For the cake batter:
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temp
1½ cups white granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup warm milk (I used 1%)
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder (I used one that is a blend of natural and dutched cocoa)
2½ tsp baking powder
⅛ tsp fine sea salt
For the Filling:
4 cups (1 lb) fresh pitted cherries
½ cup golden rum (I used Bacardi Gold $8/bottle at a liquor store)
¼ cup cold filtered water
For the Frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened to room temp
3 cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp fine sea salt
16 oz (2 blocks) cream cheese, softened to room temp and cut into 16 pieces
4 Tbsp of the reserved cherry/rum syrup
[Boozing up your cherries]
Rinse, drain and pit your 1 lb of cherries. Roughly chop your pitted cherries and place them in a medium bowl with ½ cup golden rum. Let sit at room temp for 1 hour then drain cherries in a sieve over a bowl. Keep both the cherries and the syrup.
[Making the Chocolate Cake Layer]
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter and flour two, 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together 4 Tbsp soft butter, 1½ cups granulated sugar, 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat on high speed for 7 min until light and fluffy. Whisk in 1 cup warm milk until smooth.
3. Sift together 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, ¾ cups unsweetened cocoa, ⅛ tsp salt, and 2½ tsp baking powder. Fold the sifted mixture into the batter just until combined. Transfer to your prepared cake pans and bake at 350˚F for 30 min or until toothpick comes out clean.
4. Remove from the oven and once the cakes are cool enough to handle, transfer to wire racks for them to cool completely.
[Making the Frosting]
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix the 2 sticks of butter with 3 cups powdered sugar and salt on low speed or until combined (1 min) Don't start on high speed or you will be surrounded in a cloud of powdered sugar (lessons learned). Increase speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy (2 min).
2. Add cream cheese 1-piece at a time and mix until combined. (I waited maybe 3 seconds in between each piece; it's one after another really. Once all of the cream cheese is incorporated. continue to beat 1 more minute.
3. Add 4 Tbsp reserved cherry liquid, 1 Tbsp at a time and mix until combined (1 min). Reserve the remaining cherry syrup. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.
[Assembling the Cake]
1. Once you are ready to assemble the cake, slice each of your cake layers in half horizontally into two even layers. A serrated knife works best. Place one layer cut side up on a cake stand.
2. Stir ¼ cup cold filtered water into the the remaining cherry rum syrup. Generously brush the first cake layer with ⅓ of the cherry rum syrup. Cover the top with frosting and top with ⅓ of the chopped boozy cherries. Repeat with the next three layers but don't put any syrup or frosting over the final layer. Refrigerate your unfrosted cake for 15-20 min to let it rest, then frost the top and sides. Decorate to your heart's delight and serve to the people you love.