There has been lots of conversation about grains recently. Many opinions and theories and personal stories about whether or not they should be eaten, and if so, which ones, and by whom. One of the voices I trust the most on the topic is Maria Speck. She is endlessly thoughtful and has meticulously researched the subject. You will see both a passionate and intellectual pursuit of delicious grain filled recipes in her latest book “simply ancient grains.” A few years ago I would have warned you that some of these grains are a bit challenging to find, but thanks to folks like Maria, these grains can be found in most grocery stores and easily had online.
Instead of summarizing Maria’s words on the subject of grains, I invite you not only to take a look at her beautiful book, but also to read the words she recently wrote in the Washington Post on the importance of grains.
As I flipped through Maria’s book I was struck by this photograph by Erin Kunkel. I just knew this was the recipe I’d start with. The chocolate cake looked absolutely perfect baked in a loaf pan, but I wanted a slightly more festive presentation, so I took Maria’s exact recipe, but just baked it in cake pans instead. Your friends and family will never know that this cake is made with whole grain Kamut flour (more about that in a minute), they’ll just know it is chocolatey and delicious.
Maria has generously offered to give a copy of her book, simply ancient grains, to a randomly chosen winner. Just leave a note in the comments for a chance to win.
Maria Speck’s Dark Chocolate Cherry Cake with Marsala Cream
1/2 cup (65 g) finely chopped dried cherries
2 tablespoons Marsala wine or apple juice
1 cup (130 g) whole grain Kamut flour – (this is an ancient grain originally from Iran, but now grown in Egypt, Turkey and Montana that is high in protein, has a lovely golden color and buttery aroma. You can read more about it in her book)
1/2 cup (40 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 tablespoon honey
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (see how to make your own)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (75 g) finely chopped dark chocolate
1/2 cup dried tart cherries*
1/4 cup Marsala wine
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
*cherries are best soaked for at least 6 hours, so do it the night ahead of baking the cake. See tip below for trick to doing this faster.
To make the cake:
preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Prepare 9×5-inch loaf pan or three 6-inch round cake pans with butter and line with parchment and butter the parchment. Dust with cocoa and shake out excess.
In a small bowl let sit the cherries and Marsala wine while mixing the rest of the cake.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, and salt. If the cocoa powder is particularly lumpy put it through a strainer.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until light in texture and color, about 3 minutes. Scrape the sides down as needed. Add honey and mix thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each. Beat in the vanilla.
Slowly mix in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half the buttermilk. Scrape down the bowl after each and then repeat with both flour and buttermilk, ending with last 1/3 of flour.
Stir in the cherries and chocolate. Maria said to drain the cherries and pat them dry, but I utterly forgot and it all turned out great.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and use a spatula to level the batter.
9×5-inch loaf pan bakes for about 50 to 55 minutes.
Three 6-inch cake pans bake for about 20 to 30 minutes. Because these are so thin you really don’t want to overbake them or they will be dry. The tester should come out with wet crumbs, but not batter.
Let the cakes cool for 15 minutes, then remove them from the pans and let them cool completely.
To make the Marsala Cream:
*Soak the cherries and wine together for at least 6 hours. Maria has a great tip if you are in a rush. You can microwave the cherries and wine for about 30 seconds, allow them to cool and then use them right away.
Drain and cherries and reserve the wine.
Whip the cream and sugar to medium-stiff peaks. Gently fold the cherries into the cream.
Put about a cup of cream on a layer of the cake and spread it to the edges.
Repeat with the other layers of the cake.
Use the remaining cream to cover the outside of the cake. You can watch my videos on how to do this on YouTube.
Because of the cherry cream finish on the cake, it is most beautiful on the first day, but still delicious on day two.
Leave a comment to enter to win Maria’s book, simply ancient grains.