Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Maraschino Cherry Filling

This delightful Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with bright cherry filling and creamy chocolate icing is a classic chocolate cake recipe. It’s easy to whip up, no stand mixer needed, plus it’s egg-free!

Side view of a fully baked and decorated old-fashioned chocolate cake with cherry filling, glossy chocolate icing and maraschino cherries on top, next to a jar of cherries and a green and white striped cloth.

Inspiration for this show-stopping Old Fashioned Chocolate layer cake came from a recipe in the cooking magazine Cuisine At Home

The back cover had a mouthwatering picture of a slice of Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with a quote from Oscar Wilde: “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” So how could I resist?

Beyond the obvious decadence of moist homemade chocolate cake with gooey cherry filling, our recipe is fool-proof. Just a few simple ingredients and a whisk is all that’s standing between you and a stand-out chocolate cake to share with friends and family. 

I’ve updated this post to include helpful and enthusiastic feedback we received from all of you, including one delightful reader who made this cake for her wedding! Congrats!

Step by step photos of ingredients to make two 9 inch round cake pans for homemade old-fashioned chocolate cake ready to be baked.

How to Make Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

The recipe is a bit different from traditional cake recipes. 

The recipe is egg-free and butter-free, for starters. To leaven the cake, I use a bit of baking soda and vinegar, which you probably know from elementary school science produces some fun bubbles. This mixture gives this cake it’s lightness and spongy texture. 

You won’t need any special equipment to make this easy and tasty old-fashioned chocolate cake. Just a mixing bowl, a whisk, and maybe a rubber spatula to scrape everything clean. 

Start by sifting together the dry ingredients, which are all common: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. I use a fine mesh strainer to ensure there are no clumps in my cake batter.

Then, fold in the wet ingredients. While the original recipe calls for instant coffee granules, I opted to double down on chocolate instead. I swapped the coffee with a teaspoon of chocolate extract, because you can’t have too much chocolate right?

The wet and dry ingredients come together quickly, so be careful not to overmix the cake batter. It’s ready to bake when there are no visible pockets of flour left, but a few lumps in the batter are totally fine. Overmixing can cause your cake to rise and fall in the oven. 

Once your chocolate cake batter is mixed, pour it into two greased 9 inch round cake pans. If you’re worried about sticking, you can also line the bottom of the pans with a circle of parchment paper. Here’s a helpful how-to video for that.  

To ensure two perfectly even cakes, I recommend weighing out the batter using a handy kitchen scale

Finally, give your filled cake pans a gentle tap on the counter to help the batter settle and remove any air bubbles. 

Don’t be alarmed if your cake comes out of the oven with a domed top and spongy bounce from all that leavening. To flatten a dome, simply invert your cake on a cooling rack and let it rest until fully cool. 

Overhead of red maraschino cherry filling on the first layer of old-fashioned chocolate cake on a wire rack.

How to Make Quick & Easy Cherry Filling

While your old-fashioned chocolate cakes are baking, mix up a glossy maraschino cherry filling. 

Start by straining a jar of maraschino cherries over a measuring cup or bowl. You want to save the liquid to make the filling. 

Then, the cherry filling comes together right in a small saucepan. Mix everything together over low heat until the filling is glossy and thick. 

You’ll want to boil the mixture for just a few seconds. This cooks off any starch flavor from the cornstarch. But keep an eye on it, as the sugar can burn easily. As soon as the cherry filling is thick, turn off the heat.

I like to finish my cherry filling with a pat of butter, which ensures a glossy filling that’s not too thick

Ingredients and a large stainless steel pot with glossy chocolate icing and a whisk to be spread on to old-fashioned chocolate cake with cherry filling.

Making Glossy Chocolate Icing

The final part of this two layer old-fashioned chocolate cake is a simple chocolate icing. This icing is creamy, chocolaty and adds a nice glossy finish to this cherry-filled cake. 

I recommend getting all of the icing ingredients measured and ready before you start cooking. The icing comes together quickly.

It’s a simple recipe that you just need a saucepan for. The only trick is to not let the icing boil on the stove. This can cause your beautiful, glossy chocolate frosting to break and separate!

Once the icing is smooth, the sugar is dissolved, and everything is well mixed, it’s time to let things cool. You want to decorate your cake with room temperature icing, so you can pop the warm frosting into the fridge to speed up cooling 

If the icing gets too cold, simply bring it back to room temp by warming it in the microwave on 20-second intervals, stirring between each blast. 

Step by step photos of two 9 inch round old-fashioned chocolate cakes filled with cherry filling and glossy chocolate icing.

Assembling Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake with Cherry Filling

The best part about this chocolate cake is how easy it is to frost. While it bakes, the cake develops a lovely shiny crust that protects the crumbs inside. 

There’s nothing worse than frosting your cake, only to end up with cake crumbs showing though. With this easy old-fashioned cake recipe, there’s no need to worry about a messy frosting job. 

Close up on slices of frosted homemade chocolate layer cake topped with individual maraschino cherries and glossy chocolate icing on a green cake stand.

I like to decorate the top of the layer cake with little dollops of chocolate icing and elegant stemmed maraschino cherries. If you want to add this fun touch, look for stemmed maraschino cherries. They might be in the baking aisle of your grocery store, but if not, check the cocktail garnish section. 

To add this decorative touch, simply fill a pastry bag with any remaining chocolate icing and pipe dollops of icing in a ring around the outer edge of your cake. 

Dry your cherries a bit to make sure they stay put, then gently press them into their little icing pillows. Voila: a stunning chocolate layer cake with a punchy cherry filling.

A single slice of old-fashioned chocolate cake filled with homemade cherry filling and frosted with easy chocolate icing, topped with a stemmed maraschino cherry on a white dessert plate with a silver fork.

Check out These other Stunning Chocolaty Layer Cakes

Yield: 12-16 servings

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Maraschino Cherry Filling

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Maraschino Cherry Filling

Classic Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake with Cherry Filling and creamy chocolate icing is easy to make with simple ingredients and equipment. Celebrate your next birthday with this festive treat!

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar*
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used KA Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups hot water*
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules (I substituted 1 teaspoon chocolate extract)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Maraschino Cherry Filling

  • 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherry liquid
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Glossy Chocolate Icing:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (I substituted 1 teaspoon chocolate extract)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions

To Make the Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350º with rack in the center. Spray two 9x2 inch round cake pans with non-stick spray.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. (Don't use a mixer.)
  3. Combine water, oil, vinegar, instant coffee, and vanilla in a large measuring cup. Add to the dry ingredients and whisk just until combined, a few lumps are OK.
  4. Divide batter between pans, then bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.
  5. Cool cakes on a rack for 15 minutes, then invert them onto the rack.. Leave cakes upside down (this flattens domed cakes) to cool completely.

*I made the following high altitude adjustments: Decreased the sugar by 2 tablespoons, used 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 1/4 cup hot water.

Maraschino Cherry Filling

  1. In small saucepan combine sugar and corn starch. Gradually add in cherry liquid, stirring to dissolve sugar.
  2. Stir in cherries. Cook over medium high heat until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Cool completely before using.

Glossy Chocolate Icing

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa, and salt. (Mixture will be thick and grainy.)
  2. Combine heavy cream, sour cream, and instant coffee in a large measuring cup, mixing until smooth. Gradually add cream mixture to chocolate until blended and smooth.
  3. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and hot to the touch, 6 - 8 minutes. Do not boil.
  4. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Cool icing at room temperature until spreadable 2 - 3 hours. Icing may be chilled until completely cold, then warmed gently in microwave until spreadable. Heat at high power in 20-second intervals, stirring well after each interval. (I got a little impatient and whipped the frosting after two hours because it still hadn't set up enough.)

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A single slice of old-fashioned chocolate cake filled with homemade cherry filling and frosted with easy chocolate icing, topped with a stemmed maraschino cherry on a white dessert plate with a silver fork.