Chocolate Cherry Cake aka Hot Mess

This is shaping up to be a tasty year of cake experiments. After Steve’s ambitious spring birthday cake attempt (and a great teaching moment for Jason), we decided we needed to bake more cakes. We both love a good dessert and Steve has wanted to learn to bake and decorate cakes for ages.

We bought a big jar of cherries at Trader Joe’s several months ago and they’ve been sitting in our pantry just begging to be opened. So, this summer, with our sights set squarely on the next cake experiment, we popped the lid on that jar of cherries and went to work on a chocolate cherry cake.

The idea was to bake a small 6″ round which we topped with a large muffin-sized cake followed by a small cupcake. The proportions worked nicely. The finished cake was just the right size for a small dinner party or for a duo like us who could put the whole thing away in just a few days of snacking.

To develop the cherry flavor, we used a bit of the jarred cherry brine in the batter. Chopped cherries added more cherry flavor and texture to the cupcakes. Finally, we filled the layers of the 6″ cake round with chopped cherries and whipped chocolate ganache. And because that wasn’t going to be enough chocolate, we finished the cake with more (non-whipped) chocolate ganache. This final embellishment, as it turned out, was a bit of a “mess” as the piped finishing ganache turned into a work of modern art. In truth, it looked a little like someone had some fun with chocolate silly string! [Someone needs to create edible chocolate silly string!!]

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Chocolate Cherry Cake
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Unsalted butter, softened, for pans
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup warm cherry syrup
3 tablespoons safflower oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped morello cherries

Chocolate Cherry Ganache Frosting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans (2 inches deep) or one 6-inch round cake and about 9 muffin tins and/or a few mini muffin tins; dust with cocoa. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer, faceup, to wire racks. Let cool completely.

Chocolate Cherry Ganache Frosting

4 ounces dark chocolate
1 ounce cherry liquid
3 ounces heavy cream

Chop the chocolate and place in a medium sized heat proof bowl. Heat the liquids to just before boiling point, then pour the liquids over the chocolate. Allow to sit for a few minutes before whisking. Whisk until smooth. Allow to cool.

For glaze: place some in a plastic Baggie and pipe the chocolate, in a drizzly fashion.

For chocolate frosting: allow the ganache to cool for 30-40 minutes. Using a mixer, whisk until light and fluffy 1-2 minutes.

Add chopped cherries to some of the frosting for the inner layers. Use the remaining frosting to frost the cake.

Happy 4th of July Birthday Cake!

This 4th of July Birthday Cake was baked in our kitchen. As it turns out, we do not enjoy (suffer?) the sorts of summer temperatures other folks in the USA enjoy. In spite of our California address and proximity to the beach, summer in San Francisco is a chilly affair. “June gloom” turns to July gloom. July gloom gives way to August gloom. You get the picture. So, while the rest of the country celebrates summer in the warmth of their backyards, we don our hoodies, crank up the oven, and bake our hearts out!

Our cake was inspired by, and is a modification of, the gorgeous blueberry cake created by The Little Epicurean. Maryanne is a wildly talented baker who shares her creations on her excellent blog. We wanted to play with flavor and color by creating this patriotic take on Old Glory. Freeze dried strawberries and blueberries bring beautiful color to the cake and frosting. Lemony cream custard adds a nice pale stripe between the blue cake layers. The resulting flavors are bright and fruity and summery.

We’ll be thinking of the rest of you lounging about your backyards soaking up the sun and sweating in your 90+ degree weather. For us, a windy July daytime high of 60 means multiple layers and a blazing oven. But we’ll still be enjoying an ice-cold beer or two as we celebrate the nation’s birthday and all the good stuff summer brings!

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Blueberry Cake with Lemon Mousse and Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Blueberry Cake

Adapted and inspired by: The Little Epicurean 

1 6 inch round cake & 1 dozen cupcakes

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp lemon zest
4 large eggs, room temperature
6 oz kefir, room temperature
7 oz blueberries, pureed and strained
1.2 oz package freeze dried blueberries, unsweetened, ground*
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter, flour, and line with parchment a 6-inch cake pan. Butter and flour a muffin tin or add muffin liners to the tin. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add lemon zest. Add eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated.

In a measuring cup, combine kefir, blueberry puree, blueberry powder, and vanilla.

Alternate adding flour mixture and kefir mixture into creamed butter. Mix until just incorporated. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing.

Divide batter into prepared cake round and cupcake tin. Level batter using a mini offset spatula or the back of spoon.

Bake cupcakes for 15-20 minutes; bake 6” cake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan on a rack before removing from cake pan. Can be prepared a day in advance or up to a week or more if freezing the cake.

White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Mousse

Adapted from: Epicurious

1.5 ounces white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt
1/4 cup homemade or store bought lemon curd

Combine white chocolate and 1 tablespoon whipping cream in a medium metal or heat-safe glass bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir constantly until chocolate is soft and almost melted. Remove bowl from over water and stir until white chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool white chocolate mousse base to room temperature. Add the lemon curd and whisk until incorporated. Set aside.

Beat remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream in large chilled bowl until firm peaks form. Gently fold in the cooled lemon curd and white chocolate. Set in the fridge to cool until ready to use,

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Inspired by: The Little Epicurean

1.2 oz package freeze dried strawberries, unsweetened, ground in blender
10 ounces powdered sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp milk or whipping cream
pinch of salt

Sift the ground strawberries and powdered sugar together, discard the strawberry seeds. Set aside.

Cream together butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl as necessary to ensure mixture is smooth.

Add vanilla, milk or whipping cream, and blend together. On low speed of the mixer, add the strawberry powder and powdered sugar. Mix until throughly blended and smooth. Add additional milk or whipping cream, 1/2 tsp. at a time, until smooth and spreadable.

Assembling and Frosting the cake

Split the cake horizontally so you have two layers. Add a good amount of the white chocolate and lemon curd mousse to one of the layers and smooth out to the edge. Add the top layer of cake and smooth around the edge to crumb coat the cake with a little of the mousse. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or up to a day.

When ready to frost, remove the cake from the freezer and frost with the strawberry cream cheese frosting.

Coat fresh blueberries in warmed apricot jam and strain off the remaining jam. Decorate the cake with the blueberries. Enjoy!