Three Layer Chocolate Cherry Cake

Whether you use fresh or frozen cherries, this three-layer Chocolate Cherry Cake is packed full of delicious cherry flavor! The very best moist chocolate cake, a homemade cherry filling, fresh cherry buttercream, and a drizzle of ganache make a cake worthy of any celebration!

cake covered in pink cherry frosting with ganache drips running down the side

Is there anything more summery than cherry desserts? I just cannot get enough fresh cherries all summer long – both to eat and for baking. (These two things are often contradictory, as I buy cherries for baking and wind up eating them all instead!)

Fortunately, I managed to save enough cherries to make July’s Layer Cake of the Month – a beautiful three-layer decadently rich chocolate cake with cherry filling, cherry buttercream, and covered with ganache drips.

It’s beautiful and, if you love cherries as much as I do, absolutely delicious!

But what if it’s the middle of winter and you’re in the mood for cherry cake? 😱 Fear not, we can use frozen cherries here as well, making this a perfect year-round cake.

And that beautiful pink buttercream? No food coloring necessary – it’s all the result of naturally released cherry juice.

two slices of cherry chocolate cake on bright blue dessert plates

The Very Best Chocolate Cake

You’ve seen this chocolate cake base before. It’s in my Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cake and my Chocolate Rasberry Cake and my Mint Chocolate Chip Cake and of course my Best Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. And now, it’s also in this Chocolate Cherry Cake.

What can I say – you don’t mess with near perfection, and according to my mother, husband, and children, this is the chocolate cake to top all chocolate cakes.

It’s moist and super chocolatey and also easy to make. No creaming butter and sugar together, which means you can even whisk it together by hand (although a stand mixer makes it even quicker!). The cake has a tight crumb, which makes it easy to decorate (no loose crumbs all over your frosting).

And despite its light texture, it’s still supportive enough to hold lots of filling, like our…

overhead view of a cake layer covered with buttercream and filled with cherries

Homemade Cherry Filling

Sandwiched between layers of the best chocolate cake, homemade cherry filling adds lots of cherry flavor to the cake!

If you’re using fresh cherries, pit and roughly chop the cherries. Add the cherries to a saucepan with the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and water. Bring to a boil and cook to soften the cherries and thicken the sauce.

This homemade cherry filling can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It can even be frozen for a few months – make the cherry filling with fresh cherries and save for the fall of winter!).

If you want to use frozen cherries instead of fresh ones, the process is almost the same. You’ll just need to add some additional cornstarch to thicken the extra juice released by the frozen cherries.

Why do frozen cherries release more juice? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

Fresh fruit contains a lot of water, contained within the cells of the fruit. When fruit is frozen, the water freezes into ice and expands in size, breaking open the cell walls. As the fruit thaws, this excess water is released.

Even though we’re bringing the cherry mixture to a boil to activate the cornstarch, the cell walls of the fresh cherries stay intact, keeping the juice inside the fruit itself. The frozen cherries, however, will release this juice. Therefore, we need to add a little extra cornstarch to make sure our filling isn’t too runny.

A good rule is to add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of fruit when switching from fresh to frozen. In this case, we’re using 2 cups of cherries, so we need to add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch.

cake covered with a crumb coat of cherry frosting

Cherry Buttercream Frosting

The perfect pairing for our chocolate cake and homemade cherry filling is of course a beautifully pink buttercream frosting!

To make this frosting, we’re adding finely chopped cherries and their juices to a standard American buttercream. I chop the cherries by hand, but you can even use a food processor or blender for a smoother texture.

If you’re using frozen cherries, just make sure to thaw them before chopping finely! If the resulting frosting is thinner or softer than desired, add additional confectioners’ sugar to achieve the desired frosting texture.

One of the reasons I prefer to chop the cherries by hand is because I love the little flecks of cherries in the frosting! It also makes decorating the cake even easier. Since there are little flecks of fruit, the frosting won’t be perfectly smooth. No need to stress about little flaws while trying to get perfectly smooth frosting!

Once frosted and chilled to set, add some easy homemade ganache on top and dripping down the sides. Use any extra frosting to pipe swirls on top of the cake and decorate with any remaining fresh cherries!

three layers of chocolate cake filled with cherries and pink cherry frosting

Tips and Tricks for the Best Cherry Chocolate Cake

  1. Either fresh or frozen cherries can be used for the filling and the frosting. If using frozen cherries, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch to the filling mixture before boiling. Extra confectioners’ sugar may be needed for the frosting – add more to preference to achieve desired texture.
  2. To keep cake layers perfectly flat, use Bake Even Strips (or wet cloth soaked in water and wrapped tightly around the outside of the cake pan).
  3. Cake components can be made ahead of time to make assembly even easier! The cake layers can be baked 2 days ahead of time and stored at room temperature, or frozen for up to 3 months. The cherry filling can be made 3 to 4 days ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen for up to 3 months. The buttercream frosting can be made 2 days ahead of time and stored at room temperature. The fully assembled cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen fully decorated for up to 3 months.
  4. Adjust the ingredients to make a different size cake! This recipe is written for 3 8-inch cake pans. To bake in 6-inch pans, halve the ingredients. To bake in 9-inch pans, multiply each ingredient by 1.5.

More Cherry Desserts:

2021 Layer Cake of the Month Series

slice of three layer chocolate cake filled with cherries

Three Layer Chocolate Cherry Cake

Yield: Serves 16
Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours

Whether you use fresh or frozen cherries, this three-layer Chocolate Cherry Cake is packed full of delicious cherry flavor!


For the Cherry Filling:

  • 2 cups (320 grams) fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup (99 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water

For the Chocolate Cake:

  • 2 3/4 cups (330 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups (594 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (84 grams) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (340.5 grams) buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups (340.5 grams) hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (148.5 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoons vanilla extract

For the Cherry Frosting:

  • 1 1/2 cups (339 grams) unsalted butter
  • 7-8 cups (795-908 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (240 grams) cherries, pitted and finely chopped

For the Ganache:

  • 7 ounces (198 grams) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2/3 cup (151 grams) heavy cream
  • pinch of salt


  1. Make the cherry filling. Place the cherries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the cherries soften and the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool; refrigerate while making the rest of the cake.
  2. Make the chocolate cake. Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease and flour three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the pans with parchment paper, then grease and flour the parchment paper.
  3. Make the cake batter. Using a mixer, combine together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes. The batter will be thin.
  4. Bake the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a moist crumb. Cool the cakes in the pan for 20 minutes, then turn them out on cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add in the confectioners' sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, up to 7 cups total. Beat in the salt and the vanilla extract, followed by the chopped cherries and any released cherry juice. Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. If the frosting is too thin, add additional confectioners' sugar until the desired texture is achieved.
  6. Assemble the cake. Level the cakes if necessary.  Cover the bottom layer of cake with 3/4 cup of the frosting. Pipe a border of frosting along the outer edge of the cake and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes. Spread half the cooled cherry filling inside the piped frosting border. Top with a second cake layer and repeat. Place the final layer on top of the cake, face down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate to set the frosting.
  7. Make the chocolate ganache. Microwave the heavy cream on 50% power for 30-second increments or heat on the stovetop in a small saucepan until it just comes to a boil. Place the chopped chocolate in a glass mixing bowl and pour the cream over the chocolate.  Allow this mixture to sit for 2 minutes to melt the chocolate, then whisk from the center outside until the ganache is smooth.  Set aside to cool, whisking occasionally, until the ganache has thickened but is still pourable, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the ganache into a piping bag, snip off the corner, and drip the ganache along the edge of the cake, encouraging the ganache to run down the sides. Pour the remaining ganache into the center of the cake and spread it to the sides. Decorate with swirls of additional cherry frosting and whole fresh cherries. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to set the ganache.


  1. Either fresh or frozen cherries can be used for the filling and the frosting. If using frozen cherries, add an extra 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch to the filling mixture before boiling.
  2. For perfectly flat, even cakes, weigh the batter to ensure the same amount is in each pan, and use Bake Even strips while baking.
  3. This recipe makes 3 thick 8-inch layers. To use 9-inch pans, multiply each ingredient by 1.25. To use 6-inch cake pans, divide the recipe in half.
  4. The cake can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

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Whether you use fresh or frozen cherries, this three-layer Chocolate Cherry Cake is packed full of delicious cherry flavor! The very best moist chocolate cake, a homemade cherry filling, fresh cherry buttercream, and a drizzle of ganache make a cake worthy of any celebration!