I don’t really consider myself a chocolate fanatic. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate as much as the next guy, but I almost always pass the chocolate offerings on a menu in favour of something else. I know I’m inviting scorn for saying this, but for me, chocolate desserts fit squarely in the category of “predictably good”. It’s really difficult to screw up a chocolate dessert, so they are almost always good, leaving very little for the imagination. Call me a risk taker, but I’ll toss the dice any day on a fruit dessert over a chocolate one.
On rare occasion, I suddenly get an acute craving for for something intensely chocolaty. It appears out of nowhere, like a gust of wind whooshing up from a subway vent, and subsides just as quickly, but in the throws of chocolate lust, I want nothing more than to sink my teeth into a moist, luscious piece of ebony chocolate cake.
This chocolate sour cherry cake was conjured up during one of those episodes, striking a nice balance between fruity and chocolaty. I’ve never been much of a baker, but the cake is pretty forgiving and the cherry syrup ensures that the cake will stay moist while infusing it with the wonderfully tart flavour of the sour cherries.
I made these preserved cherries myself, but you should be able to find them in jars, lightly sweetened and packed in their own juices.
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C light brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 C good quality unsweetend cocoa (I love Scharffen Berger)
1 1/2 sticks melted unsalted butter at room temperature
2 oz melted chocolate (70% Scharffen Berger is good)
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 C Greek (strained) yogurt
1/2 C pitted sour cherries in juice
1/2 C sour cherry juice
1 Tbs Kirsch
1 pint cold heavy cream
1/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Move the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9″ cake pan (you can line the bottom with parchment paper, but I don’t).
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cocoa in the bowl of a mixer using a fork.
Whisk the butter, chocolate, eggs and vanilla together in separate bowl then whisk in the yogurt. Add the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix using the paddle attachment of the mixer until just combined.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and level off the top. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with only a few moist crumbs. When it’s done, allow the cake to cool on a rack.
Invert the cake onto a flat surface and slice the cake in half, to make 2 layers. If you find it hard to cut even layers with a knife, try using unflavoured dental floss. Just cut off a long strand and wrap it right around the waistline of the cake. Tie a single knot and pull the ends to cinch the knot closed, and suddenly the floss will disappear into the cake as it cuts an even layer right through to the middle.
Add the Kirsch to the sour cherry juice then spoon about 1/4 C of sour cherry juice onto each half of the cake, making sure to get all around the edges. Whip the cream until you see soft peaks then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and whip until it holds peaks, be careful not to over whip.
Sprinkle the bottom layer of the cake with sour cherries (saving a few for the top), then cover with half of the whipped cream. Put the second layer of cake on top and cover with the rest of the cream. Decorate with a few cherries in the middle of the cake.