I’m bringing you some full on British springtime today, even if the snow ruined my weekend. Yep, cancelled plans are part and parcel of living in the UK in March apparently. But not having my friends come to stay meant that I could clock some extra hours in the world’s smallest kitchen and bake some Cherry Bakewell Slices.
Yeah, a bit classier than my Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cupcakes, but both equally as scrumptious. Promise.
If you’re not from ’round these parts, then you might not know what a Cherry Bakewell Slice even is. Think sweet shortcrust pastry, topped with a generous helping of cherry jam (or raspberry works too), and topped off with a decent wedge of gorgeous frangipane-esque sponge.
And I didn’t even get on to the vanilla icing and chopped cherries and almonds yet, did I?
It’s basically the most English-afternoon-tea little slice of cake that you can imagine.
And while these little slices may have a whole load of layers (I’m counting four?) they aren’t actually hard to make at all. And you can start things off nice and easy with some ready made sweet shortcrust pastry… if you can find it.
Yep, the hardest thing about this recipe is shopping for the ingredients. Why do UK supermarkets refuse to stock ready-to-roll sweet shortcrust pastry? If you want regular shortcrust then there are at least three different types, but absolutely no sweet shortcrust on the shelves what-so-ever. It’s frustrating.
What I did manage to find in Sainsbury’s was this Dessert Shortcrust Pastry Mix, to which you just need to add some water and mix together. Not too much fuss, and very little mess. Not quite as magical as the roll-out stuff, but it will do in a pinch.
Of course, feel free to make your own sweet shortcrust if you want (it’s not hard) but if you know me then you’ll know that:
a) I hate making pastry
b) I am a bit of a lazy baker
So ready made pastry is my go-to every single time.
When it comes to making these Cherry Bakewell Slices look pretty, the vanilla icing is key. There’s a fine line between too runny and too thick. It needs to be spreadable, but not gluey. Add water a little at a time, and if you go too far then just add some more icing sugar. And if some of the icing drips down the sides of the un-sliced tart? Pretend that’s the look you were going for and run with it.
Glace cherries (or candied cherries in the States) are pretty much mandatory when making a Cherry Bakewell, and you can’t really go wrong with handfuls of sliced almonds now, can you?
I’m sensing Easter on the horizon, so stay tuned for some slightly more in-your-face Easter recipes in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been bulk buying Cadbury Creme Eggs in preparation. Easter, I’m coming for you.
- 350g (12.3oz) sweet shortcrust pastry - I used shop bought
- 6 tablespoons cherry or mixed berry jam
- 125g (½ cup + 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 150g (1½ cups) caster sugar (US granulated)
- 2 large eggs
- 60g (½ cup) ground almonds
- 60g (½ cup) plain or all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 1½ teaspoons almond extract
- 200g (1⅔ cups) icing sugar or powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 glace cherries, halved (US candied cherries)
- 25g (¼ cup) flaked or sliced almonds
- Preheat the oven to 200°C / 390°F (180°C fan). Roll out the pastry into a square large enough to cover the base and a quarter-way up the sides of an 8x8 inch brownie tin. Gently place the pastry into the tin and press down to reach all the corners, and then cover the base with the jam. Spread the jam all the way to the corners, making sure there is an even covering of jam all over the pastry base.
- Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) and beat well until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides between each addition.
- Add the ground almonds, flour, baking powder, and almond extract to the bowl, and gently fold together on a low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once the mixture is well incorporated (but not over-mixed), spoon it on top of the jam layer. Be as gentle as possible, as the jam will want to mix with the almond batter. Smooth out so that the almond batter covers the whole layer of jam, and then place in the oven to bake for 30-35 minutes. It will look a dark golden brown and be firm to the touch when baked - if it is still wobbly at all then it is not ready to come out. Once baked, leave in the tin to cool on a wire rack.
- Once the tart is completely cool, remove from the tin and set aside - it is no time to make the icing. Place the icing sugar and vanilla extract into a medium bowl, and add about 3 tablespoons of water. Give the icing a really good mix, and add a little more water (or a little more icing sugar) as needed. You want the icing to be spreadable but not too runny.
- Spread the icing over the whole of the tart, making sure to get it right up to the edges. If some drizzles down the sides then do not worry! Place nine cherry halves on top of the tart, and then sprinkle generously with flaked almonds. Leave for an hour or so for the icing to set, and then cut into nine squares using a sharp knife.
- These bakewell slices will stay fresh for 3-4 days if stored in an airtight container somewhere cool (not the fridge).