Sour Cherry Cake (Meggyes Piskota)

As you may know, my family have been in Hungary for 11 years and Budapest is my home town. One of its most famous cake shops/cafés is Daubner. And one of my favourite cakes from Daubner is their sour cherry coffee cake, which they call Meggyes Piskota. It’s pronounced Maedge-esh Pish-koh-tah (did I mention Hungarian is a ridiculously difficult language?!)

Meggy is a very specific dark sour cherry which you find mainly in Central and Eastern Europe . In Russia, it’s either mixed into black tea or kept in the mouth while drinking tea. The cherry adds an amazing flavour to the strong black tea.

Meggy is absolutely delicious and I knew that getting hold of sour cherries was going to be the trickiest part of making this cake – which of course, it was!

I used a mix of sour and black cherries, from Waitrose. Quick note: I don’t get paid by anyone for endorsing their products. But since this cake relies on very specific ingredients, it’s just helpful to know what works!

Illustration of sour cherry, known in Hungary as meggy

The cake right now is in the oven, close to being done. The flat, needless to say, smells heavenly! I’m taking it to my boyfriends’ parents’ house on Friday for a Christmas weekend.

But just in case they see this before I go there – and discover my surprise! – I’m going to publish this after the weekend, so I can tell you if it turned out as good as Daubner’s or if it was a horrible disappointment. Stay tuned!

The recipe I used is an amalgamation of three different things – an English language recipe I found on Rick Rodgers’ website, a Hungarian recipe and my own memories of eating Daubner’s Meggyes Piskota about a thousand times.

My Hungarian is nowhere near good enough to translate the whole recipe, but how different can one cake recipe be from another? I used it mainly as a guide for what Hungarians suggest to put in it.

I also found Rick Rodgers’ recipe unnecessarily complicated so took out some steps which I thought weren’t needed.

I’m such a perfectionist that I need to make Daubner’s specific cake, as much as I can. I know it’s stuffed with walnuts and sour cherries and it’s not as fluffy as a cake – much flatter.

So with all that in mind, let’s get started! I took pictures this time, as much as possible so you’ll know just what to do. Warning – there are lots of steps involved but it’s not a tough process at all. Just a lot of really simple things. I’m hoping the end result is worth it!

Makes a 24-inch diameter cake (if your addiction to this is as powerful as that of most Hungarians (and my family), it’ll feed about 4 people! If you’re a normal human being then it will probably make about 12-14 slices)

Prep time: 30 minutes

Baking time: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

190g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour

85g (2/3 cup) ground almonds

100g (1/2 cup) walnuts, chopped finely

160g (1 1/4 cups) unsalted room temperature butter

190g (1 1/2 cups) brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 eggs, separated

1x425g can of black cherries (I used this one from Waitrose)

1x70g pack of dried black cherries. Leave these to soak in a bowl of cold water as you make the cake, so that when you use them they’re soft and not as bitter (From Waitrose)

1. Keep all your ingredients out, measured and ready to go. This recipe relies on a careful mise en place and well-timed steps so this will make it a lot easier!

2. Preheat an oven to 190°C (or 375°F). Butter a cake pan and add some flour to it, then tap out the excess.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, almonds, baking powder and salt. (I found it easiest to put this bowl on top of the scales and measuring out the flour first and add everything else on top of it)

4. In your largest bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until it’s smooth and creamy and has gone a shade lighter.

5. Beat in one yolk at a time, making sure it’s mixed well before adding the next one. When all 6 yolks are added, beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

6. Add the chopped walnuts to the flour-almond-baking powder mix.

7. Beat the egg whites until stiff and smooth. Make sure it’s stiff by holding it above your head. If it falls on you, wash it off and carry on beating!

8. This is the slightly laborious bit. Add one spatula-full of the egg whites to the butter-sugar mix and fold it in really carefully. Then add a spatula of the flour mixture and fold in carefully. Repeat until you’ve folded in all the egg whites and all the flour mixture.

9. This is roughly what it should look like – light and fluffy and lighter in colour than the butter mixture. Pour it into your floured cake tin.

10. Drain the cherries from the can and halve them. Take the dried cherries out of the water and halve them as well. Mix the two together and decorate the top of the cake with the cherries, pressing them down gently into the batter so they stick. If you get cherry juices into the batter, all the better!

11. Bake for 30 minutes and check if it’s cooked by quickly touching the cake. It should spring back gently. If your finger sinks into the batter, you know something is wrong…

After it’s been in the oven for half an hour, check on it every 5 minutes. Ideally it should looked cooked as below, but still be light and springy. When it’s done, remove the cake and leave it to cool in the tin.

Remove it once it’s cooled down and devour with some strong coffee!

Jo étvágyat! (Bon apetit!)

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