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.

Bake Sale to Breakers

Here are 18+ Reasons to have your cake and eat it too!

When we awoke Saturday morning Jason still had chocolate frosting to make, and a cake to frost before we headed out the door to this year’s Food Blogger Bake Sale. The Cook’s Illustrated chocolate frosting recipe that accompanies their old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe is amazing and will undoubtedly become part of our culinary repertoire. With no powdered sugar and lots of butter and chocolate, this frosting is similar to a ganache but with a nice caramel touch. We couldn’t stop licking the spoons and bowls this morning, which added a much-needed boost to get us out the door. Our breakfast consisted of frosting and coffee, a perfect start to a bake sale morning.

The sale was hosted by 18 Reasons in the Mission near Bi-Rite and Tartine Bakery. The tables inside this tiny space were already overflowing with wonderful looking cookies, cupcakes, pies, breads, and more when we arrived with our 2 cakes, 6 jars of granola, and 4 loaves of bread. The space was small and cozy and we kept bumping into each other trying to find room for all the goodies.

It's just like riding a bike. The first cake Jason has frosted in years.

The bake sale pulled in $2,400 in support of Share Our Strength’s mission to end childhood hunger in the USA. Yes, it’s a bit ironic to hold a Bake Sale to end hunger. But if we’re going to eat our cake anyway, why not do so in support of those who have nothing. As San Franciscans we know how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful city with all it’s culinary privileges. But the city hasn’t always been so lucky and a hundred years ago, San Francisco was just starting to rebuild after the devastating earthquake of 1906. What a great capstone on a beautiful, if a bit wet, weekend to run Bay to Breakers in celebration of San Francisco’s enduring resilience, as well as to eat a piece of cake or two.

And what better way to burn off all the calories from Saturday’s Bake Sale than to run across the city at 7:00 am? Well, we can think of a lot of better ways, but when the whole city is going to a party so early on a Sunday morning, in this case the 100th running of B2B, we had to join in on the fun with the other 60,000+ revelers. We’re not the costume wearing sort or the nude runner kinds of guys. We wore our typical, boring running shorts, t-shirts, and shoes. But, run we must and run we did.

Of course, it would have been a much better run had we not drunk two bottles of wine the night before and ate dinner so late in the evening that we felt we were on Buenos Aires time. But even with the wine and late night dining our times were respectable. Jason ran the course in 1:00 and 15 seconds (not the under 1 hour he was hoping for) and Steve ran it in 1:06 and 57 seconds. Had we taken the run seriously we could have both finished in under an hour. Something to think about before we run the San Francisco Half Marathon later this summer at – gasp – 5:45 a.m. We must remember: no booze the night before, no midnight dining, and early to bed. Of course, a slice of cake or a croissant will be mandatory before and after the run. The wheels are already turning for the menu planning.