Although I love desserts in general, cakes have a special place in my heart, perhaps because I always felt special eating them as a child.
Gateau St. Honore and Black Forrest Cake are two of my absolute favorites. My dream as a child was to be able to make them myself. So far, St Honore is a little too labor intensive for me to tackle. As for the Black Forrest, I’m surprised it took me this long to fulfill my childhood dream.
It amazes me how I thought that the versions of deserts I had as a child were the ultimate in satisfaction. Looking back, they were considerably less than the ultimate–case in point, Black Forrest Cake.
Chocolate and cherries are the main ingredients, but the cake I devoured shamelessly as a kid didn’t use fresh cherries and the chocolate was a commercial kind with minimal amount of flavor. Still, I thought that cake was the bomb. I suppose I was such a hungry rabbit even then that I would eat anything and everything.
For my recipe, I don’t call it Black Forrest cake, because I took the liberty to make a minor change to the classic ingredients. Instead of a Whipped Cream Frosting, I opted to add cherries to a cream cheese frosting to maximize the flavor of the seasonal sour cherries. It will be good with a classic whipped cream frosting, but why not break tradition and create new memories of something greater?
Cherry Chocolate Cake
yield: one 9-inch cake
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons (6 ounces/1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350℉. Combine chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder in small bowl; pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth; set aside, cool to room temperature.
2. Spray two 9-inch-round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line bottoms with parchment. Spray paper rounds, dust pans with flour, and knock out excess. In a medium bowl, add flour, baking soda and salt, whisk to combine.
3. In the bowl of standing mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars on medium-low speed until sugar is moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla; increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 45 seconds.
4. Stop the mixer, add chocolate, then beat on medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds (don’t worry if batter appears broken). Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream (in 2 additions), beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat in each addition until barely combined. Remove bowl from mixer, stir batter by hand with rubber spatula to ensure there are no streaks of flour left on the bottom of the bowl. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; spread batter to edges of pans with small off-set spatula and smooth surfaces.
5. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in pans 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard paper rounds. Cool cakes to room temperature, at least 1 hour. (Cooled cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.)
3 pounds sour cherries (about 6 cups), pitted
1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup kirsch or port
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt; add cherries and toss well to combine. Pour kirsch over cherries; let stand 30 minutes.
2. Cook cherry mixture over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until juices are thickened (you can draw trail a wooden spoon/rubber spatula on the bottom of the pan.)
3. Remove from heat, drain cherries in colander set over medium bowl, reserve cherry liquid.
Cherry Cream Frosting
24 tablespoons (12 ounces/3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4-1/2 cups (18 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
24 ounces cream cheese, cut into 24 pieces and softened
3/4 cup reserved cherry liquid from Cherry Filling recipe
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix butter, sugar, and salt on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add reserved cherry liquid, tablespoon at a time, and mix until combined, about 1 minute. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 2 days.
Chocolate Cake layers
Cherry Cream Frosting
1 pint of sweet cherries, Bing or Ranier, for garnish (optional)
1. With a serrated knife, slice each cake layer horizontally into two even layers. Place one cake layer on the bottom of cake stand or serving platter. Spread a layer of frosting over cake layer; top with one third of Cherry Filling. Repeat with the remaining cake layers and cherry filling.
2. Spread remaining frosting evenly over top and sides of cake. Garnish with cherries. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for 2 days.)