The exact origin of the recipe for this layered chocolate, cherry and kirsch cake is unclear, but one thing is for sure: it's a culinary challenge everyone should try at least once. For a darker cake, you can use Dutch cocoa in the sponge, but it will give a slightly drier result.
80 ml (⅓ cup) kirsch (see note)
600 g frozen cherries, defrosted, drained on paper towel
chocolate curls and grated chocolate, to decorate
60 g cold unsalted butter, chopped
125 g plain flour
55 g (¼ cup) caster sugar
1 tbsp ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk
60 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
75 g unsalted butter, chopped, at room temperature
165 g (¾ cup) caster sugar
50g (⅓ cup) plain flour
75g (½ cup) cornflour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp powdered gelatine
1.2 litres thickened cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
200 ml thickened cream
400 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: 2 hours
Standing time: 15 minutes
To make base, preheat oven to 170°C. Process butter and flour in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sugar, ground almonds, lemon zest and egg yolk, and process to a firm dough. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of baking paper to a 23cm round and place on a lined oven tray. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool.
To make sponge, increase oven to 180°C. Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate has melted (don’t let bowl touch the water). Set aside to cool slightly. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs on high speed for 8 minutes or until mixture triples in volume. Stir in chocolate mixture until combined. Sift flours, cocoa and salt in a bowl and fold through chocolate egg mixture. Grease a 22 cm springform pan. Dust with flour and line base with baking paper. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Stand for 5 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
To make filling, scatter gelatine over 2 tbsp hot water in a small bowl. Whisk to dissolve, then strain, discarding solids. Whisk cream to soft peaks, then fold through gelatine and vanilla. Reserve one-third of the cream in a separate bowl for topping. Cover and refrigerate cream.
To make ganache, heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until just boiling. Place chocolate in a bowl, pour over the hot cream and cover with plastic wrap. Stand for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth and combined. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until starting to thicken.
To assemble cake, cut sponge into 4 layers horizontally (see note). Place pastry on a platter. Spoon over a thin layer of chocolate ganache and top with 1 sponge layer. Drizzle with 1 tbsp kirsch, then top with one-third of the cream filling and one-third of the cherries. Add another sponge layer, 1 tbsp kirsch and half the remaining cream. Repeat the layering process with 1 more sponge, 1 tbsp kirsch, remaining cream and half the remaining cherries. Top with remaining sponge layer and drizzle with remaining 1 tbsp kirsch.
Spread top and sides of cake with the remaining ganache and refrigerate for 10 minutes or until firm. Spread the top and sides of cake with reserved cream, adding a few dollops on top of cake. Decorate cake with remaining cherries, chocolate curls and grated chocolate. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving to allow the flavours to develop.
Kirsch is a clear, unsweetened cherry brandy available from bottle shops.
For ease, cut the cake into horizontal layers by using fishing wire; wrap the wire around the cake and pull through cake firmly.