Recipe: “Mom’s” Chocolate Cherry Cake

As I occasionally state, a primary purpose of this blog is communication with family. Sharing family recipes has become perhaps the most important job of the blog from the family’s point of view. Today, the family finally gets the latest version of “Mom’s” Chocolate Cherry Cake.

I say “Mom’s” in quotes because Mom introduced the cake to the family, but it’s not a recipe that she created, as Michelle reminded me recently.

"Mom's" chocolate cherry  cake (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

“Mom’s” chocolate cherry cake (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The cake became a family favorite. For years, I chose it as my birthday cake. Aly usually chooses it as hers.

You may know it in your family: chocolate devil’s food dump cake with pie cherry filling mixed in, topped by a fudge-like frosting. Yum!

When we went south to see Aly graduate (see Aly’s Graduation Day) my sisters threw her a graduation party. I enthusiastically volunteered to make the chocolate cherry cake. When the time came to bake the cake, I realized that I didn’t have it committed to memory. Beth didn’t have it. Even Aly didn’t have it! Michelle calmly turned to the Internet, searched “chocolate cherry dump cake” and came up with an array of versions of the recipe.

Or, at least close enough to save the day for me. But, I grudgingly muttered, it wasn’t the real thing.

The recipe as Mom found it called for a particular type of boxed cake mix as a base. Finding the specific cake mix (“NOT the kind with pudding!”) always proved the hardest part of the recipe.

Aly fixed that several years ago. She wanted to make the cake, but refused to use a cake mix, not only because she felt it unnecessary, but it would have required a trip to town to buy one. Instead, she turned to one of our 1940s era cookbooks and chose a devil’s food cake recipe she liked. She then edited “Mom’s” recipe to replace the cake mix.

This may have made the recipe easier! As I told friends yesterday, in the time it takes to read the back of the cake mix box, assemble the required additives, rip open the box and dump the contents into your mixing bowl, you can make the cake by scratch!

Since then, the recipe has evolved further. Particularly, Michelle and Aly began to have trouble getting the icing right. Instead of a thick, swirly fudge layer, their cakes’ frosting would fall smooth and flat, like a layer of liquid on top of the cake.

Since the frosting makes the cake in this case, I took over the project once, and produced a layer of icing that would have made Mom proud. I carefully analyzed what I’d done, and came up with a rather presumptuous set of rules for perfect frosting. Over time, I realized that my technique amounted to letting the cake cool more than Aly or Michelle had—interpretation of the recipe’s dictate: “pour over partially cooled cake” led to the frosting melting on the too-warm cake.

Even so, making the cake now falls largely to me. That’s fine with me. It’s so easy, so satisfying to make, and so delicious, I enjoy having “rights” to the process!

So, here’s our version of Cherry Chocolate Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°

Sift together:

1 1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

6 T cocoa powder

1 C sugar

In another bowl, mix:

2 eggs

1 tsp almond extract

1 21 oz can pie filling (see notes for variations on this)

Mix wet with dry by hand. Pour into 9 X 13 cake pan, lightly oiled and dusted with flour or dry cake mix.

Bake at 350° for 20-30 minutes.

Allow to cool, then frost.


In saucepan mix:

1 C sugar

5 T butter

1/3 C milk (evaporated milk works)

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Immediately add 1 cup chocolate chips. Stir till smooth.

Pour quickly over cooled cake. Frost and smooth. Frosting will solidify fairly quickly, so be prepared! It’s easy to sculpt into lovely swirls if you like.

Cherry Pie Filling Notes:

We often use our own canned cherries or cherry pie filling. If you’re basic, like us, these notes may help:

If using 1 pint jar of cherry pie filling, include 1/3 C cooking oil.

To make pie filling from plain canned cherries, use:

16 oz cherries with 1 C of liquid from jar

3/4 C sugar

1/4 C cornstarch

1 T Butter (optional)

1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)

Boil till thick, cool before adding to other cake ingredients.

This entry was posted in Food & Drink, How To and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Recipe: “Mom’s” Chocolate Cherry Cake

  1. Alice says:

    Did you bake it in your Sun Oven?

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Alice, not the one in the photo, but we have made one in the Sun Oven before. This post was inspired by friends coming here for dinner yesterday. I’d intended to bake either the salmon I caught or the cake, or possibly both in the Sun Oven, but our weather has been far too rainy these last few days. Had to rely on the propane. The cake in the photo is actually one I baked in 2013.

  3. Alice says:

    haha The weather is so strange for us in the Seattle area this year. We are usually the one saying it’s too cloudy and rainy. How fast I forget that everyone isn’t basking in the sun also. I don’t have AC for the hotter days, but all-in-all, I’m lov’n it.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    I don’t want to give the impression that this hasn’t been an unusually dry and warm summer here, it’s just that it’s been cloudy lately. The weather seemed to change just in time to foil my dinner plan for that particular day! Much like the rest of the northwest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *