Chocolate Cherry Parfaits

january 29, 2016

chocolate cherry parfaits

As a kid, I cooked so many desserts that my parents readily gave in to my request for parfait glasses. We purchased them at the Pleasants Hardware in our neighborhood (where all things kitchen reigned alongside tools and snow shovels) and I have them still. They have languished in the buffet drawers until now, when the urge to conjure up a comforting memory dessert made me polish them to a shine and fill them with something akin to what my childhood chef prepared for the family.

Granted, for my parfaits back in the day, I tended to use  Dream Whip (a powdered concoction resembling thickened whipped cream once made) combined with Jello. I have a vintage Jello dessert recipe book that extols the virtue of this very technique – adding Dream Whip to freshly made Jello, with the resultant layering of gel/thick creamy gel/creamy cream making for a very pretty pastel confection.

I’m all grown up now, and I like to make desserts with real ingredients and not powdered pudding mixes or cream facsimiles. Trifles are great desserts for a crowd and when you break them down into single servings, you get parfaits. Parfait equals perfect in French, and this dessert is a perfect blend of flavors, with homemade gluten free brownies and chocolate pudding, and black cherry preserves with freshly whipped cream. chocolate cherry parfaitsAll the components may be made ahead. Assembly can even be accomplished ahead, as the parfaits will stay pretty in the fridge for a couple of days.

chocolate cherry parfaits

my beloved vintage parfait glasses, purchased at a Richmond family hardware store

If you own or can score parfait glasses, great, but any type of stemware will look just as glamorous on the table. Construction of this treat is also open to interpretation : use less preserves if you want less sweet, omit the internal whipped cream and simply use a dollop as a topper, load on the brownie by making a double batch. You get the picture. Now get the recipe! Valentine’s day is right around the corner….

Chocolate Cherry Parfaits

recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

makes eight parfaits, or one large trifle                                        chocolate cherry parfaits


one stick unsalted butter
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
pinch of fine sea salt
¼ cup corn starch

chocolate pudding
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
⅓ cup water
⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 ¾ cup whole milk plus ⅓ cup
3 tablespoons corn starch

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
large jar cherry preserves (I like Bonne Maman 13 ounce jar)
optional garnish : dark chocolate shavings


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line 8 inch baking pan with foil and spray foil.
  3. In heavy small saucepan, melt butter with cocoa powder over low heat, whisking until combined.
  4. Add both sugars off heat, then whisk in eggs one at a time, then almond extract and salt.
  5. With spatula, add cornstarch just until combined and spread into pan.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until it appears set and begins to pull away from the sides.
  7. Brownies may be made ahead up to 3 days; store at room temperature.
  8. For pudding, whisk together cocoa, sugar and salt in heavy two quart saucepan, then whisk in water until well combined.
  9. Whisking, bring the mixture just to simmer over medium heat, then add chocolate chips and whisk until melted.
  10. Off heat, gradually whisk in 1 ¾ cup milk.
  11. In small bowl, whisk cornstarch with ⅓ cup milk and add this to mixture in saucepan.
  12. Over medium heat, stir mixture constantly until it becomes thick and when it just reaches boiling, turn heat to low and gently whisk one minute to cook cornstarch well.
  13. Turn pudding into large glass dish, top with piece of waxed paper to prevent a thick skin from forming and refrigerate until well chilled. May be made up to 3 days ahead.
  14. In chilled deep mixing bowl, use electric mixer to whip cream with powdered sugar just until stiff peaks are reached. May be made one day ahead – remix if deflates, and add a bit of cream.
  15. To assemble, in each of eight parfait glasses or other stemware, place a dollop of chocolate pudding, then crumbled brownie, then a thin layer of cherry preserves and then a dollop of whipped cream.
  16. Repeat until you have at least two layers and if desired, sprinkle dark chocolate shavings atop final layer of whipped cream. Parfaits may be made 1-2 days ahead, but are best within 1 day.

cook’s notes

  • if you are using skinny goblets or parfait glasses, you can place both the pudding and whipped cream into pastry bags, or into heavy freezer bags with pastry tips placed into the bag’s corner, to neatly layer without creating messy streaks on the sides of the glass
  • in a pinch, you can use whipped cream in a can (get the real thing, though) which comes with its own handy spray nozzle
  • the brownies are dense and hard to crumble, so you can smash a patty of brownie bits to fit the glass interior
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