Lest you think I've only been baking cookies lately, I'll share my current favorite winter dessert to share. I tend to only make this when I know I'll have other people to share this with. It is so rich and it looks too pretty just to keep to myself. This is the cake that can get me through long evenings of taking care of kids and cleaning up all by myself. In fact, I think I will need to take a brief blogging break to have a piece. It is too good not to sit and appreciate it---to just eat it while doing something distracts me.
This is somewhat time consuming to make. It has two separate cooling/chilling periods. I make the brownie one day and the topping the next, being sure to give it at least 4 hours to chill before serving.
Cherry Brownie Torte
slightly adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 t coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 t salt
1 c dried tart cherries
1/4 c water
3 T cherry preserves
12 T butter, cut into chunks
11 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 t vanilla
3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c (12 oz) mascarpone cheese
3/4 c heavy cream
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, pepper, and salt. Bring the cherries and water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the preserves and boil until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Put butter and 7 oz of chocolate into a small metal bowl. Put over a pot of boiling water. Cover and turn off heat. Stir occasionally, until chocolate and butter are melted (turn heat on slightly if chocolate isn't melting). Stir in 1/2 c sugar and remove from heat. Meanwhile, with a mixer, beat the eggs, 1 c sugar, and vanilla until pale and thick, about 4 minutes. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, gently mix in the melted chocolate. Fold in dry ingredients, followed by cherries and remaining 4 oz of chopped chocolate. Pour batter into a 9" springform pan, whose bottom has been butter and lined with parchment paper. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
Put springform pan on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 55 minutes or until the top is dry and the cake is starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. (Don't expect the middle to be dry--if poked with a tester, moist batter should be attached). Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the cake from the pan by running a blunt knife between cake and pan. Remove sides of the pan. Cool completely on base. When completely cool, invert remove base of pan and parchment paper. Wash and dry the pan and return the cake to it. Refasten the sides.
At this point, I cover the pan with foil and refrigerate for a day until I am ready to do the icing. You can do this all in one day, I just can't ever quite time it right to achieve that. It may be because I bake during nap times in the afternoons.
To make the mouse icing, beat the cream cheese, 1/3 c sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt on medium-high speed until it is very smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the mascarpone cheese and mix until it is smooth. Add the cream and beat only until the mousse is smooth and blended. Spoon the mousse over the cake and smooth out with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. Refrigerate cake at least 4 hours to set the mousse.
To serve, remove sides of springform pan. Dust with some extra cocoa if you would like just before serving. It is best if it sits at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.