Friday, February 09, 2024

VEGAN CHERRY WALNUT CHOCOLATE LAYER CAKE

My love of the combination of dark chocolate and sour cherries predates this blog and any baking attempts of my own, but it is truly one of my dearest ones. And fudge chocolate layers, glorious vegan crème mousseline, and tangy and fragrant sour cherry jelly make for a wonderful flavour symphony.
This is one of my tried-and-tested recipes that I have made numerous times over the years and I do love the reliability it offers. The cake layers always turn out supremely soft and fudgy, the filling is billowy, yet sturdy enough to carry the weight of the layers, and the jelly is simply divine, even on its own. Just the perfect balance between tart and sweet.
If you do not feel like making little jelly hearts or you do not have the adequate moulds, there is another way, of course. Right after blending, pour the cooked jelly out into two 15-centimetre cake forms lined with baking parchment, and let them freeze into disks. The next day, simply place the frozen jelly onto the cake layer, top with frosting, and continue stacking. Perhaps slightly less cute and eye-catching, but equally delicious.


Ingredients
For the fudge chocolate layers
220 grams plain flour
100 grams granulated sugar
100 grams light brown sugar
30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
300 millilitres boiling water
60 millilitres sunflower oil
15 millilitres apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the cherry jelly
120 grams sour cherries, fresh or defrosted
30 millilitres water
75 grams light brown sugar
40 grams cornflour
30 grams vegan block butter, diced
For the walnut crème mousseline
500 millilitres soy milk, cold
80 grams cornflour
75 grams granulated sugar
200 grams vegan block butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200 grams ground walnuts, toasted

Preparation
Start by making the sour cherry jelly, as it needs to be frozen beforehand. Blend the sour cherries with the water and sugar until completely puréed, add in the cornflour, and blend well once again. Pour the mixture into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and let it come to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it starts to boil, cook until thickened, about a minute or two, stirring vigorously and constantly.
As soon as it is done, remove it from the heat and add in the diced vegan block butter. Using an immersion blender, blend everything together, and transfer it to a disposable piping bag. Let it cool down slightly, and then fill four heart-shaped moulds. The ones I used were 5x5 centimetres and could hold around 50 grams of jelly each. Place them in the freezer overnight.
The next day, start by making the walnut filling. Let the oven preheat to 180°C. Pour the cold soy milk into a large saucepan, add in the cornflour and sugar, blend well, and place it over medium-high heat. As soon as it comes to a boil, start stirring vigorously, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it cooks into a glossy custard. Once done, remove it from the heat, cover the top with a piece of baking parchment or cling film, and let it cool down to room temperature.
To make the chocolate cake layers, take a large bowl and sift in the plain flour, cocoa powder, instant espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in the sugars and mix very well. Line three small (15 cm) round baking pans with baking parchment, and set them aside.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and pour in the boiling water, oil, vanilla, and the vinegar, and whisk until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, and immediately bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C, for about 10-12 minutes, or until done. Check each of them with a toothpick, making sure they stay fudgy, and not dry. Let them cool in the pans completely.
Once everything is ready, proceed to assemble the cake.
Whip the cooled custard with an electric mixer on high until light and creamy, and set it aside. Take a large bowl and beat the vegan block butter with the vanilla until lighter in colour and fluffy. Add the walnuts to the whipped custard, and blend them together well. Finally, add in the whipped butter, and beat until completely creamy and smooth. Divide it into two parts, making sure one of them is slightly larger, to be used as frosting. Weigh and divide the smaller portion into two equal parts.
Level the cakes, if necessary, and place the first one on the serving platter. Spread on the first portion of the filling, take out the frozen cherry hearts, and arrange them on the first layer, making sure they are pressed and embedded into the frosting, and partially into the first cake layer, so they stay upright. Take the time to arrange them nicely, so there is a bit of cherry jelly in each slice of cake.
Carve a bit of the next cake layer so it fits well on the hearts, add it on top of them, press down lightly, and top with the remaining filling portion. Place the final cake layer on top, and frost the entire cake, using the reserved frosting. The cake is firm enough to be frosted immediately. Decorate the top with any remaining frosting, and place the cake into the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Serve well-chilled, with strong coffee. Yields 16 rich servings.

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