For the cupcakes:
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature
For the cherry filling:
16 oz. frozen cherries, thawed*
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. kirsch (optional)
For the frosting:
1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
6 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Fresh (or maraschino) cherries, with stems
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line standard cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and the sugar over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally to combine, until the butter is melted. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed, 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is cooled. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating just until combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the filling, drain the thawed berries, reserving the juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough water so that the total liquid equals 1¼ cups. Add the liquid to a medium saucepan with the sugar and cornstarch. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Continue whisking so no lumps form. Once thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice. Fold in the drained cherries with a spatula. Stir in the kirsch, if using. Cover and chill until ready to use. (The filling will continue to thicken as it chills.)
To fill the cupcakes, use the cone method to remove a portion from the center of each cupcake. Fill each with a spoonful of the cherry filling.
To make the whipped cream frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start beating on medium-low speed, slowly increasing as the cream begins to thicken up to medium-high speed. While the cream is being whipped, gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar a spoonful at a time. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. (Be careful not to overbeat!) Fold in the vanilla extract.
Frost the filled cupcakes with the whipped cream. (I used a pastry bag fitted with an Ateco #809 tip.) Garnish as desired with cherries and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Note: You can use either tart or sweet cherries for this filling depending on your personal tastes and what is available to you. Feel free to adjust the sugar as needed to achieve your desired level of sweetness or tartness in the filling. I used tart cherries and the amount of sugar indicated.