Notes: I still can't believe I pulled this off. It was very, very good. However, I do plan to make a few minor adjustments next time. The following recipe includes those changes. Scroll down to previous entry for luscious photos.
3 9-inch cake layer pans
wire cooling rack
unflavored dental floss
large icing spatula
1 German or Swiss chocolate cake mix
oil, water, and eggs as directed on box
12 oz cream cheese, cut into 1-inch squares, room temp
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream, room temp
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs, room temp
1 cup dried sour cherries, reconstituted, drained
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can coconut milk
Line the bottoms of two cake pans with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cake batter according to directions. Set aside. In separate bowl, cream sugar and cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in sour cream and vanilla. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix on medium speed about two minutes.
Pour as much of the chocolate batter into one cake pan as you think will fit without spilling over (aim for at least 3/4 of it). Pour remaining chocolate batter evenly into second cake pan. Pour cheesecake batter directly into center of pan, so that chocolate batter is pushed out on all sides, rimming the perimeter as evenly as possible. Drop cherries on top of cheesecake batter (they'll sink). The cheesecake won't rise much, or dome on top, so don't worry about the pan being full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, checking both cakes for doneness at 30 minutes. My plain chocolate cake was done at 30 minutes; the cheesecake layer took another 8 minutes or so. But I'm at high elevation and our oven is old and senile, so... just keep an eye on them.
Meanwhile, whisk together sweetened condensed, evaporated, and coconut milk. (You'll only be using half of it at most, so start thinking of ways to use the excess.)
Cool cakes in pans on wire rack for at least 45 minutes, then unmold cheesecake onto flat plate, bring to room temp, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pierce chocolate cake layer about 50 times with toothpick, then pour milk mixture over cake, let it soak in, and repeat until cake is saturated. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours, checking once or twice to see if cake could absorb more milk. Wash and dry cheesecake pan for cherry custard phase.
Cherry Custard Filling:
2 1/2 cups pure cherry juice
3 TB fresh lemon juice
5 eggs, room temp
3 egg yolks, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin
6 TB butter, cut into half-inch cubes, chilled
3 TB heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
red food coloring, if desired
Set aside 1/2 cup cherry juice. Heat remaining cherry and lemon juice at a brisk simmer until reduced by half. Whisk eggs, yolks, and sugar in medium bowl. Remove juice from heat for bout 30 seconds. Pour hot juice into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Add gelatin to reserved 1/2 cup cherry juice (this should stand undisturbed about five minutes before being stirred into the custard). Return egg/sugar/juice mixture to pot and set over medium-low heat. Stir steadily with spatula until mixture thickens enough to coat spoon (about 4 minutes). Remove from heat, stir in butter until melted, then stir in gelatin mixture, cream, vanilla, salt, and food coloring, if using. Divide custard between two parchment-lined cake pans. Refrigerate, transferring to freezer at least 40 minutes before commencing cake assembly.
1 12 oz package semisweet chocolate chips
1 4 oz bar Lindt milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
1 pint, minus 3 TB used in custard, heavy cream
~3 oz sliced almonds, toasted
Approximately one and a half hours before commencing cake assembly, place chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Heat cream in small pot over medium-high heat until bubbling. Pour over chocolate. Cover and let sit five minutes. Whisk until smooth, let rest one minute, whisk again for one minute to fully emulsify. Pour a little more than half of ganache into separate container; cover and refrigerate both. After about an hour, remove smaller portion in original medium bowl and beat with electric mixer first on low, then medium speed until medium-stiff peaks form (took about five minutes for me). Set aside or refrigerate, whichever will make frosting easier for you.
Invert soaked chocolate cake out of pan onto flat plate. Cut in half with dental floss. Place bottom half on cake platter. Run bottom of frozen custard pan under hot water for about 30 seconds, then tap frozen custard layer out of pan, invert onto first cake layer, remove paper. Place cheesecake layer upside-down on top of custard. Remove second frozen custard layer and place on top of cheesecake. Place domed second half of soaked chocolate cake on top. Frost cake with whipped ganache, thickly on sides and thinly on top. Press cooled toasted almond slices into sides. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes or so. Check unwhipped ganache; refrigerate longer or warm up to achieve desired consistency. Pour unwhipped ganache over top of cake, spreading and letting drip down sides as desired. Decorate top with almonds as desired. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to allow custard to thaw.
Slice, serve, and ENJOY.