I have always been a chocolate fiend. Chocolate chip cookies, chocolate
ice cream, chocolate fudge, chocolate candy with almost any filling, even
semi-sweet chocolate chips straight from the package are my vice. I prefer
chocolate anything for dessert, except perhaps mole, which is a combination of
chiles and chocolate, something that makes no sense to me. Chiles should be
spicy, and chocolate should be sweet.
When I turned 21 in college, my best friend planned a surprise birthday party
for me in the common room of my dorm. Celeste made an excuse to meet me there,
and I nearly canceled because I was depressed that no one remembered my
birthday. Instead, I opened the door to shouts of surprise and lots of hugs and
One of the best gifts I received that night was Celeste's mother's recipe for
chocolate cherry cake. Celeste's mother was renowned for her cooking, and as a
poor college student who ate mostly in the cafeteria, I always looked forward to
dinner invitations at her house. Celeste wrote her mother's recipe on a piece of
paper torn from a secretary's steno pad. (That should date me a little! For
those who don't know the term, secretaries used to take dictation on steno pads,
writing in a code known as "short hand.")
Celeste prepared this same cake for the party. Even as I write this, I can still
remember the joy of the layers of chocolate blended with bits of cherry melting
in my mouth with that first taste. Celeste had forgotten to bring forks, so we
cut pieces of the cake with a plastic knife and used our fingers to stuff our faces.
This cake recipe has become my go-to recipe for all holiday events, and it never
fails to please. I prefer to prepare the cake as a sheet cake with a single
layer because the icing goes on more smoothly. One of the reasons I love this
recipe so much, aside from its deliciousness, is that it's so easy to prepare,
and easy is something we all need during the busy holiday rush.
Celeste's Chocolate Cherry Cake
• 1 Duncan Hines Devil's Food cake mix
• 21 oz. can cherry pie filling
• 1 tsp. almond extract
• 2 eggs, beaten (Eggs need to be beaten separately so they don't chop up the
cherry pieces in the pie filling.)
• 1/2 cup cooking oil (Substitute the oil for the water called for on the box.)
• 1 c. white sugar
• 5 tbsp. butter (can use margarine)
• 1/3 c. milk
• 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips or semi-sweet baker's chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
By hand, mix together cake mix, pie filling, beaten eggs, almond extract, and
cooking oil. Pour into greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake for approximately 35
minutes at 350 degrees. Inserted knife should come out clean when cake is done.
Allow cake to cool first if you want a nice, solid chocolate topping.
Boil sugar, butter and milk 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add
chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Spread icing over cooled cake. (Tip: The
melted chocolate can be messy, so turn out the cooled cake on a large cookie
sheet edged with strips of wax paper. Once the chocolate cools, you can gently
slide the wax paper from the cake and have a beautiful presentation.
Before the icing has cooled completely, decorate the top with Maraschino
cherries in an arrangement of your choice.
JEANNE LYET GASSMAN lives in Arizona where the desert landscape inspires much
of her fiction. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts
and has received fellowships from Ragdale and the Arizona Commission on the
Arts. In addition to writing, Jeanne teaches creative writing workshops in the
Phoenix, Arizona, metropolitan area. Her work has appeared in Hippocampus,
Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Red Savina Review, The Museum of Americana,
Assisi: An Online Journal of Arts & Letters, Switchback, Literary Mama,
and Barrelhouse, among many others. Her debut novel, Blood of
a Stone, received a 2015 Independent Publisher Book Award in the national
category of religious fiction and was a finalist for the 2015 Independent Author
Network Book of the Year Awards.
Set in the first century on the edges of the Roman Empire
and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a
sweeping story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for
Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios confronts his
master and flees by the blood of a stone. Determined to
escape his past, he struggles to create a new life and a new
identity with his friend and fellow escaped slave, Elazar.
freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret
forever. A chance for love is lost. Elazar betrays Demetrios
to a so-called prophet named Jesus of Nazareth. Fearing the
Roman authorities and Jesus, Demetrios risks everything to
silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads
him to startling discoveries and dire choices. Demetrios
must answer the question we all ask: Can we ever be free of