Cherry Hazelnut Cake

  Cherry Hazelnut Cake

There’s something about me you might as well know, as sooner or later you’ll figure it out even if I try my best to keep it under wraps. My name is Melissa and I’m a chronic recipe evader. You may laugh, but I have what I can only describe as a pathological inability to follow recipes, despite the fact that I can’t cook without them. You see, on the one hand, I hoard them, panicking if I can’t find the one I need, and going to great lengths financially and physically ("Ma’am, do you know your suitcase is eighteen kilos overweight?") to make sure I have as many as humanly possible. On the other hand, once I have them, they’re ignored. It’s scandalous, I know. Do you think there’s any hope for me?

Take, for example, the popular and widely-acclaimed recipe for flourless orange-almond cake, variously attributed to people like Nigella Lawson, Claudia Roden, and Trish Deseine. It uses five ingredients, involves nothing more complicated than boiling water in a pot and pressing the food processor’s ‘on’ button. If any recipe in the world can be followed it should be this one. Now despite the fact that I love both oranges and almonds, both separately and together, (and here you will start to understand the frightening depth of my disorder) I could not follow this recipe. It’s not that I found it too complicated, fiddly or time-consuming, it was just, well, already written. I took one look at it and the following conversation occurred in my brain:

Me: This looks good, I’ll make it tonight.
Voice from the blue: But so many people have already made this same recipe. Why would you want to be a copycat?
Me: Because if they’ve all made it then it must be good! I don’t want to tamper with a sure thing.
Voice: What if Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal believed that?
Me: Uhhh, well…
Voice: Think outside the box! Stretch the boundaries of your creativity that have been bullied into submission by decades of conforming to the Standard Gastronomic Paradigm!
Me: Well, I suppose I could maybe substitute another fruit for the oranges, I mean, they’re not in season here anyway…
Voice: That’s the spirit! Think of things you’ve never used before: mangosteens, loquats, ugli fruit!
Me: And I suppose any nut should work…
Voice: Yes, yes! Charoli nuts, cashews, chestnuts!
Me: I’ve got it! Cherries and hazelnuts! It’ll be divine!
Voice (fading): Mission control, we have success, I repeat we have success, another recipe has bitten the dust…

Well, at least my bastardized version worked. In fact, it worked very well. The beauty of this recipe is that it appears to infinitely adaptable, as there are no complex chemical reactions going on that depend on precisely the right amount of starch, acidity, etc. Just blend up cooked fruit pulp in roughly the same quantity as the oranges, substitute any ground nuts for the almonds, adjust the sugar for the sweetness of your fruit, and toss it in the oven for an hour. It really couldn’t be simpler. And if you make this cake, please do me the favor of not following my recipe too closely. It would really make me feel ashamed.

Cherry Hazelnut Cake
Serves: 8

1 1/2 lbs. fresh sweet cherries, pitted (weight before pitting)
9 oz./250g hazelnuts
1 cup/200g sugar
6 eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
Optional: some grated orange zest and/or a splash of Frangelico to boost the flavors

Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for about ten minutes, or until they smell fragrant and the skins have started to crack. Remove, let cool, and rub the skins off as well as you can.

Put the pitted cherries in a pot with 1/2 cup of sugar, bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until reduced by about 1/3 in volume. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Put the hazelnuts in the food processor with the remaining sugar and process until finely ground. Then add in all the remaining ingredients and pulse to a pulp. Butter and line an 8 inch springform pan.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean; you’ll probably have to cover with foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack. I found this to be good warm and cold, with yogurt and with whipped cream.

15 thoughts on “Cherry Hazelnut Cake

  1. Do I get to be the first to post a comment to this one? I know you know I love cherries, so I’m sure you came up with this one just for me. I can’t wait until you come home this summer! I’ll have the whipped cream ready.

  2. Hi Melissa, you recipe evader you! Lovely combination. I’ve never made a flourless cake before so I have to admit that I will probably follow your recipe to a tee! Except I might just try using.. oh wait, who’s evading now.. I hope you had a great time in Norway, we’ll be glad to have you back 🙂

  3. Hi Melissa,I love cherries, so this cake is really appealing to me. I think I might just try to make this. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Hi Melissa – I really like the slightly pink hue of that hazelnut cake! Looks beautiful, as always. Hope you enjoyed the endless Nordic sun in Tjoem:) I just realised I only tried ONE of the 15 or so cakes on that wedding table – not sure what was wrong with me!!! (Overindulging on that Lebanese/Mediterranean/Norwegian buffet probably, but still that’s no excuse for not trying some of your and the other cakes. Really kicking myself now…)

  5. Wow. That looks glorious. Proof that it pays to listen to the little voices in our heads! 🙂 I can’t wait to try this. Thanks, Melissa!

  6. Hi mom – Twist my arm! You’ll find me at the airport with an armful of cherry recipes, don’t worry! Hi Michele – Evade away, please! Maybe you’ve just found a use for your new favorite fruit, the mighty granadilla! Wonder how one of those would fare being boiled and blitzed into oblivion? Might solve that seed problem… ;)Hi Reid – How about a cherry-macadamia cake? :)Hi Pille – I can’t believe you only tried one. Which one was it? I tried as many as I could (having them around the next day certainly helped), though for many I just scraped a little topping off to see what they were all about. I imagine they’ll be eating leftover cake for the next three weeks or so…Hi Bakerina – Glad to know I’m not the only one hearing voices 😉 My voices seem to give pretty good advice most of the time, but who knows what will happen the day they start trying to convince me to do more than just alter the occasional recipe…

  7. It was _the_ wedding cake. I remember having a slice, enjoying it, nibbling on the lovely borage flower decorations, and the next thing I know I’m on a car and heading towards the hotel again. I so wish I had had time next morning to come back for more, but no. Aargh.I’ll make sure I’ll eat more cake in wedding part 3:)))

  8. I SWEAR I have posted twice!anyway….the gist of the posts LOL I am just like you a born recipe tinkere. I think that if there wasnt tinkeres like us there would be no new recipes!This cake looks so inspired A+! 🙂

  9. Hi Pille – I’m so glad you told me the name of those flowers. When we were looking for something to decorate the cake Guro told me these were edible and that in Norwegian they were called ‘cucumber flowers’, but I had no idea what they were in English. Thanks!Hi Clare – I couldn’t agree more. The problem is that in order to tinker properly you should do it scientifically, noting down what you alter and by how much, etc. The way I do it even if I create something great, chances are I won’t remember how I did it!

  10. You’re welcome, Melissa. They’re called “kurgirohi” in Estonian, which translates – unsurprisingly – as “cucumber grass”:) I’m confused, but I remember eating one slice of cake, but at least 5 or so borage flowers. oops…

  11. Hi Melissa – Sadly I don’t like cherries at all (any substitute suggestions?), but I love hazelnuts and I love your gorgeous picture! It’s really beautiful.

  12. Hi Keiko – What about strawberries, figs, lemons, plums, raspberries, grapefruit, peaches, apricots…? I think just about anything that can be blended into a thick pulp would work!

  13. Hi apple – thanks for this link, I knew there was a food stylist working in Edinburgh but I didn’t know anything about her. Very interesting article!

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