The best, according to Jared, the expert.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
1 796-mL jar pitted sour cherries, in light syrup
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups 35% cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
First prepare two 8 or 9 in. (20 or 22 cm) round cake pans by greasing them, lining them with rounds of waxed paper and then greasing the paper. This might sound like a lot of work, but if you've ever had only half of your cake come out of the pan after baking, you'll know it's worth doing.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Have your young and eager assistant stir the dry ingredients with a whisk or wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. Crack in the eggs, and measure in the milk, oil and vanilla. Beat this batter with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes. You can also do this with a whisk. Now, carefully pour in the boiling water and mix the batter until just until combined. It will be fairly thin.
Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans and bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick stuck into the middle of each cake comes out clean.
Run a knife around the edge of each cake to loosen it from the pan, turn the pan over onto a metal rack and the cake will just drop out. Peel off the waxed paper and let the cake cool completely before proceeding.
The cherry filling: Drain the jar of cherries, reserving the juice. You should have about 2 cups (500 mL) of actual cherries. Measure 1 cup (250 mL) of the cherry juice into a small saucepan (someone might want to drink the rest - yum) and stir in the cornstarch and sugar. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until the juice comes to a boil and gets all bubbly and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cherries. Let cool completely.
The whipped cream: In a medium bowl, combine the whipping cream with the sugar. Beat, with an electric mixer on high speed, until stiffly whipped.
Putting-it-all-together: Place one cake layer on your fanciest cake platter (a plain old plate will do too). Fill a pastry decorating bag (if you have one) with whipped cream, and pipe a 1/2 in. (1 cm) high "wall" of whipped cream all around the edge of the cake. This will act as an enclosure to contain the cherry filling. If you don't have a pastry bag, just spoon the whipped cream into a clean plastic bag, cut off one corner, and squeeeeeeze.
Now, spoon about half of the cherry filling onto the cake, spreading it all the way to the whipped cream wall - but don't let it spill over the sides! Watch for leaks - and patch them with whipped cream. Any small child who has spent time playing with mashed potatoes and gravy will know exactly what to do.
Carefully place the second cake layer onto the whipped cream/cherry filling, squishing it down ever so gently. Spread the top of the cake evenly with whipped cream, then squeeze out dollops of cream all the way around the top of the cake - again, you want to create a enclosure for the cherry filling. Spoon as much of the cherry filling onto the top of the cake as your whipped-cream wall will hold. There may be some cherry filling left over - save it to use on ice cream or plain cake.
Leave the sides of the cake un-iced so that you can see the two layers of cake, with the whipped cream in between. Decorate the top with grated chocolate if you like and, of course, maraschino cherries.