Berry Tempting: Chocolate-Cherry Firehouse Birthday Cake

When I was little, one of my favorite dishes was my dad's firehouse birthday cake. He was a fire chief, and like most firefighters, a great cook. His dessert specialty was a boxed chocolate cake that he jazzed up with a whipped cream cheese frosting and syrupy cherry topping; it was called firehouse birthday cake. Since he retired, I haven't had firehouse birthday cake, so with the original recipe in hand, I recently set out to bake an updated version of the dessert. Instead of a boxed mix, I made a devil's food chocolate cake from scratch and I replaced the canned cherries with fresh bing cherries. The resulting cake has all the delicious flavors I remember, but with a more sophisticated appearance. It's a rich and wonderful pairing of chocolate and cherries, cut with smooth, fluffy, thick cream. If you've got a birthday coming up, I highly recommend this cake. Here's the recipe.

Chocolate-Cherry Firehouse Birthday Cake

Chocolate-Cherry Firehouse Birthday Cake


  1. For the cake:
  2. 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans
  3. 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
  4. 1/2 cup boiling water
  5. 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  6. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  8. 2 1/4 cups sugar
  9. 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  10. 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup whole buttermilk
  12. For the cherries:
  13. 2 1/2 cups pitted fresh cherries
  14. 1/4 cup sugar
  15. For the whipped cream frosting:
  16. 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
  17. 1 cup powdered sugar
  18. 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  19. 1/4 cup creme de cassis, optional for assembly


  1. Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment; butter parchment. Dust with cocoa powder; tap out excess. Set aside. Sift cocoa powder into a medium bowl; whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl; set aside.
  3. Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until creamy. Gradually mix in sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, a bit at a time, mixing well between each addition; mix until well blended. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Whisk buttermilk into reserved cocoa mixture. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cocoa mixture.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake, until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks; remove parchment and re-invert. Let cool completely.
  6. While the cake cools, prepare the cherries. Stir together the cherries and sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
  7. Make the frosting: Whip the cream cheese until light and fluffy, 2 to three minutes. In a separate bowl, combine the powdered sugar and whipping cream. Beat on high speed until slightly thick. Add the whipped cream cheese and continue beating until mixture is thick and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  8. To assemble cake, place one cake on a serving platter. Brush with creme de cassis, if desired. Top with a generous scoop of frosting. Top with half of the cherries, leaving a 1/2 inch border.
  9. Place remaining cake on top. Brush with creme de cassis. Cover the top and side with frosting. Pour the rest of the berries in a mound on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 14-16.

Average ( votes):
oh wow — YUM. looks so good. i love cream cheese frosting!
This cake looks good. I imagine the flavors would be delicious.
I see in your photos you included the original recipe for me to use.....thanks for the easy way out to make this!
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