Parisians flee the city in late July and early August. The change is striking in our neighborhood, where the natives are never replaced by the selfie-sticked summer tourists perpetually gathering around I.M. Pei’s pyramids and filling the narrow streets of the Marais. With few remaining locals and even fewer tourists to serve, local bakers, butchers and restaurant proprietors have joined their fellow Parisians on the beaches of Corsica and Provence. But I’m still here with a bowl of the most beautiful cherries of the season in my lap.
Every year, I can rely on two things to remind me I owe the fruit stand a visit: the neighborhood is verging on ghost town status and The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” is semi-permanently stuck in my head. My internal clock is right. Plump, wine red cherries have appeared overnight and they’ll disappear without warning. I ask for 500 grams, change my mind and walk away with a kilo.
Turning on the oven seems counterintuitive in the heat but I fight my better instincts. These cherries are destined to become a boozy compote, slathered between two layers of the best caramelized almond cake. Balance the spicy rum-soaked cherries with pure vanilla bean frosting. The cherries will thank you.
Almond Cake with Cherry Compote and Vanilla Bean Frosting:
Makes one 16cm, 2 layer cake (6-8 people)
Before you start:
- You will need two 16cm baking tins and a pastry brush for this recipe.
125g butter (room temperature) + 30g to butter the pan
250g eggs (about 5 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g ground almond powder
100g slivered almonds
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Cut two circles of parchment paper to fit inside the bottom of the cake pans (but don’t worry about the sides of the pan)
- Butter the inside of the pan, paying special attention to the sides.
- Press one circle of parchment paper into the bottom of each cake pan.
- Using a pastry brush, cover the paper with another thin layer of butter.
- Add the slivered almonds, making sure they lay flat, then turn out the excess onto a work surface (a thin layer will remain stuck to the butter in the pan).
- Cream room temperature butter with sugar and add in vanilla extract.
- Crack the eggs in a separate bowl, beat to combine yolks and whites and then whisk into the butter mixture.
- Add the ground almond powder and whisk until combined.
- Pour the mixture over the slivered almonds in the baking pan and carefully tap the pan against the kitchen countertop to remove air bubbles.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 180°C until the cake has browned.
- Test for doneness using a knife or toothpick. If further baking is required, lower oven temperature to 150°C.
- Allow to cool before unmolding.
300g pitted cherries
20ml spiced rum
- Add ingredients to a saucepan and stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Allow to cook for 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
Vanilla Bean Frosting
Adapted from a recipe by Everyday Maven
100g salted butter
100g unsalted butter
2 vanilla bean pods
440g powdered sugar
Whisk room temperature butters together until the mixture becomes creamy and slightly lighter in color (about 4 minutes).
Cut open the vanilla bean pods, scrape out the seeds and add to the butter.
In a separate bowl, whisk the powdered sugar to remove any lumps.
Add half of the powdered sugar and mix well, continuing to whisk in air.
Add the remaining half.
- If runny, rest in fridge before frosting the cake.
- Place first layer of the almond cake on a clean surface with slivered almonds facing upwards.
- Apply cherry compote to the center, leaving a one inch border around the cake.
- Using a piping bag or a knife, fill the border with icing, allowing some to hang over the edge of the cake. This will prevent the cherry compote from mixing with the icing on the sides of the cake.
- Add the second layer of almond cake, with the slivered almonds facing downwards and press gently.
- Ice the cake and add whole cherries if desired.