stephmodo: Amarena Cherry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting

Amarena Cherry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting

• 19 October 2019

Growing up, when asked the highly-anticipated question, 'what cake would you like for your birthday?', I always requested a black forest cake. My mom would make the best boxed chocolate cake she could find and pair it with chocolate Jello pudding, cool whip and cherry pie filling. It's one of my favorite things she made growing up! While the following recipe may be considered a bit more sophisticated, it doesn't diminish how special that cake was to me. As far as I am concerned, any time chocolate and cherries get together, it's a very good thing.

This version of a black forest cake infuses many of the baking ingredients I love most--rich cocoa, crème fraîche, amarena cherries and buttermilk. It's one heckuva quadfecta, I tell ya, and one I promise you will not regret using. If you're unfamiliar with amarena cherries, they are small, wild black cherries from Italy and are typically packaged in a pretty jar soaked in syrup (you can read a brief, but sweet story about how they came to be here). Amarena cherries are delicious on yogurt, on ice cream, in fancy drinks, and of course with chocolate cake. I confess, I've been intermittently playing with this recipe for over a year now; pretty much making up excuses to make it as often as possible (work party? girls night in? Valentine's Day? a friend's birthday? Just because?!). Needless to say, it's become my most requested recipe this year.

A few tips regarding saving money on some of the spendier ingredients: you'll find the best bang for your buck if you pick up your crème fraîche and amarena cherries at Trader Joes (the later is going to be available oh so soon). The crème fraîche (Bellwether Farms) is a few dollars cheaper at TJ's than at other markets and the cost savings on the cherries is even more significant. A small jar of amarena cherries can run between $13-20 online or at upscale grocery stores. However, at Trader Joes, they are just $3/jar...and also made in Italy. That being said, they only carry them during the holiday season, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to stock up if you anticipate enjoying this cake recipe as much as I do!

Click "read more" below for the recipe.
Amarena Cherry Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Crème Fraîche Frosting
a.k.a. Grownup Black Forest Cake; adapted from Soho House; makes three 9" round layers and plenty of frosting


1½ cups water
¾ c. + 2 Tb. Dutch process cocoa
2½ c. sugar
3 c. all-purpose flour
2¼ tsp. fine sea salt (if you've tried my recipes over the years, you'll know this is my go-to)
3¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ c. buttermilk
1 c. canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 eggs
½ c. amarena syrup, setting aside the cherries for garnish


1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1½ c. dark chocolate chips
2½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 lb. bag powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of good salt (sel gris, fleur de sel, maldon, etc.)
7½ oz. container crème fraîche

Method: Frosting

I suggest making the frosting first, as it will need time to set.  To do that, melt the butter and chocolate in a metal bowl over a pot of boiling water (bain-marie). Note: if you use the metal bowl that comes with your stand mixer, you'll save yourself a step. Once the entire mixture is just barely melted, whisk until smooth--you'll want to make sure no lumps remain.

Pour the butter/chocolate mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (unless you used the mixer bowl for the bain-marie). Add the pure vanilla extract and turn the mixer on to medium low. Start gradually adding the powdered sugar until the bag is empty (in a pinch, you don't have to sift the powdered sugar, but you may have lumps in your frosting as a result). The frosting may look like a bit of a hot mess, but don't worry...with the mixer still on medium low, gradually add the crème fraîche, a heaping spoonful at a time, until the container is empty. Your tangy, chocolate-y frosting should now be luscious, smooth and ready to set in a cool location.

Method: Cake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. To make the cake, begin by bringing the water to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the water starts to boil, add the cocoa powder and begin vigorously whisking until the mixture is smooth. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil and eggs. Whisk until smooth. With the mixer on medium low, add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix until smooth. Add the liquid cocoa mixture and combine until smooth and well-mixed (don't forget to lick the batter--it's amazing!). Pour the batter into three 9" greased cake pans* and bake for 25-30 minutes (the sweet spot for my old oven is 28 minutes). Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, before releasing the cakes.

Once released and cooling, poke the cakes with a skewer or fork. Pour the amarena syrup evenly over each of the three layers, while the cakes are still warm. Allow to continue cooling. Once cool, frost with desired amount of frosting and garnish the top of the cake with the amarena cherries you set aside earlier. If you prefer a semi-naked cake, you'll definitely have extra frosting. If this happens, I suggest making cupcakes :)...or sandwiching the remaining frosting between graham crackers (also a childhood treat).

* I love the idea of buttering/flouring cake pans, but I confess I never have consistently good results getting a clean release. So, I've digressed to canola spray for much better results. Whole Foods and Target seem to make palatable versions.


  1. I have read your posts before (esp. the ones about Beynac) and was pleasantly surprised that you're posting again. Maybe I'll try the cake recipe as it doesn't use butter. Yes, I'm lucky to have at least 4 Trader Joe's nearby. Thanks so much for your posts!


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