This petite cherry layer cake is made of four white cake layers infused with tart cherry syrup and filled with Morello cherry preserves. It’s covered with cherry-flavored buttercream and finished in the watercolor frosting technique using pretty pink hues.
1 1/2cups340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
6cups680g confectioners’ sugar
Milk or cream to thin
2teaspoonspure cherry extract
Gel food colors: roseregal purple, yellow, pink
Gel food colors: roseregal purple, yellow
Fabric-coated green floral wire
Make the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour four 5-inch round cake pans.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn the mixer on low speed and add the cold butter one cube at a time. After all of the butter has been added, let the mixer run on low speed until the flour mixture resembles fine cornmeal, about 5-7 minutes.
With the mixer still running, add half of the milk and the vanilla extract. Increase speed to medium; mixture will be thick. Add the remaining milk and egg whites. Beat until just combined on medium speed. Stop the mixer and scrape down the edges of the bowl. Fold batter with a rubber spatula until the mixture is consistent with no streaks or pockets of flour remaining.
Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. Level the cakes evenly using a cake leveler or large serrated knife.
Make the cherry syrup: Combine the water and granulated sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and remove from heat. Let cool for 10 minutes and then stir in the cherry extract. Liberally apply the syrup onto the cakes using a pastry brush. Re-apply until all the syrup has been used.
Place a cake layer on a cake board and cover with 2 tablespoons Morello cherry preserves. Center a second cake layer on top and spread on 2 tablespoons preserves. Center a third layer on top of the second, and spread with 2 tablespoons preserves. Top with the final cake layer.
Make the buttercream: Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment and beat until lightened in color and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed, gradually adding milk or cream a little at a time until the mixture thins to spreading consistency. Whip on high speed for 5 minutes.
Remove approximately 1/3 cup of the frosting to a separate bowl and tint it using a few drops of the rose, and a teensy amount of purple and yellow gel food colors. Add color a little at a time until a deep reddish-maroon color is achieved. Remove another 1/3 cup of frosting to a separate bowl and tint with the pink gel food color. Cover each of these bowls with a damp paper towel so the frosting doesn’t dry out.
Use some of the untinted (white) frosting to crumb coat the cake; refrigerate until firm. Apply a second coat of white frosting and smooth evenly using an offset spatula. Dot the sides of the cake randomly using the maroon and pink frosting, and then use the edge of a bench scraper to smooth and blend the colors together on the sides of the cake.
Transfer the remaining white frosting to a piping bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch round decorator piping tip. Pipe peaks (Hershey kisses shapes) on top of the cake. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator to firm while you make the fondant cherries.
Make the fondant cherries: Knead the fondant until smooth and pliable. Add a little confectioners’ sugar if the fondant is sticky. Tint the fondant using the rose gel food color, and very small amounts of the purple and yellow food color until a reddish-maroon color is achieved (use gloves to avoid staining hands). Divide fondant in half and roll into two balls. Score each down the centers on each side using the back of a butter knife, creating the contours of a cherry. Use a skewer to poke holes in the centers of the cherries. Twist a 6-8-inch piece of fabric coated wire in the center and insert the ends into the holes in the cherries. Transfer the cherries to the top of the cake.