Half Homemade Chocolate-Cherry Cake

I was invited to a luncheon/play date for the kids today at a very good friend's house. She asked that we each (several of us moms will be there) bring a dish. Naturally, I am bringing dessert.

Now, you wouldn't think that a four star medal winning pastry chef would use a cake mix out of a box, but you'd be wrong. I do-in fact-on occasion use cake mix. It's a great way to make a dessert fast, easy, and delicious in a minimal amount of time.

As I was invited to lunch late last evening and only had a small amount of time in which to make a dessert I decided on one of my "half home made" recipes...CHOCOLATE CHERRY CREAM CAKE.

I use a chocolate cake mix, cherry preserves from "Bon Maman", and a scratch-made chocolate cream for the icing. A word about store-bought jams...Please oh please-for your health's sake read the labels of all jams, jellies and preserves that you buy. If they have High Fructose Corn Syrup in them, PUT THEM BACK!!! It may cost a little more to buy all natural products, but in the long run it's worth it! Here is the recipe:

2- 13oz jars of BON MAMAN cherry preserves
1 box BETTY CROCKER 'super moist' devil's food cake mix
1 Lb. very good quality dark chocolate
2 Tbs. light veggie oil-such as canola or corn
4 cups heavy whipping cream

For the best results: Reduce the water that the cake mix package calls for to 1 cup. Then simply follow the cake mix instruction for the 8" round cake recipe. Allow the cakes to cool to room temperature before proceeding.

Cut the rounded domes off the cake circles and discard or save for another use (I use mine for chocolate bread pudding-just store in freezer until you need them). Cut each cake circle in half horizontally so you now have 4 very thin cake circles. Set them aside for the moment.

In a glass, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave oven. Start with a one minute time. stir the chocolate and then continue with a 30 second cook time and stir until the chocolate is melted CAUTION!!!! DO NOT OVERHEAT THE CHOCOLATE...be patient as it will melt slowly but on its own. Whip the cream to a medium stiffness. Whisk the veggie oil into the chocolate. Why-you ask? because chocolate contains lecithin that causes the chocolate to seize up and bind too quickly, the oil prevents this from happening. In 1/4 batches gently fold the whipped cream into the melted chocolate. Voila! You just made your first chocolate mousse!

Place one cake circle onto a serving platter. Spread about 1/2 cup of the mousse onto the cake. Then spread about 1/3 cup of cherry preserves onto the mousse layer. Repeat this until you've run out of cake. There will be a lot of mousse and preserves remaining. Use the rest of the mousse to ice the cake. Using a pastry bag with a star tip make a floret boarder around the outside of the top of the cake, and pour a generous amount of the cherry preserves over the top of the cake.

Refrigerate until you need it...up to 24 hours. Then serve, sit back and enjoy the praise!

The New Antioxidant "Super Fruit"
Cherries are not only good for you, but they’re also on trend as a homegrown “Super Fruit.” According to recent data, more than 9 out of 10 Americans want to know where their food comes from, nearly 80 percent say they’re purchasing “locally produced” products, and the majority is defining “local” as grown in America.1,2 And cherries deliver.

A growing body of science reveals tart cherries, enjoyed as either dried, frozen cherries or cherry juice, have among the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, when compared to other fruits. They also contain other important nutrients such as beta carotene (19 times more than blueberries or strawberries) vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber and folate.

Emerging evidence links cherries to many important health benefits – from helping to ease the pain of arthritis and gout, to reducing risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. Cherries also contain melatonin, which has been found to help regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, aid with jet lag, prevent memory loss and delay the aging process.

A recent study from the University of Michigan reveals new evidence linking cherries to heart health benefits. The study found that a cherry-enriched diet lowered total weight, body fat (especially the important “belly” fat), inflammation and cholesterol-all risk factors associated with heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, being overweight or obese, in particular when the weight is concentrated in the middle, is a major risk factor for heart disease. As nearly two out of three Americans are overweight, emerging studies like this are important in examining the role diet may play in disease management and prevention.

Dark Chocolate Is Healthy Chocolate

Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits Not Seen in Other Varieties
By Daniel J. DeNoon
WebMD Health News
Dark chocolate -- not white chocolate -- lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. Their report appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.
But that's no license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure -- if you've reached a certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things.

Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro SerafiniNutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.
"Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate ... and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate."
Translation: Say "Dark, please," when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don't even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word "moderate" as you nibble.

The Studies

Taubert's team signed up six men and seven women aged 55-64. All had just been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure -- on average, systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 153 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) of 84.
Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories. Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate.
Those who ate dark chocolate had a significant drop in blood pressure (by an average of 5 points for systolic and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure). Those who ate white chocolate did not.
In the second study, Serafini's team signed up seven healthy women and five healthy men aged 25-35. On different days they each ate 100 grams of dark chocolate by itself, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate.
An hour later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most total antioxidants in their blood. And they had higher levels of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all.

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