Sunday, December 7, 2014

Choco-Cherry Pound Cake

Holiday baking and delicious recipes abound this time of year! In 1989, I started making a Chocolate Cherry Fruit Cake to include with my Christmas baking gift trays. It was a favourite for many years, but it also took time to prepare and "age" with painted layers of cherry brandy before being ready to devour! I just didn't always have the time or the space to devote to the recipe.

By 2005, I was ready to try something different. I wanted to find something just as tasty but easier and less time consuming. I wanted a dense moist chocolate cake with cherries and almonds in it that would also be easy to slice and serve on trays with other baking.

I realized that a pound cake would work rather well. However finding just the right kind of pound cake was another story! I found recipes for chocolate pound cakes and cherry pound cakes but wasn't sure how to combine them or add just enough cherries to a chocolate one without ruining it! I really didn't want to waste all the ingredients! Granted, it may have turned into a delicious mess but I wanted a chocolate cherry pound cake for that Christmas!

I didn't have access to a computer at that point in my life, so I searched through my recipe books, my mom's vast array of recipes and many recipe books at the library. I also started making phone calls.

One day, I called the manufacturers of Fry's Cocoa. When I explained what I was looking for, I was told that they did indeed have a Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake recipe! They agreed to mail me a copy! Well, I got a letter and some coupons a week or so later but no recipe was included! I called again and a very kind rep promised to send me the recipe ASAP. A few days later, I received a package via courier that included an apology from the rep I'd spoken with, a $5 off coupon for Fry's cocoa and a full 100 page (8 1/2" x 11") collection of Fry's Cocoa recipes from an out of print Fry's Cocoa cookbook!

WOW! I was in chocolate heaven just reading them! Of course, I also phoned again to express how grateful I was for all of the recipes and the coupon!

My long desired Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake was near the back - and the recipe looked delicious! I wasn't thrilled with the idea of the glaze, but knew that was easily omitted. I also knew that adding roasted almonds with the cherries would be an easy addition.
Naturally, I tweaked the recipe over the next few years and it got rave reviews! I'd still be making it, but I was doing a lot of gift trays and it was getting expensive to prepare everything. The cost of most of my baking ingredients had risen - including cherries. Slivered almonds were also rather pricy! Whole almonds, were much cheaper but slivering by hand was not something I was willing to do. I'd prefer to keep all of my fingers! Yes, I could easily have just used chopped almonds and done them in a food processor (had I had one at that point) but the slivered ones just looked nicer when sliced.

So, I haven't made this recipe as part of the holiday baking gift bags for the last 4 years but it really is a wonderful treat around the holidays! My holiday baking and gift bags for this year are already done and in the freezer so I don't really have the room to make it this year ,,,,, but there is always next year!!

Happy Holidays!

Choco-Cherry Pound Cake

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups glace cherries, rinsed (to remove syrup), dried (to remove excess moisture) and quartered
1 cup slivered almonds, lightly roasted*
1 cup fat free or low fat sour cream
1/2 cup apple sauce (you can use a regular apple sauce or Motts Cherry/Apple blend if desired)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chocolate extract* *
1 cup block margarine, softened
2 cups white sugar
6 large eggs, room temp

Spray 2  9" x 5" loaf pans with non stick spray such as Pam. For extra ease of removal, I also cut two strips of parchment paper and spray with Pam to line each pan. To do this cut a strip of parchment that is wide enough to just cover the bottom of the pan and long enough to reach up the sides at either end and about 1-2 inches above the top of the pan on both ends. Then cut a piece that is long enough to cover the bottom of the pan and wide enough to reach up the sides of the pan and 1-2 inches above the top on either side. You'll need two of each size - a long and a wide for each loaf pan. Lay each piece on a cookie sheet and spray with the Pam, then transfer and fit to the loaf pans with the long ends draped over the outside of the pan.

Preheat oven to 325F

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.

In a separate bowl, combine the cherries and almonds with 1 Tablespoon of the flour mixture. This lightly coats the fruit and nuts for a more even distribution of cherries and almonds in the loaf rather than clumps.

Combine the sour cream, apple sauce and extracts in a bowl or measuring cup and set aside.

In a stand mixer, beat the margarine till light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and mix well. Add eggs, one at a time. mixing well after each addition.

Add dry ingredients alternately with sour cream mixture to the margarine mixture - beginning and ending with dry ingredients - mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Add the cherries and almonds and mix on low speed till evenly distributed.

Divide batter equally between the two prepared pans being careful not to move the parchment lining or catching the extended ends within the pan. Spread batter evenly.

Bake for 60 minutes, then loosely drape foil over the cakes (without removing pans from the oven) and continue to bake for about 25-30 minutes or until toothpick test comes out clean.

Cool in pans for 1 hour on wire racks, then remove cakes from pans to finish cooling on the wire racks. Cool completely (I leave them at least a couple hours to allow full cool down in the center of the cake), then wrap each cake tightly in plastic wrap and store in fridge till ready to serve. Slice and serve as desired.

I generally cut thick slices, then into stick like pieces a la fruit cakes and serve as part of dainty trays during the holiday season, but this is also lovely just sliced and halved then served alongside a fruit salad or a dish of ice cream. It is also rather yummy, if lightly brushed with a liqueur such as cherry brandy, warmed (for a few seconds on medium in microwave) and topped with ice cream!

Note that this also freezes well for about 3 months if thoroughly wrapped and stored in a freezer bag.

* To roast almonds: Place almonds on microwave safe dish and roast on high power for about 4-5 minutes, stirring every minute until desired doneness. Cool to room temp before adding to dough. Or, place on cookie sheet in a 325F oven for about 5-10 minutes stirring every 2-3 minutes till lightly browned and fragrant. Either method works well but both can burn very quickly if not watched closely!

** I buy my Chocolate Extract from Watkins but you may find it in some specialty shops. If you can't find it, you can substitute with Almond extract, Cherry extract or additional Vanilla extract.



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