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The other day, I decided to make a cake.
I had just purchased a bag of cherries, darkly red and seductive, and as I didn’t want to make a pie, cake seemed like the solution.
Cake doesn’t happen in our house often, because frankly, I don’t want to eat the cake.
No, that’s wrong. I do want to eat the cake. That’s where the problem lies. Or rather, where the other problems hide themselves. Between layers of frosting. Creamed into the sugar.
I like making layer cakes because it is methodical, more than other forms of cooking. Add, mix, stir, fold, pour, bake. Cool, level, fill, frost. Moving through these tasks, I can think about only the cake if I want. How I envision the final product. Where to take the photos. Or I can lose myself as I watch the mixer whirr.
Before I had a food blog, I had a LiveJournal where I would tip the contents of my brain every day, for better or worse. It was group therapy.
On a food blog one typically doesn’t engage in group therapy. You’re here for the cake (and I don’t blame you if you skip down). The stories that make me who I am, that I find myself sinking into as I whisk together flour and baking powder, are also the stories I can’t tell here. While they are mine, they’re also the stories of the rest of my family, and they didn’t sign up for my public musings.
And so, sometimes I make cakes. I bake them and let the layers cool in their pans, and I slice off the tops to eat while no one else is home. I whip frosting and think about the constant push-and-pull emotions I put out, which shut me in as much as I want to get out. I work out my frustration by smashing cherries as they simmer with sugar.
Once the layers are placed on top of each other and frosting is smoothed on, I think about being an introvert and pretending not to be. Fake it ‘till ya make it. Always, always smile. Because ladies are supposed to smile, right? We’re bitches if we don’t.
I squat down to get on level with the cake and eye it for finishing touches while thinking about my sons, wondering if I yell too much (maybe) or snipe at my husband too much (yes) or not listen to their concerns enough (probably). Wondering if I didn’t learn from past mistakes.
After the cake is finished, I dig through the remaining cherries for the most photogenic ones, so I can take photos for you. Snap. Snap. Move the tripod, adjust the reflector. Snap. Cut a slice, take more photos.
I eat that piece, thinking about the future. If all I can do sometimes is make cake.
After dinner, I set the cake in front of the shining, happy eyes of my family. They eat it happily, though of course my older son questions the cherries and my younger doesn’t quite understand what he’s eating. To them, I hope it is always just cake. The product of my love, not my fears.
A few notes about this cake:
- The recipe calls for whole sweet cherries. If you prefer to not use fresh cherries, you can swap in cherry pie filling; you’ll need about 16 ounces/2 cups.
- I like to use Clear Jel rather than cornstarch for the thickening agent in the cherry sauce as I feel it whisks in better, but use what you have on hand.
- You can use kirsch rather than amaretto for the filling, or even a dark rum if you like. If you prefer to not use alcohol, just use 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.
- Instead of black cocoa mixed with regular cocoa, you can use bittersweet cocoa for the whole thing (such as Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa).
- Use parchment rounds on the bottom of your cake pans so they release without sticking.
- After removing from cake pans, wrap them tightly in foil and pop them into the freezer until ready to fill and frost. This will help keep the cake moist, as well as prevent crumbs from getting into the frosting.
- Whipped cream frosting is the bomb, and I might start doing all my cakes with it.
More cake recipes you might like:
Black Forest Cake
- 1/2 cup shortening or 8 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or chocolate extract
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons black cocoa
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup whole milk
For the cherries
- 2 cups pitted cherries
- 2 tablespoons amaretto
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon Clear Jel or cornstarch
For the frosting
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment rounds, if you have them.
- In a large bowl, beat shortening/butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in eggs and extract.
- In another bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powders, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Mix dry ingredients into the sugar mixture in batches, alternating with the milk.
- Pour into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until cake pulls away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes before removing to a rack or wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and freezing.
- While the cakes are baking, make the filling. Mix together cherries, amaretto, sugar, and Clear Jel/cornstarch in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the cherries are breaking down (help them along with your spatula), and it resembles pie filling or jam, about 10 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator.
- When ready to assemble the cake, whip the cream and slowly add the powdered sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form.
- To assemble, place the bottom layer on a stand/plate and spread on about 3/4 of the cherry filling. Top with enough of the whipped cream frosting to cover, using a spatula to spread it to the edges.
- Add the second layer of cake, and spread the remaining frosting over the cake. Pour the remaining cherry filling on the top of the cake, and garnish as desired.