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I have a memory of picking cherries in the Mornington Peninsula at the start of summer. We were with my sister and her then young children. We climbed ladders, eating handfuls of ripe red cherries as we dropped others into baskets. You could eat as many as you liked while you were picking (there is after all a limit on how many you can eat in one sitting) then weigh what you picked for purchase. Cherries are also a sign of the approaching festive season. They are a regular feature on Christmas lunch tables in the Southern hemisphere, which for those of you living in Europe or the US might seem like a little odd. There is nothing quite like a gift of a box of plump deep red sweet cherries.

Cherry season starts in November here in Australia and it only lasts 100 days, so it really is a matter of getting them when you can. I bought these at the local Farmer’s Market on the weekend, my first day back after three weeks of late autumn in Italy. It was a lovely surprise to see them there, a taste of the summer to come, after a few weeks of persimmons, pumpkins and mushrooms. The cherries were plump and sweet and after a period of not much cooking, I had the urge to bake. So I grabbed a few handfuls, pitted them and tossed them into a basic almond meal gluten free cake, also adding the cherry juice that trickles out when you pop out the pip. The ripples of cherry make moist sweet streaks through the cake, and after getting used to eating cake for breakfast in Italy, I have not quite weaned myself off that habit. You could substitute preserved cherries if you cannot get fresh ones, so the recipe includes measurements for those.

I have been converting quite a few simpler cakes to a gluten free version. If you are keen to convert your recipes to GF, my general rule is to decrease the amount of flour by one-quarter. This works for the GF flour mix that I use, but some mixes do vary with how much liquid they absorb. Converting recipes (especially for the first time) is best suited to recipes that are fairly simple, where you easily add more wet ingredients (eggs, milk or in this case, cherry juice) if the mix is too dry without affecting the result. The mix for this cake was thick but pourable. You could make this cake with regular flour too, but omit one egg and check for consistency, adjusting the amount of dry ingredients (in this case, I would adjust the almond meal and maybe the sugar, tasting to check for sweetness) if needed.

gluten free cherry and almond cake

125g almond meal
100g gluten free flour
125g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
110g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4x60g eggs
1 tsp almond essence
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
250g fresh cherries (or 200g pitted tinned cherries)
40g flaked almonds
extra cherries (for serving – optional)
Greek yoghurt (for serving – optional)

Line the base and sides of a 21 cm springform pan with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C.

Pit the cherries using a cherry pitter and set aside in a bowl, keeping any juices that are made whilst you are pitting them. If using preserved/tinned cherries, you do not need to drain them; just remove them from the tin or jar with a spoon and place in a bowl, keeping no more than one tablespoon of juice.

Place the almond meal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and give them a good whisk to incorporate and remove any lumps. In a separate bowl, place the melted cooled butter, the lightly whisked eggs, the almond essence and the vanilla essence. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Finally stir in the cherries and their juice. Pour into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle with flaked almonds.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until golden on top and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the tin after a few minutes and allow to cool completely before serving. You can serve with extra cherries and a dollop of greek yoghurt on the side if you like.

This cake keeps for about 3 days covered in the fridge.


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