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As promised here is the first in the series of St. Valentines Day recipes…

Chocolate and Cherry, a time-honored coterie. As far as we can find the combination of Cherries and Chocolate originated in South-West Germany.  In the sixteenth century “Xocolat” or chocolate was a rising delicacy throughout Europe with the help of Spanish conquests of the new world, but not until the eighteenth century was cocoa powder introduced to baking. To coax the masses, Germans served  a sidecar of Kirsch with chocolate cake. Kirschwasser or Kirsch is a double distilled brandy from cultivated Morello Cherries; contrary to the typical sour taste of Morellos a fine kirsch will be subtle in cherry flavor with notes of bitter almond derived from the pit or stone during fermentation process. Eventually the dry cocoa powder cake was beloved through improvisation of “wetting” with Kirsch for a rich moist cake and then topping it with whipped cream and  maraschino cherries, today we recognize this dessert as Black Forest Cake.

Chocolate Cake Ingredients

1 cup Ghirardelli 100% Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 &1/2s cups Cake Flour (Swans Down)
2 &1/2s cups Superfine Sugar (Domino)
1 tbs Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Iodized Salt
2 large Whole Eggs
1 large Egg Yolk
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1 &1/4 cup Whole Milk, Vitamin D
1 cup warm Water

Additional Chocolate Cake Ingredients (for filling and decorating)
1/4 cup Cherry Brandy / Kirsch / Cherry Liquor
1/4 cup shaved 60% Chocolate
10-20 Maraschinos Cherries (high quality deep reddish black are best if available, we used organic without red dyes)

Important Note: Again, take specific note to the type of Cocoa powder you are using. We have found that generic store brand, Nestle, and Hershey Cocoa Powder have an undesirable bitter taste and is not of the highest quality. We purchased Ghirardelli Cocoa from WalMart however if it is not available where you are we also suggest Guittard or any Dutch Processed 100% Cocoa Powder.

Chocolate Cake Directions

  1. Preheat oven 350 degrees Fahrenheit and adjust rack to center position.
  2. Grease two 8×2″ rounds (preferably spring-form) line bottoms of rounds with parchment paper and grease top of paper (this step is of the utmost importance).
  3. In stand mixer with paddle attachment or large mixing bowl with hand mixer: Sift together Cocoa, Flour, Sugar, BS and Salt. Add the Egg, Oil, Milk, Water and mix on low until fully mixed, about 3 minutes, take note to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl.
  4. Divide batter evenly between the two rounds and place both in oven on the center rack. Bake for a total of 45 minutes, 25 minutes in rotate cake rounds. Test doneness with butter knife, insert into the center of the cake, when it comes out clean the cake is done.
  5. Place rounds on cooling rack for 15 minutes to cool then with butter knife loosen the cake from the round and cool on rack 15 minutes. Flip cake over for an additional 15 minutes to cool evenly. Improper cooling causes sticky doughy cakes and often result in a sinking center.
  6. Once cakes are fully cooled, with cake knife or long serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface for stacking.
  7. With basting brush, evenly “wet” the cakes with Cherry liquor. This will provide richness and moisture to the cake. (If you don’t want the alcohol you can use maraschino cherry juice or a simple syrup by boiling equal parts sugar and water until it has a slightly thickened pourable consistency and adding almond extract for deep cherry flavor.)
  8. Place the most evenly flat of the two cakes on a serving platter.  Atop the first layer, sprinkle desired amount of shaved chocolate as well as ten of the maraschino cherries chopped. The remaining cherries will be used for decoration on the buttercream.
  9. Place second cake atop the first with the most flat side facing down for a sturdy base.
  10. Frost cakes with Chocolate Buttercream : directions below with Buttercream recipe.

*****CUPCAKES*****ALTERNATE*****

I believe this recipe would make delicious cupcakes as well. Bake those at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

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Chocolate Buttercream Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb Unsalted Butter (conversion: 4oz, 8tbs,1/2 cup or 1 stick)
  • 3 cups Confectioners Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Ghirardelli 100% Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/3 cup Whole Milk, Vitamin D

Important Note: Take specific note to the type of Cocoa powder you are using. We have found that generic store brand, Nestle, and Hershey Cocoa Powder have an undesirable bitter taste and is not of the highest quality. We purchased Ghirardelli Cocoa from WalMart however if it is not available where you are we also suggest Guittard or any Dutch Processed 100% Cocoa Powder.

Chocolate Buttercream Directions

  1. In stand mixer with paddle attachment or with medium blow and hand-mixer beat the butter until light and fluffy.
  2. In second bowl sift together Sugar and Cocoa.
  3. Beat into the butter the dry ingredients-in thirds alternating with the addition of the milk.
  4. Blend until smooth.

Frosting Directions

To achieve the “from the bakery” cake the frosting should be almost perfectly smooth on top. As a former bakery cake decorator here are my (Kate’s) tips:
•The first layer of frosting is called the crumb coat. This is a very thin layer that you apply and let dry partially to catch the crumbs and seal the moisture into the cake. Evenly and carefully frost an 1/8″ layer of frosting over entire cake with a large angled spatula,  flat side of a butter knife or bowl scraper.
•Applying the top coat of frosting: Start with a generous amount of frosting on your angled spatula and with the spatula handle pointed straight down (parallel to the cake) and the blade at a 30 degree angle on the side of the cake, rotate around the cake in a steady motion. If you have the cake on a lazy Suzan it will make rotation easier. When all of the sides are covered with a layer of top coat frosting clean the blade of your spatula and run hot water over it, taking note not to wipe the spatula dry. The warmth and water will help you smooth out lines and even out the thickness of the frosting.
Frost the top of the cake in the same way only parallel to the top of the cake and swooping the blade in a 3/4 rotation then pulling the blade off of the edge of the cake to finish frosting. Follow smoothing instructions as previously stated and smooth the ridge of the top of the cake.
•While frosting is wet :  Position Maraschino Cherries evenly around the top of the cake to finish.
•Refrigerate cake for one hour before serving to set the frosting.
•Our preferred way to eat this is the day after, warmed in the microwave for ten second and drizzled with a fresh layer of Kirsch of Maraschino Juice; a cold glass of milk pairs well.
•Cake can be out at room temperature covered for no more than three days or frozen for two months. Refrigerating the cake is best if your home is above 72 degrees Fahrenheit but may dry out the cake.
•Frosted cakes are best frozen uncovered and then sealed airtight after hardened. Defrost cake while sealed in refrigerator overnight.

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Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, edited by Louis Evan Grivetti [John Wiley & Sons:Hoboken NJ] 2009 (p. 746)
All Along the Danube, Marina Polvay, expanded edition [Hippocrene Books:New York] 2002 (p. 6-7)
Lichine, Alexis. Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 292.
“Original Black Forest Cake” — Linda Greer . “Black Forest Cake recipe”. Allrecipes.com. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
Antony Worrall Thompson (1970-01-01). “Black Forest Cake recipe with Kirschwasser”. Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-16.

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8 thoughts on “Decadent Chocolate Cherry Layer Cake”

  1. Oh, this looks wonderful! I'm following a sugar, grain and dairy-free diet and the thing I miss more than anything is chocolate cake. This is the type of cake I go to bed dreaming about...
  2. Oh, this looks wonderful! I'm following a sugar, grain and dairy-free diet and the thing I miss more than anything is chocolate cake. This is the type of cake I go to bed dreaming about...
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