Fluffy Swiss meringue buttercream speckled with maraschino cherry chips surrounds three moist dark chocolate cake layers in this Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Cake. It’s a chocolate-covered cherry lover’s dream come true!
If you haven’t noticed, I’m having a chocolate-cherry moment. I just adore the two flavors. And cooking them up together in my kitchen usually heralds the upcoming sweetheart holiday. It’s hard to believe that Valentine’s Day is approaching so quickly!
This cake ticks all the boxes for chocolate cake lovers. With a perfect moist texture, deep chocolate flavor, and buttercream that’s not too sweet, it’s easy to enjoy a big slice. For me, cherry chip will always hold a bit of childhood nostalgia. I wanted this cake reflect that, and perhaps preserve those feelings a little. So I chose retro colors and frilly bakery-style borders for décor. I almost added an old school ballerina cake topper to the center. Maybe next time. (Or for my birthday this year.)
Coffee and chocolate, the power couple.
Begin this recipe with bar of semisweet baking chocolate and espresso powder dissolved in hot water. The coffee flavor is undetectable in the baked cake. And it enhances the chocolate so wonderfully, I urge you to use it. It adds depth of flavor and intensity to the chocolate. However, if you simply cannot tolerate caffeine, you can use hot water without the espresso powder.
Stir the chocolate into the espresso while it is still hot. Then whisk it together until the chocolate is completely dissolved.
Sifting is important!
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a big bowl. This includes more chocolate in the form of dark cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is notorious for clumping and it’s even prone to ball up with static electricity if stored in plastic. So, sift the cocoa powder for extra insurance.
Whip the eggs on high speed until they are thick, pale, and foamy just like the picture above. This will take about 3 minutes. Then, the sour cream, oil, vanilla extract, and the cooled liquid chocolate-coffee mixture gets mixed into the eggs. Next, the dry ingredients are mixed in, and the batter is ready.
Pour the batter into three 9-inch round cake pans. Expect it to be thin and pourable going into the pans. Because this cake has a high liquid ratio, the cakes won’t crown much. Therefore, you may not even need to level them after baking.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Swiss meringue buttercream has such a silky texture and it’s not quite as sweet as American buttercream. If you’ve never made it before, then you’re in luck! I have a video to share. I made it years ago, but just recycled it into a new video. It shows you the basics of getting this buttercream right. A very young Biscuit pug also makes an appearance – his muzzle is grey now but he’s just as handsome.
To make the frilly borders on the cake, remove some of the plain white frosting to piping bags fitted with decorator tips. Also tint a bowl of frosting pink, and another green. I’ll be sure to specify amounts, and the makers and numbers of each tip in the recipe.
A flurry of cherry chips!
Then, to the remaining frosting, add maraschino cherry juice and cherry chips. The pink color from the maraschino cherry juice will color the frosting and intensify over time. So if it looks too pale at first, just know that it will deepen as it stands.
Fill and frost the cake with the cherry chip buttercream. Just like the sprinkle frosting on the Oreo cake I made last week, I recommend an offset spatula instead of a cake smoother or bench scraper to apply the frosting. A bench scraper tends to drag the surface chips through the buttercream and make trails and pock marks. The offset spatula gives you a little more control.
Frilly finishing touches.
The cake’s design was unplanned, but I knew there should be some kind of bakery-style border on top. Instead of round swirls, I piped ovals.
Apply a frilly buttercream skirt with two colors of buttercream and two sizes of the same style piping tip.
At the last minute, I decided to triple up on the top swirls, with a layer of white and pink buttercream on top of the green.
The cherry on top is – exactly that! Pat them dry on paper towels before garnishing the cake. If there was any question, now there’s no mistaking this is a true Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Cake.
This is the chocolate cake to make when you want to show off a little. I’ve made and eaten a lot of chocolate cakes and this one – this chocolate sponge recipe – is my favorite of them all. The layers are baked low and slow, at 300°F for about 50 minutes. The batter is very liquid going into the pan, and baking it at a low temp. for a longer time ensures that not all of that moisture escapes as steam. It retains enough to make the cake so soft and moist.
Chocolate Maraschino Cherry Cake
9 inch cake pans (3)
Disposable piping bags (4)
Jumbo closed star tip Ateco 856 (1)
Large closed star tip Ateco 844(1)
Small closed star tip Ateco 30 (2)
Dark chocolate cake layers
- Flour-based baking spray for the pans
- 1 1/2 cups hot water almost boiling
- 3 tablespoons espresso powder
- 3 oz. semisweet chocolate finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 cups unsweet dark cocoa powder sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fine grain salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Maraschino cherry chip Swiss meringue buttercream
- 8 large egg whites about 1 cup or 8 oz.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon almond extract
- 1/4 teaspoon fine grain salt
- Pink gel food color
- Pastel green gel food color such as Wilton
- 1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice from the jar
- 3/4 cup chopped maraschino cherries patted dry on paper towels
- 12 whole maraschino cherries with stems patted dry
Dark chocolate cake layers
Preheat oven to 300°F.
Coat three 9-inch round cake pans with the flour-based baking spray. Alternatively, grease and flour the pans.
Place the hot water in a large glass measure with a pour spout. Stir in the espresso powder. Add the chopped chocolate and let stand for 2 minutes. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Sift together the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until they are pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, sour cream, vanilla extract, and the melted chocolate-espresso mixture. Add the flour mixture and mix on medium speed until combined.
Divide the batter between the three prepared pans (batter will be thin). Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the middles are slightly puffed and spring back when pressed in their centers. The layers won’t crown much so you shouldn’t have to level the cakes.
Let the cakes cool in the pans 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely. The cake layers can be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap.
Maraschino cherry chip Swiss meringue buttercream
Place a saucepan filled 1/3 full of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
In a large stainless-steel bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over the simmering water and cook while whisking intermittently. Cook until the mixture is hot (110°F) and you can no longer feel sugar granules when the mixture is rubbed between your finger and thumb. Transfer the hot mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes or until a thick, shiny meringue forms that holds stiff peaks. The bowl should feel cool to the touch. If it doesn’t, refrigerate the meringue in the bowl for 10 minutes. Return the bowl to the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment.
Beat the room temperature butter into the meringue one cube at a time on medium-low speed, waiting to add the next cube when the previous cube disappears. The batter will deflate with the butter addition, and may even look curdled (if the butter was the slightest bit cold this happens), but this is normal. When all of the butter is added, beat the mixture on high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the almond extract and salt.
Remove 1 cup of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a jumbo closed star tip.
Remove 1/3 cup of the white buttercream to piping bag fitted with a small closed star tip.
Remove 2/3 cup of the white buttercream to a bowl and tint with a drop of the pink gel food color to create a pastel pink hue. Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a small closed star tip.
Remove 2/3 cup of the buttercream to a bowl and tint with the pastel green gel food color until a soft but saturated green color is achieved. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip. Set the piping bags aside as you prepare the remaining frosting.
Return the bowl to the standing mixer fitted with the whip attachment and beat in 1/4 cup of the maraschino cherry juice. This will take a few minutes to incorporate, as the liquid will be a little resistant to the butter in the frosting. When the liquid is incorporated, add the second 1/4 cup and mix well. Fold in the cherry chips using a large rubber spatula.
Place a chocolate cake layer on your choice of serving plate, cake board, or cake stand. Fill with a 1/4” thickness of the cherry chip buttercream; top with a second cake layer. Fill with another 1/4” layer of buttercream. Place the final cake layer on top and cover the entire cake with the cherry chip buttercream. Use an offset spatula to evenly smooth the frosting. Chill the cake until the buttercream is firm, about 15 minutes. The frosting color will intensify slightly as it chills.
When the buttercream is firm, use the green buttercream with the large closed star tip to pipe 12 ovals on the top edge of the cake. Top the green ovals with ovals of white buttercream using the white bag of buttercream fitted with the small closed star tip. Top the white buttercream with ovals of pink buttercream. Place a cherry with a stem in the center of each triple stacked oval.
Using the bag of white buttercream fitted with the jumbo closed star tip, pipe a shell border around the bottom edge of the cake. Just above the large white shell border, use the pink buttercream to pipe a smaller shell border.
Cake will keep at room temperature for 3 days, or store it in the refrigerator for longevity. It will keep about 6 days in the refrigerator if well covered. Bring slices to room temperature before serving for the best flavor.
This is a supremely moist chocolate cake. The layers are tender and the flavor is dark, with hints of Oreo cookie due to the dark cocoa powder. The cherry chip frosting is silky and not too sweet. Almond extract boosts the maraschino cherry flavor in the frosting.
3/4 cup of cherry chips is about 5 oz. total weight. You’ll need two 6 oz. jars of stemless maraschino cherries for this because the jar’s weight includes the liquid. I used an electric mini chopper to process the cherries into fine chips. You could do the same or use a large food processor, or simply chop them by hand. Be sure to drain the cherries well before you chop them into chips.