Because cherries right now are plentiful, affordable, and at their best. Because everyone loves a good chocolate cake. Because my obsession with Italian meringue buttercream continues. And because when all three are combined you have a cake that absolutely no one can resist.
I give you, Cherry Chocolate Cake with Cherry Vanilla Buttercream.
Growing up my Dad’s favorite cake, the one my Mom would bake for him on his birthday, was a very simple cherry chocolate cake. It was just a boxed cake mix with a can of cherry pie filling added but it was a treat that I grew to look forward to each year.
Fast forward fifteen or so years and I can’t remember the last time I had a piece or even thought about it. Then during some down time at Evo a few weeks ago, my friend Kelley told me about some brownies she had made with fresh cherries and how incredible they were.
It was like a light bulb went on in my head. Not only did I at once remember the cherry chocolate cake of my youth, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I had to recreate it.
And so I did. I started with a basic devils food cake and added about half a pound of pitted cherries directly into the batter before baking. The filling I created is essentially an improved homemade version of cherry pie filling, made with cherries, kirsch (a cherry liquor), and some sugar. I would have been more than happy to eat that all by itself.
My Mom always iced my Dad’s cake with a chocolate glaze, but I decided I wanted something lighter. I whipped up some Italian meringue buttercream and flavored it with more kirsch and vanilla.
Not only is it a beautiful dessert, but it was exactly what I had hoped it would be— cherries meets chocolate in a sophisticated cake.
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutch processed
1 1/4 cup hot water
3 cups packed light brown sugar
2 2/3 cup cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup coffee, at room temperature
8 ounces sweet cherries, pitted and sliced into small pieces
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three eight inch cake pans, line them with parchment paper and butter the parchment paper. Add some flour to each pan and roll around until completely coated, pouring out any excess.
Put the cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Add the hot water and stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, blend until combined. Add the butter and dissolved cocoa and beat on medium speed until moistened. Then raise the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the vanilla and coffee until combined. Add the liquid to the batter in 3 additions, scraping down the side of the bowl often. Fold in the chopped cherries. Divide the batter between the 3 prepared cake pans.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
Place one cake layer on a serving plate or stand. With a pastry bag fitted with a medium plain tip, pipe a small dam of Italian meringue buttercream (recipe follows) around the edge. Spread one third of the cherry filling (recipe follows) onto the cake layer. Repeat with the remaining cake layers. Frost the cake with the icing and garnish with cherries.
See my tips for building a layered cake for additional help.
1 pound sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup kirsch liquor
1/3 cup sugar
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook for about 15 minutes, until the cherries have softened and the liquid is slightly thickened. Skim any foam off the top of the mixture as it cooks. Let it cool completely.
Cherry Vanilla Italian Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Cake Art
Makes 4 cups
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
4 egg whites
2 cups (1 pound) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon kirsch liquor
Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it boils, stop stirring and insert a candy thermometer.
Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixture to soft peaks. When the sugar is at 238 degrees, add it to the egg whites in a slow steady stream with the mixer on medium speed.
Increase the speed to high and beat until cooled to room temperature.
Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, while continuing to mix on medium high speed. Add the vanilla and kirsch. Increase the speed to high and beat until smooth.