Friday, 19 June 2009

Cherry Bomb! or... I wanna be a chocolate god part 9: Cherries!

Birthdays are an excuse for me to do stuff like this. My sweetums loves cherries and balsamic vinegar and fine chocolate. So this is a cake of (you guessed it) cherries, balsamic vinegar, and fine chocolate. Your birthday is the one day a year when you don't have to make any concessions to other people's tastes, so this is when "love it or shove it" recipes come out. This is one of my favorites. The cake is dense and fairly dry and not sweet. It gets soaked with syrup, which it drinks up like mad, and then covered in layers of ganache and fresh fruit. Oh, and you have to start it a day and a half in advance. One of the guests said that this cake was nearly enough to make her believe in a higher being.

On a really odd note: it's hard to find people to feed around here.I love making stuff like this, but you need an occasion. Or at least a few hungry friends.   

For the cake:

Note that this makes TWO CAKES (ie- each layer is a full cake, making this a 10-12 serving cake). If you're not making a layer cake, half the recipe.

500 g pitted cherries that have been soaked at least overnight or overday in enough balsamic vinegar to cover them. drain the cherries, reserving the (now cherry-flavoured) vinegar. 

2 c sugar

2 c water, hot

1/4 c cocoa butter

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (use the stuff that the cherries were soaking in)

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

5 cups plain white flour

1/2 cup arrowroot flour

2 tbs cocoa powder

1 tbs carob powder

Preheat your oven to 180C

Melt the sugar and water in a pan without stirring so that it forms a syrup. When the syrup has simmered for about 5 mins (reducing a little), take it off the heat and add the cocoa butter, vinegar and vanilla. The cocoa butter should immediately melt. Set this pan aside. 

Mix the dry ingredients together, and then pour the wet ingredients into them, and then fold in the cherries. Bake in two cake pans at 180C for about 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. 

Take em out and let them cool for a few minutes in the cake pans, and then turn them out of the pans and let them cool completely, preferably upside down. I just cover them with a tea towel and leave them out overnight. The cakes should be dry-ish (but not overcooked)

The next day... make the syrup:

3/4 c balsamic vinegar

1/4 c agave 

simmer to reduce by about a third. Take off heat and allow to cool. 

You'll also need 

300g of chocolate worth of your favorite ganache, with a sprinkling of salt added (trust me... this whole cake is quite sweet, and you need to counteract it). I used dark, dark chocolate and just make a simple water ganache. 

another 300g or so of pitted fresh cherries. Save a few whole ones for the top. Things are so much nicer with a cherry on top, don't you think?


This cake tastes best if the syrup has time to do it's thing. Assemble it at least an hour before you plan to eat it, preferably more. Put the bottom layer of the cake on the plate you will serve it on. Poke a few holes in it with a fork. Now pour about 1/3  of the syrup over it, and let it soak in. The syrup is *intense*. Use it as described above if you want a really strong cake, or replace some of the vinegar with water, for a calmer cake. But don't just leave the syruping out, or you will just have a dry cake, and not in a good way.  Once it's soaked in, cover that layer with a layer of ganache (half the ganache) and embed a layer of halved, pitted cherries in the chocolate. Place the top cake on top. Poke a few holes in it with a fork. pour about 1/3-1/2  of the syrup over it and let it soak in (are you seeing a pattern here?). Then cover the cake with the rest of the ganache and place cherries on top. Let the cake sit for a while. The syrup will make everything all moist and cakey and the ganash will harden to a shine. Serve with vanilla ice cream and let guests drizzle the extra syrup on their cake to taste. 

As usual, please don't use slave chocolate. Use fair trade and/or organic chocolate (some minimum level of human rights need to be respected to get the organic stamp), or chocolate that you know is not sourced from places that use slaves. 

Dancing along to: Joan Jett, Cherry Bomb! 


Penny said...

I've often used cider vinegar in cakes, of course, but never thought of using balsamic vinegar and I, too, love it! I have to get myself organised enough to try this one!

sinead said...

Hey Penny! Just to be clear, unlike when you use a few tbs of cider vinegar in a cake, you actually taste the balsamic here!

Pamela & Sarah said...

wow, that sounds so delicious and interesting! I'll have to give it a try when I finally get an oven. Do you think it would work with dried cherries? I'd have to spend about £30 to get enough fresh cherries for this recipe in Japan :(

-- Sarah

sinead said...

Hmmm... I made this specifically because cherries are in season here right now, but dried would probably work as well. You may want to soak them in diluted rather than straight-up vinegar, since they will take up more of the liquid than the fresh cherries.

... I have to admit, it's not a cheap cake, even with cherries in season. It's definitely a birthday indulgence.

Mihl said...

I can be your ocassion! That cake looks really beautiful and your description made my mouth water. I'm all for cherries and fine chocolate, too!

Anonymous said...

Cherries, balsamic vinegar, and chocolate...pretty much half of my favourite foods right there! Sounds amazing, and looks so impressive. Ganache makes the classiest topping for a cake, especially if you'd rather not go into a sugar coma from frosting. I'm currently dealing with four birthdays and Canada day, so I'm doing some cake experimenting myself, but it's also taylored to the peopel I'm baking for, so I'll have to try this cake another day.

Jake said...

Did you know I'm allergic to cherries? It's a recently developed allergy. The inside of my mouth gets all itchy. Apples too. Fortunately, the protein that causes the allergy is heat labile which means that a) it's not an anaphylaxis risk and b) a few seconds in the microwave and the protein denatures, leaving the cherries (or apple) still tasting the same.

BUT, I am not allergic to sour cherries, which my parents neighbours have growing in their backyard.

Figs, otoh, can actually kill me. It's very sad, because I lurve figs. I take comfort in the fact that allergies can spontaneously disappear. Maybe if I get tested again in ten years I'll be fine.

Also, I miss you. I might be going to Europe next summer, but the UK is not currently on the itinerary. I'll have to see if I can do something about that.

sinead said...

Hmmmm... I made this cake partly because I thought that strawberries and balsamic go really well together, but I've become rather allergic to strawberries, so I used cherries instead. So, um, I originally thought of this entire cake as a strawberry affair. You could do that, if you are so inclined. Just be aware that strawberries release a lot of sugar into the vinegar when you marinate them, so you might want to cut the actual sugar in the recipe down to 1.5 cups or so.