Chocolate Cherry Cake with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
My mom has been working at the same elementary school that my sister and I attended since we were little. It had its perks and drawbacks, like the time she gave my sister a dreaded red slip for talking in the line to go back inside after recess. That was approaching twenty-five years ago, and we still talk about it. Haha
One thing my sister and I were always excited for though was treat day, granted, these treats weren’t technically for us. The school employees would have a potluck-style day several times a year in the teachers lounge. My mom had a little office area adjoining the teachers lounge, so at the end of the day my sister and I would scope out how much was left to come home from whatever our mom made. One of our favorites though was a layer dessert that she took fairly often. It was basically a pan of brownies that had been topped in some kind of sweetened cream cheese and cherry pie filling on top. We would demolish whatever was left in the pan as soon as we made it home.
I’ve been on a layer cake baking kick lately and have been trying to develop some new varieties. I randomly thought of that brownie dessert a week or so ago and thought, why not try to turn that into a cake? So I tried it out over the weekend and took it back home for my Aunt’s birthday, and let me tell you it was a success. Not to brag, but the terms “luscious”, “best cake I’ve had”, and “holy ****” may have been thrown around. I’ll leave that last one with the asterisks to your imagination and keep it PG.
So basically what this post is about is a rich and moist (I know that’s a terrible word, but I have to use it.) chocolate cake with cherry pie filling and a homemade mascarpone whipped cream frosting/filling. I recently was in the Door County, WI area and picked up a big jar of cherry pie filling from a local orchard and this seemed like a great use for it. If you are buying pie filling at the store, I’d recommend getting at least a mid-range priced can. Some of the cheaper varieties are mostly the red cherry flavored goop with some pieces of cherry. Definitely get the kind that says it has whole cherries. You’ll only spend a couple dollars more and it definitely makes a difference.
To start, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 9in round baking pans. You can grease and flour the pans or just take the easy way out like I do and use Pam baking spray. Combine all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer, or large bowl if you don’t have one. Be sure to sift or use the spoon and sweep method (lightly adding the flour to the measuring cup with a spoon and then using the back edge of a butter knife to level the top off) when adding the flour. This helps ensure that the flour doesn’t pack down into the measuring cup and results in a lighter, less dense cake.
Add the buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and eggs to the dry ingredients. Using the paddle attachment of your mixer, beat over medium speed until everything is mixed and incorporated well. Reduce speed to low and carefully add the hot water. Stir/mix the batter just until the hot liquid is incorporated. Your batter will look runny, but it will bake normally and leave you with incredibly moist cake layers.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, and remove when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Line two cooling racks with parchment paper and flip the cakes upside down onto the paper. Immediately remove the pans and allow the cakes to cool completely.
I like to cool my cake layers upside down because it tends to help them level out some as they cool. If your cake still looks like it baked really unevenly, just use a serrated knife to level it out some.
For the frosting, first chill your large mixing bowl and mixer attachments. I usually put mine in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. In the chilled bowl, combine the mascarpone and sugar over a medium-high speed until it is well combined. Next, add the vanilla extract and heavy whipping cream. Initially mix it at a low speed until the liquid is beginning to mix in with the sugary mascarpone. This just helps prevent the liquid from flying out of the bowl and making a mess. Increase the speed to high and whip the ingredients together until the whip cream sets and stiff peaks form.
I love this mascarpone whipped cream because it is still light and airy like a whipped cream frosting, but the mascarpone also helps stabilize it, making it a more durable whipped cream frosting option. Not to mention the amazing almost cheesecake-like flavor it adds..
To assemble the cake, put a layer of the frosting on top of one of the cake layers. If one layer looks more level than the other, use it as the base. I used a piping bag and smoothed it out with icing spatula. Top the frosting layer with some of the pie filling. Put the filling evenly on the center on the cake and try to leave at least an inch gap between the edge of the cake and the cherry filling. This helps keep the red filling from seeping out and tinting the white frosting when it is finished.
Stack the second layer of cake on top of the frosting/pie filling layer. I then used a piping bag full of frosting to fill in the gap all the way around the cake in between the two layers. This helps keep that pie filling color from seeping out by sealing it inside the cake, while also helping stabilize the layers more and making it easier to frost the outside.
Top the second layer and the sides of the cake with frosting and smooth it out with a spatula.
Spoon extra filling on the middle of the cake and sprinkle chocolate shavings around the rest of the top of the cake. I used the Wilton 1M piping tip to add some rosettes around the bottom and on outer edge of the top. You could also leave those off the top and just sprinkle the chocolate shavings all the way to the edge. Cherry season is coming to an end, so I opted to add the rosettes to the top and add a fresh cherry on each while they are still available.
- For the Cake:
- 2 cups All-Purpose or Cake Flour
- 2 cups Granulated Sugar
- 3/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1.5 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 cup Buttermilk
- 1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Large Eggs; beaten
- 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup Boiling Water
- For the Frosting and Garnish:
- 1-8oz Tub of Mascarpone Cheese
- 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 3 cups Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 Large Can Cherry Pie Filling
- 1 Hershey or Other Good Quality Chocolate Bar
- 1/4lb Fresh Cherries; Optional
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 9in round baking pans, either by greasing and coating with flour or using Pam baking spray.
- Add all of the top six dry ingredients to the mixing bowl of your stand mixer. Sift or use the spoon and sweep method (as described above) when adding the flour. Mix dry ingredients to combine well.
- Add the next four ingredients (buttermilk, vegetable oil, beaten eggs, and 1 tbsp vanilla extract) to the dry ingredients. Combine thoroughly using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer over medium speed.
- Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly and carefully pour the hot water into the mixture. Mix until the water is fully incorporated into the batter. **Note - The batter will be runny looking. This is normal and will bake fine.
- Pour half of the batter into each pan and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and cool inside the pans for about 10 minutes. Line two cooling racks with parchment paper, place one cake on each upside down and immediately remove the pan. Let them sit upside down until fully cooled. After cooling, place right side up and using a serrated knife, carefully trim down any areas that might still be unlevel.
- To make the frosting: Chill the mixing bowl and whisk/beaters in the freezer for at least 15 minutes. Combine the mascarpone and sugar in your mixing bowl and beat over medium-high speed. Add the vanilla extract and heavy cream and whip on high speed until the cream sets and stiff peaks form.
- To assemble: Place a layer of frosting on the first cake layer. Top the frosting with pie filling, leaving a one inch gap between the edge of the cake and the pie filling. Place the second layer of cake on top of this. Using a piping bag, fill the gap in the middle between the two cakes with frosting (see pic above). Add a layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake, smoothing with a spatula. Add pie filling to the center of the top of the cake, leaving a couple inch gap between it and the edge of the cake. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the chocolate bar and sprinkle chocolate shavings around the rest of the top of the cake.
- A 1M piping tip can be used to make rosettes around the bottom and/or top of the cake, as seen in the pic. I added rosettes with a fresh cherry on each to the top, but this can be left off and chocolate shavings to the edge of the cake can be used in their place.