Serves 8 to 10
This cake takes a bit of work—and it should be assembled at least 8 hours to a day ahead—but you don’t have to worry about it once it’s put together, freeing you to do last-minute tasks before your gathering. Amarene are wild cherries preserved in syrup. Fabbri is a very good brand.
- CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE
- Unsalted butter, softened, for the cake pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the cake pan
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 large eggs
- 1½ cups granulated sugar
- CHERRY SYRUP
- ½ cup sweet Marsala
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup amarena cherries, with their liquid, reserving ½ cup (cherries only) for decoration
- 8 ounces very good-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 7 egg yolks, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup dry Marsala
- 1½ cups chilled heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
For the cake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter the sides and bottom of a 10-inch-round, 3-inch-high cake pan. Sprinkle the sides and bottom with flour, making sure to coat the entire surface, and tap out the excess.
In a small bowl, sift together the 2 cups flour, the cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda.
In a medium bowl set over a large saucepan of simmering water in double-boiler style, beat the eggs and sugar together until the mixture has warmed and the sugar has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg-sugar mixture at high speed until doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat. With a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake until a wooden skewer or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake’s surface springs back when lightly pressed, about 25 minutes. Let it stand on a wire rack until completely cool, 1 to 2 hours, before removing from the pan.
Meanwhile, for the syrup, in a small saucepan, stir the sweet Marsala and confectioners’ sugar over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the amarena cherries and their liquid, and set aside.
For the zabaglione filling, in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring often to melt evenly. Remove the pan from the heat, and leave the bowl of chocolate over the water to keep it warm. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over 3 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl. Let stand until softened, about 10 minutes.
In a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and dry Marsala until smooth. Continue beating (switching to an electric handheld mixer, if you like) until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy and falls in thick ribbons when the whisk or beaters are lifted, about 8 minutes if you are whisking by hand or about 4 minutes if you are using an electric mixer. It is important to whisk continuously, or the egg yolks mixture will curdle. Scrape the softened gelatin into the egg mixture, and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. With a rubber spatula, fold the melted-chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Let the mixture stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream with an electric mixer until it forms stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate-egg mixture until no traces of white are visible.
To assemble the cake, with a long, thin serrated knife, slice the chocolate sponge cake horizontally into three even layers. Set the bottom layer into a 10-inch springform pan, and brush it with about a third of the cherry syrup—it will be quite moist. Scatter half the cherries over the cake layer. Spoon half the chocolate zabaglione filling over the cherries. Moisten the cut side of the top cake layer with the remaining syrup, and place it, cut side down, over the filling. Press very gently. Spread the remaining mousse evenly over the cake. Cover the pan securely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until the filling is firm, at least 6 hours or up to one day.
To serve, release the side of the springform pan and remove it. With a cake spatula dunked in warm water, smooth the mousse on top and sides of the cake. Decorate with the reserved cherries. Cut the cake into wedges with a thin, serrated knife.