Boozy Chocolate Cherry Sundae Cake

This rich, slightly boozy chocolate cake is paired with a light, slightly boozy whipped tart cherry buttercream filling. (Are you seeing a theme here?) And if that isn’t enough to make you put on your apron, it’s covered with chocolate ganache and sprinkled with chopped walnuts. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and you’d think you were eating a sundae…only better.

Boozy sundaes are the best!

Of course you don’t have to add alcohol. A little cherry flavoring in the cake would be fine. Ditto with the buttercream – just add more flavoring. Obviously you’d want to do this if you were planning to serve the cake to children, because contrary to what we have all been told, alcohol doesn’t always magically disappear when heated.

I used a 6-inch Wiltons heart pan. I sure wish I had two of them, because I had to bake one at a time, and this recipe makes four. It just took a little more time, but the batter held up very well at room temperature. Each cake was leveled and then sliced into two thin layers. I only used five layers for the finished cake, but wisely compensated for the “wonky” layers I knew I’d get. (I seem to be missing that gene. You know, the one where you can see if something is level. You should see the way pictures hang on my wall!)

Hubby happily ate the scraps.

This isn’t an inexpensive cake to make. The dried cherries are pricey, good ganache uses good chocolate, and of course you’ll need the chocolate cherry liqueur and the cherry brandy, but those two liqueurs are wonderful to have around. They are great in so many dishes…or just for sipping!

Seriously, if there’s any time to indulge in something completely decadent, it’s in February! You can use the excuse of Valentine’s Day, George Washington’s birthday (hellloooo…cherries) or a morale booster as winter begins to turn into a slushy, gray mess. Any or all of those reasons work for me.


  • If you can’t find the dried cherries, by all means used canned sweet cherries – or frozen cherries – or even maraschino cherries. Just blot them well and skip the whole “soaking them in booze” step. I’m sure you’ll find something to do with that extra liqueur.
  • I just can’t be brutal and cut much off the top of the small cakes to level them. I take off what I must, but there is still a flat half and a slightly rounded half. I use the flat halves for layering, so they’ll stay somewhat level, and then one with a slightly rounded edge for the top. It looks pretty that way, and lets the ganache cascade off nicely.
  • Speaking of cascading, stop before you think you should. That stuff will keep working its way down and you don’t want huge puddles at the bottom. Hold off on the nuts until you’re sure the lava flow has stopped, otherwise they will be going along for the ride.
  • I used five of the eight baked layers, which was plenty tall. One tore, and two were a little out of level. If you trust your slicing skills better than I trust mine, just bake three of the cakes and make a few cupcakes with the remaining batter.

Do you know why this recipe looks so HUGE? There are three components, and I’m very wordy about how to do each – the cake, the filling, and the ganache. It’s not as scary as it looks! It all begins with a rich, tender, killer chocolate cake:

Boozy Chocolate Cherry Sundae Cake
  • CAKE:
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil (I use peanut or walnut oil - any light flavored oil will work)
  • 1 cup VERY strong coffee (see note at bottom of cake ingredient list)
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup Baileys Chocolate Cherry Liqueur (or substitute with milk plus 1 teaspoon cherry flavoring)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • NOTE: For best flavor, strong coffee can be made by bringing ½ cup ground coffee and 1½ cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain into measuring cup to equal 1 cup.
  • ½ cup tart dried cherries, chopped into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons cherry brandy, divided (or 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablepoon milk)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ teaspoon cherry flavoring (a little more if you aren't using the brandy)
  • 10 drops red food coloring
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • walnuts or sprinkles, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour (or use an oil and flour spray like Baker's Joy) pans. A piece of parchment, cut to fit pan, can be put in the bottom for ease of release. For layered heart cake, use 6-inch heart pans. Cakes may be baked one at a time if only one pan is available. (Make sure pan is cooled and greased between cakes.) Two 9-inch round pans may be used instead.
  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar.
  3. Add oil, coffee, milk, and Baileys (or milk and flavoring, if preferred). Beat for 1 minute on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat 1 additional minute.
  5. Pour batter into pans: Fill the 6-inch heart pans half way, approximately 1½ cups of batter in each. Or divide evenly between 9-inch pans.
  6. Bake 25 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out cleanly when inserted in the center of the cake.
  7. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto rack to cool completely. Chill for easiest handling! Cut a thin slice off of the top of each cake to level it, and then cut each cake into two equal layers.
  9. In a small pan on medium heat, combine the dried cherries and 2 tablespoons cherry brandy (or water, if preferred). Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
  10. In large bowl, beat the butter and shortening until smooth and creamy. Add remaining tablespoon of brandy (or milk, if preferred) cherry flavoring, and food coloring, and beat well.
  11. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until completely incorporated. Mixture will be thick.
  12. With beater on medium high speed, slowly add cream and continue to beat until stiff peaks form - approximately 3 minutes.
  13. Drain the cherries (keep the brandy they were soaking in for later) and stir into the filling.
  14. Spread between 5 cake layers, crumb coat the sides (this is a very thin coating to hold in the crumbs) and chill for about an hour to let the coating set.
  15. While the coating is setting, make the ganache.
  16. GANACHE:
  17. Place chopped chocolate into small bowl.
  18. In small pan on medium heat, bring the cream to a heavy simmer. It should be bubbly, but not at a boil. Remove from heat.
  19. Pour half of the hot cream over the chocolate and let it sit for 2 minutes. Stir gently with a rubber spatula.
  20. Return the cream to the stove and bring back to a simmer. Pour over chocolate mixture.
  21. Fold slowly until cream and chocolate are combined. Set aside, but stir occasionally.
  22. If you are using liqueur in this recipe, use a wooden skewer to poke holes in the top of the chilled cake, almost through the bottom layer. Carefully pour remaining brandy (from the cherries) into the holes. OR you can use a tablespoon or two of Baileys. Not too much or the cake will get mushy!
  23. Ice the cake, sides and top, with the remaining filling.
  24. If your ganache is thick but still pourable, it's ready to be spooned over the top of the cake. If it's still very thin, wait a little longer; it will thicken as it sets.
  25. Decorate with nuts or colored sprinkles.



Filled. I used the bottom half of each cake for the layers (they’re flatter) and then a more rounded top half for the top of the cake. This will allow the ganache to flow better.

Crumb coating.

Hot cream added to chopped chocolate…

…equals magic. Ganache!

Pouring ganache over iced cake.