This chocolate Dutch baby pancake with cherry compote is like a brunch-y take on black forest cherry cake. It's a deliciously indulgent combination, but best of all, it's actually really easy to make. Perfect for breakfast or dessert!
At the weekend, as long as we're not rushing out the door (as hockey forces us to do often in winter), the kids and I are big fans of slower breakfasts. We have a few favorites that go in rotation: waffles, various smaller pancakes and individual Dutch baby pancakes with roasted berries.
If I had to choose one, it would probably be the Dutch babies. In part, because they are pretty easy to make, but also I have the perfect amount of time to make coffee and get plates out while the pancake cooks in the oven.
Every now and then I make variation on the theme and I've had chocolate on my mind to try for a while. Then I had the idea to combine it with a simple cherry compote. I wish I'd tried sooner as it's a match made in heaven.
What is a Dutch baby pancake?
Dutch baby pancakes are basically puffed up pancakes cooked in the oven in a skillet/frying pan or sometimes a baking dish. They also go by a few other names including a German pancake and a Dutch puff.
If the names have you confused on their origin, that's no surprise. But in fact "Dutch" is the one that's wrong. Apparently an American restaurant serving them corrupted the word "Deutsch" in their menu (which is "German" in German). While generally agreed to be German in origin, the Dutch name has stuck.
These pancakes are a bit like a large popover or Yorkshire pudding. You cook then in a similar way, adding the batter to a hot cooking vessel with hot fat in it.
These are generally cooked in a skillet, though, rather than muffin/popover tins, and you use butter rather than oil or drippings. How you serve them is also generally a little different - these are generally sweet (though they can be savory, too).
This version is, as you might expect, sweet and has such a wonderful flavor. You can, of course, add other toppings but the cherry compote complements the chocolate flavor perfectly and is so, so good.
Making cherry compote
The cherry compote might sound fancy but it's really easy to make. It's basically a chunky sauce, similar to a pie filling but maybe a little less thick sauce and more fruity.
It doesn't take long to make and you can cook it up as the pancake cooks. You could also make it ahead of time if you prefer. Just store it in an airtight container in the fridge - it will keep up to a week. I would highly recommend making extra, too, as it's so tasty and would be great on top of a cheesecake, over ice cream and with a plain cake.
You can use frozen cherries for this (which are pitted) but it's easy enough to pit fresh and they would be my preference. You can use a cherry pitter, or else simply cut them in half around the middle, twist and then remove the stone. I usually cut the halves once more to give quarter pieces which feels a nice size.
You add a little lemon juice, as with jams, in part for flavor and also for a little pectin to help the mixture thicken. But you don't cook this as long as a jam and instead add a little corn starch (corn flour) to thicken the liquid more quickly.
Be sure to add the cornstarch as a slurry with water, and drizzle it in gradually, stirring constantly, to make sure it mixes in properly. Added directly or all at once, it can clump. Plus, you may not need all of it.
Converting the pancake to chocolate-flavored
The basic ingredients for the pancake are simply egg, flour and milk then you add the butter directly to the skillet. To change this into a chocolate version, you essentially just switch out some of the flour for cocoa powder.
I have, however, made a couple of slight amends to my go-to plain version as well. First, I added a little more sugar as cocoa powder can be a little more bitter.
Second, I used a bit more butter to cook the pancake in. This is for a couple reasons: first, the butter helps the batter to rise and while I'm not positive, I think cocoa powder does the opposite so it helps balance this out.
The other reason is it makes the pancake a little richer which fits well with chocolate, and again balances the cocoa powder. It might be tempting to scale back, but I really don't recommend you do (or at least not much).
Tips for perfect pancakes
As I mentioned, these are really easy to make with just a few ingredients, but there are a couple things that you should keep in mind to make sure they work out well.
First, it's important to pre-heat the skillet. The pancake batter has no raising agent in it, the rise happens in part because the mixture is egg-rich but also due to using a hot skillet, with hot fat in a hot oven. If you don't pre-heat, they won't rise properly.
Linked to this, you want to melt the butter before adding the batter. It needs to be hot and bubbly, so give it a couple minutes to start to smell nutty.
Then, add the batter quickly. It starts to cook as soon as it hits the hot butter. The more everything stays hot, the better. Using a cast iron or a relatively heavy non-stick skillet works best to ensure even heat, and that the pancake doesn't stick.
You can blend the batter by hand or with a blender, as you prefer. It's worth mixing soon after you turn the oven on then let the batter sit a few minutes. This helps the flour and cocoa powder to hydrate.
Also, the cocoa powder doesn't always blend in fully at first. You might not notice initially, but leave a minute and lumps can rise (see top batter photo above). So, come back to it, stir again and use a spatula to smooth out lumps (you can see the difference in the second batter photo). A few small lumps are ok, but if you have a lot, you will get specks in the pancake that can taste bitter.
This chocolate Dutch baby pancake with cherry compote is such a delicious combination of flavors. It's easier to make than you might think and easy to scale up, too. You can make things even easier by making the compote ahead (and make extra for other things!). Whether breakfast or dessert, it's one you want to find an excuse to make soon!
Try these other sweet brunch ideas:
- Swedish cardamom buns
- Magdalenas (Spanish lemon and olive oil muffins)
- Gingerbread waffles
- Plus get more breakfast and brunch recipes in the archives.
Chocolate Dutch baby pancake with cherry compote
For cherry compote
- 5 oz cherries 140g (fresh or frozen, defrosted)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water plus additional 1tsp, see directions
- ½ tablespoon lemon juice (fresh)
- ½ teaspoon corn starch corn flour
- 1 egg
- 3 tablespoon all purpose flour 27g plain flour
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ cup milk 60ml
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 pinch salt (optional)
- 1 tablespoon butter 14g
- 2 tablespoon mascarpone can also use cream or Greek-style yogurt
To make compote
- Either as you heat the oven (see below) or if making ahead, first pit the cherries - you can use a pitter but I find it just as easy to cut with a knife around the middle, twist to split open then remove the stone. Cut the cherries into quarters and place in a small saucepan with the sugar, water and lemon juice.
- Place the saucepan on the stove on a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for around 5 - 10 minutes until the cherries are relatively soft, but still hold their shape.
- Mix the cornstarch with 1 teaspoon water to form a smooth slurry. Gradually add a little at a time to the cherry mixture and stir constantly to incorporate it. It will start to thicken - once it reaches the thickness you want, stop adding the cornstarch mixture and remove from the heat.
To make pancake and to serve
- Preheat oven to 400F/200C. Put an 8in/20cm cast iron or non stick skillet/frying pan in the oven to heat up as the oven heats.
- Use a blender or whisk together the pancake ingredients (egg, flour, cocoa powder, milk, sugar and salt - note NOT the butter) until smooth. Leave the mixture to sit for a few minutes and you may find you get little pockets of cocoa powder rise to the top (as in photo above) - use a spatula to stir and smooth as many of these lumps as you can (you can press against the side of the bowl) to make a smoother batter.
- Once the oven has reached temperature, add the butter to the skillet. Put the skillet back in the oven to let the butter melt and become foamy. You should start to smell the butter become slightly nutty.
- Once the butter has melted and is bubbly and starting to brown very slightly, pour the pancake batter into the middle of the pan. Immediately put the pan back in the oven and leave to bake for approx 16-18 minutes until the pancake has puffed up around the edges (and often in the middle a bit too). The batter should look dry, other than where the butter is.
- Don't worry, the pancake will likely deflate a little almost immediately, and may have butter on top when you take it out the oven - this will soak in to the pancake to keep it moist. Top the pancake with the mascarpone then the cherry compote. You may not need all. If you like, add a few shavings of chocolate on top before serving warm.