2 jars (10 oz each) maraschino cherries with stems, drained, reserving 1/2 cup of juice
2 cups unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
12 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup kirsch or cherry brandy
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
8 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Make the torte:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 10×13″ round cake pan. (Do not use a springform pan) Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of baking parchment or wax paper.
Reserve 16 of the best looking cherries to decorate the top of the cake and place them on a plate lined with a paper towel to drain. Remove the stems and coarsely chop enough of the remaining cherries to make 1 cup.
In heavy, medium saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, chocolates and sugar. Using a wooden spoon,stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the kirsch, reserved cherry juice and the almond extract. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. (At first, the mixture will look separated, but it will become smooth as the remaining eggs are added.) Stir in the chopped cherries.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan. Set the pan in a large roasting pan in the oven and pour hot water into the roasting pan to come up half way up the side of the cake pan. Bake the torte 60 to 70 minutes,until the cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool the torte in the pan on a wire rack 2 to 3 hours, until room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled.
Make the ganache:
In a heavy, small saucepan over low heat, bring the cream to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and whisk in the chocolate and butter. Stir until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Reserve a 1/2 cup of the ganache in a small bowl. This will be used for dipping the reserved cherries for the garnish. Cover the remaining ganache with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes, until the ganache has thickened to a pudding-like consistency. Stir the ganache occasionally.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Insert a toothpick into a cherry at the base of the stem and dip it halfway into the reserved warm ganache. If desired, you can drizzle the chocolate in thin strands over the cherries. Place the coated cherry on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the remaining cherries. Refrigerate the cherries until ready to decorate the torte.
Decorate the torte:
Run a knife around the sides of he torte to release it from the pan and invert it onto a serving plate. Remove the baking parchment. Reserve 3/4 cup of the chilled ganache to decorate the top of the torte. Using a metal cake spatula, spread the remaining ganache over the top and sides of the torte.
Fill a pastry bag with a star tip (suck as Ateco #4 or #5) with the reserved ganache. Pipe sixteen rosettes around the top edge of the torte. Top each rosette with a chocolate dipped cherry.
Recipe developed by Rebecca Johnson of Rebecca’s gourmet Bakery. It won first prize at the Chocolate Extravaganza in Durham, NC.