and repeatedly when that happens.

 

 

The Proofs are In!

One of the things I’ve learned since becoming an author is that the strangeness of seeing your words in print for the first time never goes away. Something that you’ve worked on – for years, potentially –  that has sat quietly as a word document on your computer, seen by a select few, is abruptly out there. Free to be read, by whoever picks it up.

The Confectioners Tale page proof

It’s undeniably exciting, but there’s simultaneously a feeling of: ‘ARGH, my ridiculous words!’ when you come across that phrase or sentence that has never been quite right, to your mind. Mostly, though, it’s odd to think that it doesn’t belong to you any more; that strangers will be reading it, meeting the characters who have been known only to you for such a long time, and making of them what they will.

So, here it is! The first glimpse of The Confectioner’s Tale in print. It’s been beautifully produced, and I love the cover design for these proofs.

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The publicity team at Transworld are currently winging out copies to selected editors, reviews, bloggers etc. (Along with a recipe for a St. Germain cake that I created to accompany the book). If that’s roughly your line of work and you’d like a copy, then get in touch and I can pass on the request.

Absurdly, the thing I find most exciting of all is the Black Swan logo on the spine…

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It’s strange to be talking about firsts and beginnings, when – in one sense – my work with this book is done. Once the book is printed, it’s out of my hands, and alongside the anticipation and happiness at reaching this goal, I’m already starting all over again with another book, and another private word document…