There is something about vinegar that I crave. Call me weird, but I love a bowl of steamed broccoli with a healthy drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top. Heck, I’ll even use plain ol’ white vinegar if I don’t happen to have any fun balsamic available. The zesty, almost sour tang, makes my tastebuds jump. Weird, I know.
I have wanted to use my beloved balsamic vinegar in a cake for a while now and my cake idea lightbulb went off when I saw a box of cherry jell-o in my dad’s kitchen cupboard. I immediately knew that the sweetness of cherry would contrast beautifully with the zing of balsamic. I love a texture element in most of my cakes so I added some mini chocolate chips and an oh so decadent chocolate cookie crumb base to give you a crunch in every bite.
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Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
Much like using a fruit juice or nectar in a cake recipe, the flavour doesn’t pack enough punch for the quantity needed. To solve this problem, just like my guava cake, I reduced the balsamic vinegar to amp up the flavour. Now you could totally buy a balsamic reduction straight from the grocery store no problem and feel free to do so but if you already have a tasty balsamic vinegar in your pantry no need to run downtown.
In a small pot over medium heat bring the balsamic vinegar (I added chopped almonds for a subtle almond aftertaste) to a boil and immediately turn down the heat to low and allow it to gently simmer until it reduces by half. That means you get all the flavour but only half the liquid measurement.
Adding in Almonds
Hello delicious almond balsamic reduction. You can start drooling now because you’re kitchen will smell divine. If you used almonds make sure you strain them out after. I kept mine and used them as cake decor at the end for a tasty crunch element but they would also make for a bomb salad add-in.
Side note: who else agrees that the best salads are about 75% add-ins and only 25% lettuce?! I’m talking cranberries, shredded coconut, crispy chickpeas, crunchy tortilla strips, seeds, and of course these balsamic almonds. Well, that ended up being a salad rabbit trail. Sorry, can you tell I’m passionate about my salad toppings?! But back to the cake!
Allow the balsamic reduction to cool and as it does it will thicken. This is what is going to flavour the buttercream and give the delicious zingy contrast to the sweet cherry chocolate chip cake layers. So there you have it, a melt-in-your-mouth balsamic cherry chocolate chip cake that is not only delicious but a totally fun and pretty cake slice to boot.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare three 6-inch round cake pans.
Mix the melted butter and chocolate cookie crumbs in a bowl and divide evenly between cake pans. Firmly and evenly press the mixture down on the bottom of each pan. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer cream the butter and sugar on high for 1 minute with the whisk attachment.
Add egg whites and mix on high for 2 minutes.
Add the yogurt and vanilla extract and mix on high for 2 minutes.
Combine all the dry ingredients, except the mini chocolate chips, into the mixer and mix on low.
While the mixer is on low slowly pour in the milk and mix until combined. Be careful to not overmix the batter.
With a spatula, mix the mini chocolate chips in by hand.
Divide batter between pans on top of cookie crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
Cool in pans for 10 minutes and then invert on a cooling rack to fully cool.
Balsamic Almond Buttercream
In a small pot over medium heat bring the balsamic vinegar and chopped almonds to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until reduced by half. This should take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain out almonds, and let fully cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter and shortening on high speed with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, approximately 5-10 minutes.
Add the icing sugar, salt, almond extract, reduced balsamic, and milk and mix on low until combined.
Turn the mixer up to medium and let mix for 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Scrape the sides of the bowl when necessary.
Place one leveled layer of cherry chocolate chip cake on a cake board or plate. Make sure the chocolate cookie crumb base is on the bottom. Top with approximately 1 ½ cups of buttercream.
Repeat with remaining layers and apply a thin coat of buttercream all over the cake. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Cover the cake with another layer of buttercream and smooth sides.
Decorate as you please. I decorated the top border with cherries, chocolate pieces, and the leftover almonds from the balsamic reduction. Enjoy.