I will admit that I am a bit of a cake snob. And judging by how much cake is often left over after any get-together I can see that I am not alone.
More often than not, the cakes I frequently come across are monster sized servings of super sweet, dry sponge buried under a crud-ton of equally sweet, goopy gunk that is supposed to be frosting. Though I still nibble on it (okay, I admit I eat the whole thing, but it doesn’t mean I really liked it), I’m left wishing I hadn’t. It’s not that they’re bad, they just aren’t good.
What I really want is flavor. What I really want is a texture that doesn’t require the fatty glob of frosting to swallow it down. What I really want is a small nibble. What I really want are little cakes like these.
I don’t want to call these cupcakes, because, to me, that name still implies the same cake problem but in smaller form. These are mini-cakes. Cakelettes. It’s a word now, because I say so. Perfectly sized bites of moist chocolate-y goodness, with a hint of almond, and a chunk of cherry (literally) buried inside. No frosting needed. Perfect for a party, perfect for serving with a cup of coffee or tea, perfect for just because. Freezes well for saving for later, or taking out bit by bit (or is that bite by bite?).
Cherry-Amaretto Chocolate Mini Cakes Recipe
The pictures show a double recipe. The ingredients list below will make approximately 50-60 mini-cakes (ahem, Cakelettes). If you decide to make them in the standard muffin-sized form, increase the baking time 5-10 minutes, and add 2-3 cherries per mini-cake (be sure to space them out across the top so that they aren’t touching).
- 1/2 lb. frozen sour cherries, about 1 cup (known as “pie cherries”, canned cherries in liquid can also be used)
- 1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. cake flour
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, grated or cut into small chunks
- 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder meant for baking
- 1/2 c. cherry juice (more info on this in the directions)
- 2 Tbsp. amaretto liqueur
- 1/4 c. salted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
- 1/4 c. granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 c. sour cream or buttermilk (not both!)
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
- demerara sugar, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a mini-muffin pan with paper baking cups. You will need the cups because the cakes will stick, no matter what! The sizes of the wells on the pan are about 1 inch across the top, much smaller than the typical muffin/cupcake pan.
Place the frozen cherries in a strainer held over a bowl. As the cherries defrost, they will release some of their juice which will be used later in the recipe. If you are using canned cherries, drain them in the same way as for frozen cherries. If you have fresh sour cherries, make sure they are pitted and then you can either: 1) freeze them and proceed with the instructions above, or 2) you can heat them in a microwave until they soften and have released their juices, then strain them.
Put the next four ingredients into a medium sized bowl and combine thoroughly. The flours should be measured by fluffing it up first (I use a whisk for this), then scooping it gently into your measuring cup and leveling the top with a flat object, like the back of a butter knife. Set bowl aside.
In a separate bowl, add the grated or chopped unsweetened chocolate and the cocoa powder. Measure 1/2 cup of the drained cherry juice. If you don’t have the full amount, add water to make a total of 1/2 cup of liquid. If you have extra, drink it! Heat the cherry liquid until boiling and add to the chocolate. Mix until smooth. Add the amaretto liqueur and mix completely. Set bowl aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add each of the sugars and continue beating until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time until the mixture has the look of whipped cream. Scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure all the butter has been blended in. Add the sour cream (or buttermilk) and almond extract and gently mix in.
Add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and gently fold it in with a spatula. You don’t want to over mix or you will lose your “fluff”. Add about a third of the chocolate mixture and gently combine. Repeat this process with the flour and chocolate until all is mixed in.
Using a small spoon, scoop the batter into each of the paper cups in the mini-muffin pan. You want to fill them only about 2/3 full. Top each with a cherry, but don’t push it in. They will sink into the batter as it bakes. Sprinkle a pinch of demerara sugar over each cup. A pinch of granulated sugar can be used instead, if needed, but the larger crystals of the demerara are preferred.
Bake for 15 minutes at 350 F, or until a toothpick inserted just off to the side of center (remember the cherry!) comes out clean. Allow them to cool before removing from the pan, as they are very delicate. The tops will be sticky, so it is best not to try to stack them. They will still stick to plastic wrap or parchment paper. If you wish to freeze them, arrange them on a tray and freeze uncovered until they are hard. Now they can be safely stacked in an airtight container with a layer of plastic wrap or parchment paper in between. Be sure to lay them out in a single layer to defrost or they will stick again! Enjoy with a cup of hot Greek coffee, or icy cold frappe, or afternoon tea (or really just anytime you want!).