Glacé cherries are today seen as a bit of an old-fashioned ingredient. You may be advised to avoid them and either use fresh cherries instead or use the less garish, naturally coloured ones. I prefer to enjoy the nostalgia of them. Truth be told, I’m not much of a glacé cherry eater, but enjoy them on occasion in an old-fashioned cherry and almond cake or on top of a Fat Rascal from Bettys. Of course, cherries also signify celebration. Placed on top of a Knickerbocker Glory, now itself part of British seaside nostalgia, the cherry on top signifies that extra little bit of unnecessary indulgence, like a special birthday treat.
I had a very small number of glacé cherries to use up recently, unfortunately nowhere near enough to make a cake with them, but just enough to top a few buns or biscuits. I chose to make Empire Biscuits – another old-fashioned treat. They are the sorts of things you’d find in local bakeries or at coffee mornings, rather than in the trendier coffee shops that populate Glasgow’s West End.
Empire Biscuits are basically posh jammy dodgers. Two shortbread biscuits are sandwiched with jam, glazed with glacé icing, and a glacé cherry is placed on top. The recipe I used for them was from The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook: Mums Know Best! This is a great cookbook, featuring recipes from a variety of real home cooks – often the best sorts of recipes. This one is entitled ‘Mrs Miller’s Empire Biscuits’ and it is clear that Mrs Miller really knows how to make shortbread. The biscuits contain cornflour and icing sugar and, I think because of those ingredients, they really melted in the mouth. I used a homemade jam to sandwich them together (Nigella Lawson’s cranberry jam from Feast). They tasted unlike any shop-bought biscuit I’ve had before, although they were a bit messy to eat due to the generous quantity of jam and my inept and slightly clumsy icing skills. They were great for a special treat with a cup of tea, leaving me with very sticky fingers.