This cake was one of many made in advance for Christmas day, when butter, copious amounts of sugar, and alcohol were permitted (encouraged!) again. The resulting cake is rich with welcome boozy bites of tart cherries. It’s kind of like a Soviet Black Forest Gateau, though I tweaked my family recipe just a touch. The beauty of the cake lies in how hard it is to mess up. Feel free to skip the alcohol and opt for non-boozy cherries if you would like to make the cake without them. I promise it will still be delicious. The method is a little unusual but trust the process and you’ll end up with a great dessert.
150g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
3tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
300g Opies cherries in Kirsch
Enough vodka to cover them
Juice of a lemon
Pinch of salt
300g unsalted butter at room temperature
200g sweetened condensed milk
100g dark chocolate
1/2tsp instant coffee
100g double cream
Pinch of salt
Here's how you make it:
First, drain the cherries and check for errant pits. Then add them to a bowl, cover with vodka until they are submerged, adding the juice of one lemon. Leave to infuse for 4 to 12 hours.
Once the cherries are infused, start making the sponge. Preheat your oven to 180C. Butter and line a 23cm cake tin with baking parchment.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and creamy.
In a separate mixing bowl, add the flour, cocoa and baking powders, and a pinch of salt, stirring to combine. Once combined, pour the egg and sugar mixture into the dry bowl, stirring gently until it all comes together.
Pour your batter into the tin and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Once baked, let the cake cool a little before removing it from the tin and letting it cool completely.
Once completely cooled, use a large sharp knife to slice the top of the cake off, about 0.5cm thickness. Be careful not to break it. Now, scoop the inside of the cake, leaving behind the shell, like you would if you were hollowing out a loaf of bread for soup. Tear or chop the scooped-out sponge into large crumbs.
Now, start on the filling by whisking the butter and the condensed milk with a pinch of salt until combined.
Drain and add your infused cherries to the creamy mixture. Finish by adding the sponge crumbs and stirring to bring it all together.
Take the mixture and add it to the hollowed-out cake, spreading evenly, then top with the lid.
Finally, make the ganache by melting the chocolate, cream, salt, and coffee together over a bain-marie. Let sit until lukewarm and then spread over the top of the cake, letting any extra drip off the sides. You can stop here, or add some fresh cherries on top for decoration.
Want to know more about Zhenya's Ukrainian Christmas traditions? Read her article Searching for a Star in the Sky to find out more!