Chocolate Cherry Almond Cake
This week’s cake of the week holds very special memories for me. I first made this cake over ten years ago when I was expecting my second child. It was the middle of summer. It was hot and I was 7 and a half months pregnant. I was already uncomfortable and I still had almost two months left before out little bundle of joy was expected to enter the world. We had gone cherry picking and had some fresh cherries hanging around, so I made this cake. I credit this cake for getting me through one week of that uncomfortable time. My husband doesn’t remember the cake at all. That could be because I ate practically the whole thing by myself.
Anyway, flash forward 10 and a half years later and we are in the middle of winter when fresh cherries are nowhere to be found. I had a hankering for this cake, though (and no, there are no buns in the oven this time!), so I did some tweaking and the result is just as good if not better than my memory of the cake.
To make this cake in winter, you will need to find jarred or canned sour cherries in light syrup. I had a jar of Morello cherries that I got from Trader Joe’s just before Christmas. However, when I went last week, there were no cherries to be found. I did see some at the grocery store that were tinned, though. Just be sure you are buying cherries in syrup and not cherry pie filling. That won’t work here. For this recipe, you’ll need 12 ounces of drained cherries and 1/2 cup of the juice. The cherries from one 24.7 ounce jar from TJ’s measured two heaping cups of cherries.
You may find that if you have to use canned cherries that you will have some left over. They are great in smoothies. In fact, we kept the leftover syrup in the jar and drank it with soda water to make homemade cherry soda. Do not be tempted to use more cherries in the recipe, though. It will make the cake too wet and soggy.
I baked this on a snowy day. We ate it warm and it was light and fluffy and heavenly. It almost melted in our mouths. After it cools to room temperature, it starts to get more fudgey, but it is still moist and delicious. The cake keeps well for up to four days at room temperature if you can make it last that long. We had it for breakfast and dessert.
It was fabulous and the best part is that you can bake it any time of year you want. Though I did not do it, I think this cake would also be wonderful cut into heart shaped pieces and served for Valentine’s Day. The baker gets to eat all the offcuts:) To make it even more decadent, serve with a mug of Mexican Hot Chocolate.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY ALMOND CAKE
(adapted from Gourmet, July 2003)
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup (2 1/4 oounces) unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup reserved cherry juice from the cherries below
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 ounce) almond flour (this is optional, but nice if you have it)
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
12 ounces (a little over two cups) drained sour cherries from a 24.7 jar (keep the juice! You will need it)
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
Confectioner’s sugar for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour a 13 by 9 inch baking pan, preferably metal.
- Whisk the boiling water and cocoa powder in a bowl until smooth. Then, whisk in the 1/2 cup of cherry juice, the vanilla extract, and the almond extract. Set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and almond flour (if using).
- In a bowl of a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until very light, at least 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Add the flour mixture and cocoa mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour. The mixture might be a little curdled, but should also be fairly light and fluffy.
- Stir in the chocolate chips, dried cherries, and drained cherries until evenly distributed.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the batter.
- Bake 40-45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Test carefully in several places! The cherries can trap pockets of unbaked batter. Let cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving with an optional dusting of confectioner’s sugar. Makes 16-20 servings.