Summery Red Currant Cake

We arrived yesterday, the hottest day in England so far this year. There I was, hoping to show off my new jacket and cool rain boots, and instead sat in the shade eating lots of ice cream. Wherever I go, it’s usually hot and as you might have guessed by now, heat and I don’t go together very well. But then again, I realize that most importantly all these poor white English people deserve a bit of sunshine and that my live will be much easier with my children happily playing crocket (English game – don’t ask) outside instead of being miserable and fighting inside.

One of the first things I did after we arrived, was checking out my father-in-laws beautiful vegetable garden and raiding it for lunch. Fresh beets, crisp lettuce and delectable broad beans and I quickly got over not going to be able to put on rain gear for at least another week according to the weather forecast. We ate our way through the remaining day to find some energie and keep ourselves from falling asleep too early. Well, I made it until 8.30 in the evening and slept like a baby until my daughter thought it was time for breakfast just before 5 am. We ate fresh strawberries and lots of red currants with cereal, when I got the sudden urge to bake something with all those lovely and abundant red currants. I miss fresh currants wherever we live. They were hardly ever available in Texas and even less affordable, existent only as decoration on beautiful buffet displays in fancy Thai restaurants and literally non-existant in Western Australia. That’s where I tried to grow them myself, unfortunately without success. Hence the immeasurable delight when I saw all the fruit laden bushes in the garden.

It wasn’t even 7 am when I started rummaging through my mother-in-laws cupboards looking for potential cake ingredients. I found whole wheat flour, brown sugar, almonds, vanilla extract, butter and eggs, exactly what I needed. I didn’t find the right size cake pan, and decided to bake two small cakes instead. In theory, one could always be frozen… The gas oven gave me a bit of a fright, what with gas marks instead of temperature scales. But eventually another grown-up got up and together we figured it out. The base of this cake is very simple and can easily be adapted, by, for example substituting apple sauce for some of the butter, using spelt four, instead of whole wheat, ground hazelnuts instead of the almonds, rice or almond milk for cows milk and maple syrup instead of the sugar. The topping can be any fruit in season, I particularly enjoy it with fresh peaches in summer or pears in fall, but even frozen berries work well. I did underestimate the acidity of the currants a bit and should have used a little more sugar in the topping. Instead, after the cakes cooled down, I dusted them with some icing sugar and now they are perfect. (I changed the amount of sugar in the recipe, so unless you like it really sweet, you won’t need to add any icing sugar.) I ate 2 pieces already, and seriously doubt that the second cake will ever see the inside of the freezer. Happy summer days!

Red Currant and Almond Cake 

serves 10

2-3 cups red currants, all green bits removed

2 cups whole wheat flour, self raising

1 cup almonds, lightly toasted and finely ground

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

125 g unsalted butter (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon), room temperature

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Topping:

3 tablespoons light brown or demerara sugar

1/3 cup almonds, coarsly ground

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to gas mark 5 (350 F, 180 C)
  • Toast almonds in oven until slightly fragrant, about 5 minutes
  • Grind almonds in food processor. Personally, I like them fairly coarse, to give the batter a bit of extra texture.
  • Sift flour and combine with almonds and salt.
  • Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, 1 egg at a time, beating until incorportated.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mix,  followed by half the milk, another 1/3 of flour mix, the remaining milk and finally the last third of flour mix. Incorporate each ingredient gently, careful not to overmix the batter. It will be slightly moist and sticky.
  • Spread batter in one 9-inch springform pan or divide into two small baking pans.
  • Top with red currants and gently press down into batter.
  • Mix extra sugar and ground almonds and sprinkle over cake.
  • Bake large cake for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean. If you made 2 small cakes, bake for 40 minutes.
  • Sorry, I know this is supposed to be a healthy food blog, but here is comes… Serve with lightly sweetened, freshly whipped CREAM! 

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