Cherry Chocolate Cake

My wife likes chocolate, but she loves cherries. Seeing it was her birthday recently, I thought I’d combine the two and make a special chocolate cherry cake. Sounds simple enough — just search the internet for cherry chocolate cake, and something yummy will pop up, right? Wrong. Well, there are a lot of recipes for a chocolate cake that had cherry pie filling in the middle. I wanted there to be bits of cherries in the chocolate cake batter. And cherry flavor in the icing and in the filling, too. So I started to improvise. The results were pretty damn good — not perfect — but that’s where you come in!

I try not to post recipes before I’ve pretty much perfected them, but I’m going to make an exception here, simply because I want feedback from the pastry chefs out there of where I might have gone wrong. This was a recipe I pretty much created on my own — a cake recipe at that. And that’s a pretty damn dangerous proposition, as baking without a tried and true recipe can lead to disaster. Fortunately, I found a recipe on Epicurious that would be my base, but then I seriously deviated from there.

I didn’t have any dried cherries, but I had frozen dark cherries. I decided that I’d thaw them out and add a little kirsch. I then threw the cherry mix into a food processor for just a few pulses. I strained the juices, saving that for the icing, whereas the chopped cherries went into the cake batter.

And I didn’t use icing between the layers — I used a sour cherry jam, as I wanted a sour contrast to the rest of the cake.

My problem came with the icing. I tried to use a buttercream icing, using the cherry juice as a coloring and flavoring agent. I don’t think I had enough confectioner’s sugar for one thing, as the icing sort of separated, as you might be able to see in the photo below.

In the end, the cake was very tasty, and if I can get the icing down, it could be a staple in the house. The cake itself is fairly dense and fudgy, which is what I wanted. I could also see doing this with a much lighter type of cake. There’s all sorts of options available, as cherries and chocolate make a great combination.

Cherry Chocolate Cake

  • 1-12 ounce bag frozen dark cherries, thawed
  • 1/4 cup kirsch
  • 6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cherry jam or preserves

Butter and flour two 9 inch cake pans. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine cherries and kirsch. Pulse in a food processor until cherries are coarsely chopped. Strain cherries through a fine sieve, saving the liquid for use in the icing (below).

Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave or over a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Whisk in granulated sugar and vanilla. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add flour and salt, stirring until just combined, and fold in chopped cherries.

Divide batter among cake pans and bake in middle of oven about 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Turn cakes out onto a rack and cool.

Cherry Icing (warning, needs improvement!)

  • 1 pound confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons reserved cherry juice

In large bowl, beat together sugar, butter, and cherry juice until smooth. If necessary, add more milk until frosting is spreading consistency.


Place one cake on a large plate. Spread cherry jam evenly and then top with other cake. Ice with cherry icing.

This cake is very good chilled, too.


8 Responses to Cherry Chocolate Cake

  1. I’m not a pastry chef by any means, but I’m thinking the cake could have used some “Sprinkles.” 😉

  2. MB says:

    I hate you Dean because I gained 2 pounds in my hips just looking at that damn cake.

    Since it was her birthday I would have suggested candles not sprinkles 🙂

  3. Rochelle says:

    I think it might have helped to reduce the cherry juice, and then add extra cherry flavor to the frosting with a spoonful of kirsch.

    Have you tried making an Italian buttercream before? I think it’s far superior to the American buttercream you made. I use the Cake Bible recipes and haven’t had a problem with separation.

  4. clairebell says:

    I would agree with Rochelle, but also look at the French Vanilla Cream. It’s glossy when it sets.

    Maybe the acidity of the cherry juice reacted with the fats in the butter?

  5. Fuzzy says:

    If you completely cream the butter/sugar for the icing first, you *should* be able to add pretty much whatever you want afterward.

    Random suggestion: what if you plan on making the buttercream as a separate entity with just a bit of cherry flavor or color, then dot the cake with half-cherries (either fresh dark one (pitted and sliced in half) or maybe from a jar).

    Or you could try to make a finely chopped cherry salsa and fold that into the buttercream, but that might look um. . . odd.

    And I’m brainstorming here, but what if you put a regular buttercream layered with cherries between the layers (and use more layers) and then coat the whole thing with a thick cherry glaze instead of regular icing?

  6. phoebe says:

    vote #3 for a real buttercream. with an italian meringue or even french buttercream you will have a much more stable base to add flavorings too. i do rlb’s swiss meringue, which is an italian meringue with the addition of a creme anglaise…heaven!

  7. Brooks says:

    Diamonds, travel, roses, whatever.

    If you love them, truly love them…

    Let ’em eat cake!

  8. Neryma says:

    I like the idea of reducing the cherry juice before adding- and I dont know about Italian icing- but it sounds great- and how about dicing fresh cherries and sprinkling them just on the top-
    also the laying sliced cherries and icing in between cake layers sounds delicous!
    I plan to try to experiment with the recipe also! Ill post again If I find something that works!
    great idea! and I LOVE cherries too!

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