Recipe - Vanilla & Black Cherry Tray Cake with Chocolate Ganache Icing

This Friday gone was Red Nose Day 2013 and as in the past I have organised some charity fun at work for the day. Our MD kindly agreed that we could have a pyjamas or casual clothes day and we ran a little competition to win some chocolate and held a bake sale and this cake was my contribution!

I went with my go-to rich vanilla cake recipe and knew I wanted to top it with ganache but thought that may be a little dull on its own. And what goes perfectly with dark chocolate? Cherries! Unfortunately as is my tendency I had a craving for a fruit that wasn't in season so planned to get some tinned black cherries in juice. Low and behold the store had run out, so I had to go for a can of pre-made black cherry dessert filling. This meant that the cherry flavour was a little dulled down, but it still came through. I would suggest using fresh de-pitted cherries if you want to make this in July time when they are in season, or failing that go for tinned pitted cherries in their juice or a light syrup but that will mean you won't have the jammy bits you can see in the layers. You could always swirl in a bit of black cherry jam though!

If I wasn't making this for work I would have made a boozy addition by using a skewer to poke lots of holes into the cake when it was fresh out of the oven and pouring over a good shot of cherry liqueur mixed with 25g of caster sugar heated with 25ml of water and a dash of vanilla extract until it had dissolved. It makes the cake even more moist and adds a great palette warming undernote from the booze.

Vanilla & Black Cherry Tray Cake with Ganache Topping
Makes around 24 pieces depending on your tin size

250g pack of butter, softened
250g caster sugar
5 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
100g full fat greek yoghurt
85g plain flour
250g self raising flour
45ml milk
1 tin pitted black cherries / cherry dessert filling or 1 small punnet of fresh cherries, pitted
200g dark chocolate, chopped into small chunks
285ml double cream
1 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat your oven to 160C / 320 F and then grease and line a 35 x 24cm baking tin (I have this one and it's great) and set to one side. To make removing the cake from the tin easier after baking I leave an overlap of baking parchment on both the longer sides of the tin so you can just lift it out.
Beat the softened butter and sugar together for a good few minutes until really pale and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Crack each egg into a cup before adding them to the mix to check that they are good and give the mixture a thorough mix before popping the next one in. If it curdles a bit don't worry too much, you can add a few tbsp of the plain flour to help prevent this if you like. Now mix in the vanilla and greek yoghurt.
Mix the plain and self raising flours in a large bowl and then add your butter mixture. Fold together with a large metal spoon then add the milk and give it a final mix to full combine. Try not to leave any big lumps of flour in there.
Spread half the mixture into your cake tin and top with the cherries, trying to space them out fairly evenly. Top with the remaining cake mix and smooth over the top, then place in the oven to bake. Mine took about 25 minutes but if you are using a different size tin you may need to adjust this to less time if your tin is bigger or more time if it is smaller. I wouldn't suggest opening the oven to check before 15 minutes have passed so you don't risk it sinking. To check that it is done lightly press the center of the cake, if it springs back it is ready. You can also check by pushing a cocktail stick into the center of the cake to the bottom of the tin - if it comes out sticky it needs a bit longer, if it comes out clean with a few crumbs it's done! Set to one side for ten minutes, then carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool completely.

I suggest making your ganache when you put the cake in the oven as it will need a few hours to set to a spreading concistency. Put your chocpped chocolate into a bowl and set it aside. Heat the cream and golden syrup in a small saucepan until it just starts to boil, then pour it over the chocolate. Leave for a minute and then whisk together gently from the middle of the bowl slowly incorporating the chocolate into the cream. If you stir too vigorously you will get air bubbles in your ganache so be patient! Set to one side until it is at a spreading consistency, then cover your cooled cake with it. You could pipe it on, but I like the shiney striped topping you get when spreading it on with a palette knife. You could also give it a little sprinkle of sea salt flakes to bring the chocolate flavour out even more.

I would love to know what you think if you try it, I think it's divine!