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Chocolate cherry brownies have all the flavors of Black Forest cake, but in decadent brownie form. Rich, chewy brownies studded with cherries and chocolate chunks, vanilla bean buttercream, and fresh cherry sauce transform an ordinary dessert into something truly special!

chocolate cherry brownie topped with buttercream and a cherry

I’ve had visions of Black Forest cake swimming in my head every cherry season for the better part of a decade. This year I was on it!

Every week starting in April I’d check the produce department to see when they popped up. Mid-May was the sweet spot! I bought two bags (more cherry recipes coming soon), and started with this beauty.

Instead of going with a regular Black Forest gateau (because let’s face it, the internet is inundated with a ton of gorgeous + delicious recipes for that already!), I decided to go with brownies. Rich, decadent, uber-chocolatey cocoa brownies (that walk the fine line between perfectly chewy and fudgy), crepey, crackled tops included.

Studded with fresh cherries and chocolate chunks, topped with velvety dollops of vanilla bean-laced buttercream, and drizzled with an easy sauce made of more fresh cherries. Le sigh. Yes, please!

And there’s the added bonus that sometimes cakes can be a little intimidating. But brownies? Nah. Brownies are neither cookie nor cake (and so it’s basically a no-rules-just-right situation), quick and easy-peasy to whip up, and as unpretentious as dessert comes!

Even with the different components to these brownies, they’re still completely approachable. Every single step is easy, I promise! Read the recipe through completely before starting, measure out all your ingredients, and you got this.

Make them for Valentine’s Day dessert, a summer potluck, or a holiday party (yup, you can use frozen cherries if they’re out of season!). If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing dessert that’s as elegant and impressive as it is simple, you found it.

close up top view of fancy brownies with buttercream and cherry sauce

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Bakery quality at home – You know those fancy brownies you’d get at a bakery? These are every bit as good. They’re elegant and impressive, but secretly easy.
  • People go crazy for them – If you need dessert for a potluck, barbecue, or even a holiday party, this is a great option. The chocolate + cherry flavor combination is always a hit!
  • You can make the time-saving version of this recipe and it’ll still be a success – Even though this recipe isn’t hard to make, it does have multiple steps. And sometimes you just need a quick dessert option! For the time-saving version of Black Forest brownies, use a boxed brownie mix (and add in the chopped chocolate and cherries), store-bought vanilla frosting, and store-bought cherry pie filling.

Ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

chocolate cherry brownies ingredients

Chocolate Cherry Brownies Ingredients:

  • Unsalted butter – We use a combination of butter + oil for the benefits of both: butter for rich flavor and oil for chewy texture.
  • Vegetable oil – Or you can use avocado oil, canola oil, or any mild or neutral-flavored oil you like.
  • Granulated white sugar – This is the main sweetener in our brownies.
  • Light brown sugar – The molasses in brown sugar adds depth of flavor and helps make our brownies chewy.
  • Pure vanilla extract – The vanilla here enhances the flavor of the chocolate.
  • Eggs – Act as a binder and help us achieve the right texture.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – Instead of melting chocolate to make these brownies, we get the chocolate hit from cocoa powder. Cocoa powder brownies are more intensely rich and chocolatey. Additionally, using cocoa powder allows us to add the type of fat that we want (in the perfect ratio of butter:oil) instead of getting fat from the chocolate.
  • Flour – Use all-purpose flour here.
  • Salt – Salt is a natural flavor enhancer that pulls out the flavor of everything else.
  • Instant espresso powder – This is optional, but recommended because it pulls out the natural coffee notes in chocolate. While you won’t be able to taste coffee in these brownies, you’ll notice that they have a deep, nuanced chocolate flavor.
  • Chopped dark chocolate – For extreme decadence, we add chopped chocolate to our brownies. In a pinch, you can substitute with 1/2 cup chocolate chips.
  • Fresh cherries – You can’t have chocolate cherry brownies without the cherries! You can substitute with frozen cherries if they’re out of season; be sure to thaw them, drain off the excess water, and pat them dry before adding to the batter.

Quick Cherry Sauce Ingredients:

  • Fresh cherries – In addition to cherries mixed in the brownies, we also use them to make a quick cherry pie filling type of sauce for topping. You can use frozen cherries instead; cook them from frozen and omit the added water.
  • Water – To help create a syrupy cherry sauce.
  • Granulated white sugar – To sweeten our cherry sauce.
  • Salt – To pull out the natural flavor of the cherries.
  • Cornstarch – We dissolve the cornstarch in cold water to form a slurry to thicken the fruit sauce.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream Ingredients:

  • Unsalted butter – Here we’re making a quick and easy American buttercream to top the brownies with. It has a base of butter and powdered sugar.
  • Vanilla bean paste – Vanilla bean paste adds gorgeous brown flecks of vanilla, as well as rich flavor and aroma. You can substitute with the scrapings from half a vanilla bean pod, or with the same amount of vanilla extract.
  • Almond extract – Just a whisper of almond extract in the buttercream echos the flavor of cherry in the brownies.
  • Salt – Helps create a balanced flavor profile instead of a buttercream frosting that’s just sickly sweet.
  • Powdered sugar – Also called confectioners sugar and 10X sugar, powdered sugar adds sweetness and also gives our buttercream structure and stability.
  • Heavy whipping cream – This helps create the perfect creamy texture. If you don’t have cream on hand, you can use milk instead, just start with half the amount and add more as needed.

Other Ingredients:

  • Fresh whole cherries – For a beautiful, whimsical, and tasty decoration, put a fresh cherry (with the stem if possible) on top of the dollop of buttercream on each brownie. This reminds me of the old-fashioned ice cream sundaes served with a cherry on top!
  • Finely chopped dark chocolate – You don’t have to sprinkle finely chopped dark chocolate on top, but it makes these look extra indulgent.

Instructions

Make the Brownies

chopped chocolate and fresh cherries

To start, chop the chocolate and cherries and measure out all the other ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper so it hangs over all 4 sides.

how to make chocolate cherry brownies from scratch
  1. Add the butter, oil, white sugar, and brown sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the butter is melted, stirring well until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Alternatively, you can add everything to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 45-second intervals, stirring well between each interval.) The point here isn’t to just melt the butter, it’s to make sure the mixture is warm enough and well-mixed enough to fully dissolve the sugar – this is what creates crepey brownie tops!)
  2. Beat in the vanilla and eggs, and then stir in the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and instant espresso powder.
  3. Your brownie batter will be thick and glossy, like this.
  4. Fold in the chopped chocolate and cherries.
baking brownies
  1. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and spread it out evenly.
  2. Bake until the brownies are set along the outside, and look puffed and dry on top, about 20 to 25 minutes (be careful not to over-bake!). The toothpick test for doneness won’t work here because if a toothpick comes out dry, the brownies are over-baked. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Make the Cherry Sauce

homemade cherry sauce

While the brownies are baking, make the cherry sauce.

Add all ingredients except the cornstarch slurry to a small saucepan. Cook (covered) over medium to medium-low heat until the cherries start to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the cornstarch slurry, and cook until thickened and translucent, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Make the Buttercream Frosting

buttercream swirls in bowl

Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Beat together with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

Decorate the Brownies

Once they’re cool, cut the brownies into 16 squares.

Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, and decoratively pipe one dollop of buttercream on top of each brownie.

Spoon the cherry sauce decoratively on top. If desired, sprinkle on the finely chopped dark chocolate and top each brownie with a fresh whole cherry.

chocolate cherry brownies recipe with crinkly tops
This is how the brownies look without any toppings. I’ll be perfectly honest, they’re delicious just like this if you don’t feel like gilding the lily with buttercream and cherry sauce!

Storage

Store these brownies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

If you need to make this recipe ahead of time, I recommend making the different components (brownies, buttercream, and cherry sauce) and storing them separately until you want to serve them.

Before topping them with anything, you can store the cooled brownies wrapped well at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Keep the buttercream frosting in an airtight container on the countertop for up to 3 days, in the fridge for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If it was refrigerated or frozen, thaw it to room temperature and then beat it again to make it smooth and creamy, adding a splash of milk or cream if necessary.

And the cherry sauce will stay good in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge or 3 months in the freezer.

front view of chewy brownie with chocolate cherries and buttercream frosting

Baker’s Tips

  • Okay lovelies, I’m going to let you in on the secret to the best homemade brownies of your life. If you like chewy brownies with crinkly tops, the trick is to melt the fat with the sugar and then stir like the dickens until the sugar is completely dissolved!
  • Traditional Black Forest cake is made of layers of chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, and cherries. If you prefer, you can skip the buttercream and top these brownies with a dollop of whipped cream. (If you use real whipped cream, I recommend waiting to top the brownies until right before you want to eat them.)
  • And let’s not forget that Black Forest cake also contains Kirschwasser (German for “cherry water”), which is a clear brandy made from the double distillation of cherries. If you want to add Kirsch to this recipe, add 1 tablespoon to the brownie batter at the same time as the vanilla extract. Additionally, you can swap out the water for Kirsch in the cherry sauce, and use Kirsch instead of heavy whipping cream in the buttercream.
top view of black forest brownies with chocolate and fresh cherries

Chocolate Cherry Brownies FAQs

Can I Use a Mix to Make These Brownies?


Well, yes. But I’m telling you, take 10 minutes to whip these brownies up from scratch and you won’t regret it!

But if you must, just prepare a boxed brownie mix according to the package directions, stir in the chopped chocolate and cherries, and bake it up as normal. Let it cool, and then decorate with buttercream and fresh cherry sauce if desired.

Can I Use Frozen Cherries Instead of Fresh?


Absolutely! When cherries aren’t in season, frozen cherries work well in this recipe.

To use frozen cherries in the brownies, simply thaw them first, drain off the water, and lightly pat them dry with a paper towel.

And to use frozen cherries to make the cherry sauce, cook them from frozen and omit the added water. You will likely need to add another 1 to 2 minutes to the cooking time.

More Decadent Brownie Recipes to Try

brownie with buttercream and a cherry

Let’s Connect

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Chocolate Cherry Brownies Recipe

Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Other Time1 hour
Yields: 16 servings
With all the flavors of Black Forest cake, these chewy, decadent chocolate cherry brownies are topped with a dollop of vanilla bean buttercream and decorated with fresh cherry sauce.

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Ingredients
 

Chocolate Cherry Brownies:

Quick Cherry Sauce:

  • 1 cup fresh cherries pitted and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water to form a slurry

Vanilla Bean Buttercream:

Other:

  • 16 fresh whole cherries for garnish (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate for garnish (optional)

Instructions
 

For the Chocolate Cherry Brownies:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper so it hangs over all 4 sides.
  • Add the butter, oil, white sugar, and brown sugar to a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the butter is melted, stirring well until the sugar is completely dissolved. (Alternatively, you can add everything to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 45-second intervals, stirring well between each interval.) The point here isn’t to just melt the butter, it’s to make sure the mixture is warm enough and well-mixed enough to fully dissolve the sugar – this is what creates crepey brownie tops!)
  • Beat in the vanilla and eggs, and then stir in the cocoa powder, flour, salt, and instant espresso powder. Fold in the chopped chocolate and cherries.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and spread it out evenly.
  • Bake until the brownies are set along the outside, and look puffed and dry on top, about 20 to 25 minutes (be careful not to over-bake!). The toothpick test for doneness won't work here because if a toothpick comes out dry, the brownies are over-baked.
  • Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

For the Quick Cherry Sauce:

  • While the brownies are baking, make the cherry sauce.
  • Add all ingredients except the cornstarch slurry to a small saucepan. Cook (covered) over medium to medium-low heat until the cherries start to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, stir in the cornstarch slurry, and cook until thickened and translucent, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

For the Vanilla Bean Buttercream:

  • Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Beat together with a handheld electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

To Decorate:

  • Once they’re cool, cut the brownies into 16 squares.
  • Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip, and decoratively pipe one dollop of buttercream on top of each brownie.
  • Spoon the cherry sauce decoratively on top. If desired, sprinkle on the finely chopped dark chocolate and top each brownie with a fresh whole cherry.
  • Serve.

Notes

  • Storage: Store these brownies in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Recipe Yield and Serving Size: This recipe makes 1 (8 by 8-inch) pan that’s cut into 16 brownies. Each brownie is 1 serving.
  • Time-Saving Semi-Homemade Version: Even though this recipe isn’t hard to make, it does have multiple steps. And sometimes you just need a quick dessert option! For the time-saving version of Black Forest brownies, use a boxed brownie mix (and add in the chopped chocolate and cherries), store-bought vanilla frosting, and store-bought cherry pie filling.

Nutrition

Serving: 1brownie | Calories: 343kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 49mg | Sodium: 107mg | Potassium: 193mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 383IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Black Forest Brownies, Black Forest Brownies Recipe, Cherry Brownies, Chocolate Cherry Brownies, Chocolate Cherry Brownies Recipe

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black forest brownies recipe pin
Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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