The original cake has many layers; our streamlined version is easy to assemble and doesn't sacrifice any flavor or presentation panache. The heavy cherry filling may cause the cake to sink slightly in the center once assembled, but it won't detract from the stunning presentation.
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 (14.5-ounce) cans pitted tart cherries in water, drained
7.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 3/4 cups)
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups frozen reduced-fat whipped topping, thawed
1 tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy)
1/2 ounce dark chocolate curls
How to Make It
To prepare filling, combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan; stir until cornstarch dissolves. Heat pan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until sugar mixture is very thick, stirring constantly. Remove sugar mixture from heat. Stir in cherries. Cool completely; cover and set aside.
To prepare cake, preheat the oven to 350°.
Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine buttermilk, milk, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to sugar mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed just until well blended (batter will be thin).
Pour batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.
Place 1 cake layer on a plate, and spoon half of cherry mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) evenly over the top, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Combine whipped topping and kirsch in a small bowl. Spoon 1 cup whipped topping mixture evenly over cherry mixture. Top with remaining cake layer. Spoon remaining 1 1/2 cups cherry mixture onto cake layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edges. Spoon remaining 1 cup whipped topping mixture onto cherry mixture, leaving a 2-inch border from the edge of the cake layer. Garnish with chocolate curls. Cover loosely, and chill until ready to serve.