Elizabeth Pokrivka with her winning Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake at the York Fair.
Elizabeth Pokrivka with her winning Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake at the York Fair. (Bill Kalina photo)

"I've had chocolate cakes explode on the table!"

That may not be something you would expect to hear from the first-place winner of York Fair's Classic Chocolate Cake Baking Contest, but Elizabeth Pokrivka of Seven Valleys admitted with laughter that such an event happened to her, more than once.

She and her mother, Shelley Pokrivka, are well known at the fair's Culinary Corner for their award-winning entries.

"Baking is pretty much a family tradition," Pokrivka said. "But we really only do it at fair time. We talk about it all year, but I just do it for fun. We've had our share of failures, but it's fun to keep trying."

Pokrivka entered her Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake, a dark chocolate confection with an infusion of cherry flavor throughout the cake, filling and frosting.

She's been competing in cooking contests since she was 12, and because her mother's proposed entry was deemed to be "a very normal cake," the challenge fell to daughter Elizabeth to succeed with her more creative idea.

Judges Roxanne Price, Kathy Dietz, Ellen Bolton, and Tanya Young had quite a challenge too, having to choose a winner from 15 cakes.

Young, bending and twisting over each entry to get a better look.

"I take an artistic approach. I look to see how it's holding together," she said.

Price said the icing is key.

"Icing pulls the cake together," she said after admitting she's a huge fan of chocolate.

Other entries that suited the judges discerning taste buds were Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake from second-place winner Julie Hein of York, and Chocolate Raspbuttery Delight from third-place winner Kelly Fitzpatrick of Red Lion.

Pokrivka, with exploding cakes a distant memory, is now eligible to compete in the 2013 PA Farm Show cake competition. She walked away with a $100 Shurfine gift certificate plus a $25 cash prize.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake

3/4 cup Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder

1 tablespoon instant espresso powder

1 cup boiling water

1-1/3 cup milk, warmed

1 cup brown sugar

1-1/3 cup white sugar

3/4 cup oil

3 large eggs (room temperature)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2-1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Cherry filling:

3 cups frozen sour cherries, thawed and drained

1-1/2 cups superfine sugar

2 tablespoons cherry wine

1/4 cup cornstarch, for thickening

Frosting:

3 8-ounce containers frozen whipped topping

2 4-serving packages vanilla instant pudding

1/2 cup frozen sour cherries, thawed and drained; pureed

1/2 cup sour cherry juice

Cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Coat two 9-inch pans with nonstick spray. Line the bottoms with wax paper.

Put cocoa powder and espresso powder in boiling water and stir until smooth. Add next four ingredients when cool and beat until blended. Add baking soda, flour, and salt. Beat until smooth. Pour into pans.

Bake 45--55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool.

Remove cake from pans and cool completely on a cooling rack.

For a triple-layer cake, if desired, repeat and freeze extra layer.

Torte cooled layers evenly, cutting each horizontally into two equal layers.

Place one torted layer on a cake board and top with an even layer of cherry filling. Top with the other half of layer. Top layer with frosting. Repeat with remaining layers. Then frost top and sides of cake.

Garnish with maraschino cherries, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate candies, or as desired.

Cherry Filling: Combine fruit and sugar in a pan and stir together. Bring to a boil.

Mix the cornstarch with cherry wine, whisking to remove lumps.

When the cherries are boiling, add the cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly, until desired consistency is reached.

Frosting: Combine topping and pudding until smooth. Gradually add cherries, then juice, until desired consistency is reached.

Note: Due to frosting, cake requires refrigeration after baking.