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Chocolate cherry cake

Spring has sprung, which means bountiful supplies of juicy cherries which can be put to use in a layered chocolate cake that's a riff on a Black Forest.

By Brigitte Hafner
  • Serves 10
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 55 mins cooking
Chocolate cherry cake

About every year, just after Christmas, my uncle Wilfred brings me a box of freshly picked morello cherries from his farm in Gippsland. I love them. I make one pot of red wine pickle because pickled cherries are great with terrines, as well as roasted pork and confit duck later in the year. Then I cook another pot in sugar syrup to make cherry compote, which I use when I bake my version of my mother's Black Forest cake that I like to call chocolate cherry cake (see the recipe below). As kids, it was our most requested birthday cake. She uses a Sacher torte recipe as the base but mine is a little lighter and is finished with ganache and chocolate curls.

Cherries come from the Young and Orange districts of NSW, and Wandin, Wangaratta and Shepparton in Victoria. They can be very drought-affected, so let's hope we have good crops this year. Of the many varieties that come out from October to February (their peak season is in summer), some are a deep red, such as the Black Douglas, and others have a paler flesh inside. Cherries should be shiny and plump with green stems. They keep best in the fridge and, once pitted, will lose their juice, so use them promptly.

I refuse to buy Californian cherries in the middle of our winter because they don't have half the flavour of cherries grown and picked here. Also, eating cherries seasonally makes me cherish them because I have to wait a whole year until they're back.

From now until January, I'll be enjoying cherries in syrup over ice-cream, cherry jam, cherry crostata with lemon-scented pastry and walnuts, and cherry clafoutis - a French dessert of cherries doused in kirsch liqueur baked with a batter over the top. Fresh out of the oven, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with fresh cream, it's delicious.

Ingredients

  • 150 gm dark chocolate (54% cocoa solids)
  • 150 gm butter, softened
  • 170 gm caster sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 150 gm self-raising flour, sifted
  • 3 tsp cornflour
  • 50 ml kirsch, plus extra to drizzle
  • 250 ml (1 cup) pouring cream
  • To serve: chocolate curls (see note)
Cherry compote
  • 330 gm (1½ cups) caster sugar
  • 500 gm pitted cherries
Ganache
  • 150 gm dark chocolate (54% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped
  • 140 ml pouring cream

Method

Main
  • 1
    For cherry compote, combine sugar and 500ml of water in a saucepan and cook, stirring over medium heat, until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, add cherries, bring to boil again, reduce heat and simmer until cherries are tender (5 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside. Makes 1 litre of cherries and juice.
  • 2
    Preheat oven to 175C. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cool slightly. Beat butter and 150gm caster sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (4-8 minutes), then add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add melted chocolate and stir to combine, then fold in flour in batches. Whisk eggwhites to soft peaks, then fold through chocolate mixture. Pour into a greased and baking paper-lined 23cm spring-form pan and bake until a skewer withdraws clean (30-40 minutes). Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.
  • 3
    Meanwhile, drain juice from cherries (reserving 180ml and discarding remaining). Place cherries in a bowl. Mix cornflour with 20ml reserved cherry juice to make a paste. Combine remaining cherry juice, drained cherries and cornflour paste in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens (2-3 minutes). Add 30ml kirsch and set aside to cool.
  • 4
    For ganache, melt chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (3-5 minutes). Remove from heat and stir until smooth and glossy.
  • 5
    Whisk cream and remaining sugar until stiff peaks form, add remaining kirsch and whisk briefly to combine. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
  • 6
    Halve cake horizontally, drizzle base generously with kirsch, spread with cream and spoon over cherry compote. Sandwich with top half of cake. Drizzle with more kirsch, then pour over ganache and scatter with chocolate curls.

Notes

ALSO IN SEASON
FRUIT
Bananas, lychees, melons, papayas, pawpaw, pineapples.
VEGETABLES
Artichokes, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, sweetcorn, tomato.
SEAFOOD
Blue swimmer crab, flathead, flounder, ling, mulloway, orange roughy, oreo, pilchard, salmon, scallop, school prawn, rock lobster, shark, snapper, trevally, squid, tuna, whiting, yabby.
Note For chocolate curls, melt dark chocolate, spread thinly onto a marble slab or inverted heavy tray, set aside until firm. Scrape with a knife at a 45-degree angle (away from you) to create curls.