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It’s time to celebrate – let’s have cake! Whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, or the inaugural recipe of your long-awaited food blog (spoiler alert), the rich Black Forest cake with cherries, chocolate, and cream is sure to impress.
I’ve experimented with a lot of cakes over the years, from ice cream cakes, to red velvet, to pumpkin cakes. I used to love getting ice cream cakes from Coldstone. They had a brief stint in Canada adjoined to a 24/7 Tim Hortons, where many nights of my youth were (mis)spent after the bars had closed or friends’ parents kicked us out of their place.
All that said, when I want a classic, Black Forest always comes back to mind. Naturally, for a family birthday this year, I thought it would be a great idea to make this cake from scratch. To me important symbol of love and self-reliance during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Bit of Background
The Black Forest Cherry Cake, or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, originates from Germany and has become a staple the world over. Although the inspiration came from the Black Forest part, I want to give special attention to kirsch.
Kirschwasser, often shortened to kirsch, is a clear cherry brandy. It is traditionally soaked into the Black Forest cake batter. It’s a bit decadent, but it’s far from a sugar bomb. In fact, it has the opposite effect of adding a slightly dry fruitiness to the cake, helping to balance the sweetness of the cream and the richness of the cacao.
If you don’t have any cherry brandy on hand, you can also try using another type of cherry liqueur. I suggest Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, which is bold and fruity but surprisingly tart and with a dry finish. It’s a great to have on hand in your home bar for delicious cocktails like the tart and layered Last Word, or the refreshing Cherry Whiskey Sour.
Making a Black Forest Cake
The cake I’m showing you today is a three-layer cake, with cherries, syrup, and cream in between each one. It is garnished with fresh cherries, sprinkled generous chocolate dust, and coated with chocolate bark. Both used 70% dark chocolate.
I got the idea for the bark from this gorgeous example. As you can see, I made a bit of mess placing the bark on the cake. Nonetheless, it was a fun exercise, and adds to the chocolatey deliciousness of the cake. Highly recommend!
Rather than using bark, you can also add more chocolate dust on the sides, or let a chocolate sauce drip down the sides. You can do this either by melting down a dark chocolate bar, or making your own super simple dairy-free chocolate syrup (I will have a recipe on this soon). Either way, it’s your cake, so do whatever inspires you to make it the best cake you can.
Want to see the process in detail? I’ve created a gallery so you can see all the steps of making this cake from start to finish without cramming the recipe! Take a gander. Note: as of publishing, I’m thinking of making this a slideshow instead to save space. Please let me know if you have feedback!
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but of course you may still want a recipe in writing… it’s here!
Black Forest Cake
- Stove pot
- At least 3 cake tins
- Measuring cups
The Dry Stuff
- 2 ¼ cups flour
- 1-2 cups sugar I always aim for less sugar. Most recipes will use up to 2 cups. Do whatever makes you happy.
- 3/4 cup cacao powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp espresso powder Optional: if you want a rich and toasty flavour and/or if you love coffee cakes, I strongly recommend this. But it's up to you, no pressure!
The Wet Stuff
- 2-3 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup hot water just hot, NOT boiling water
- 1 cup milk, buttermilk, or sour cream I’veread recipes where all 3 “have to” be used and “can’t” be replaced; clearlythey can, since they all made a cake in the end, so take your pick – buttermilkis thicker, sour cream is surprisingly adept and helping the cake stay moist)
Cherries and Cherry Syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 lb pitted cherries, more if using fresh cherries Use what cherries you like. You can skip making the syrup if you use the liquid from canned or jarred sour cherries.
- 1/4 cup kirschwasser (cherry brandy) or other cherry liqueur (e.g. Luxardo) This is about 2 oz or 60 ml
- 250 g 70% or higher dark chocolate more doesn't hurt!
- 3 cups heavy or whipping cream Naming conventions vary by region and country. Any cream that is 35%+ fat should do.
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- 1/4 cup almond orgeat Optional: if you want to sweeten further and add a slightly nutty flavour
The Cake Batter
- Crack your eggs and put all the wet stuff together in a large bowl, except for the hot water. Add the sugar and use a hand mixer to mix it all together.
- Slowly add the hot water, a little at a time, so as to not cook the eggs.
- Next, slowly add the rest of the dry stuff and continue mixing. This will take a few minutes.
- Prepare cake pans by adding parchment paper along the bottom and gently greasing with vegetable oil. I am using 3 layers. If you want more layers, use more cake pans.
- Divide the cake batter evenly between your pans. Use a scale to weigh the tins if you want to be precise.
- Bake on 356° F or 180° C for 25-35 minutes, depending on your oven. Check the internal consistency of the batter with a toothpick or bamboo stick. If the stick is dry, your cake is ready to go.
- Separate out as many cherries as you want to garnish the cake. You can visualize this by laying the cherries out in a circle around the edge of your cake tin before baking. My cake had 14 on top.
- Next, separate about 1/2 cup by volume of pitted cherries to go with the syrup. The rest will be the cherries that go between the cake layers. Cut these in half so it's easier to stack the layers on top of each other.
- Finally, we’re making a cherry syrup – which will also be great syrup for cocktails or cherry flavoured drinks. You can skip the rest of this by simply setting aside the syrup from canned or jarred sour cherries if you are using those, and adding 1/4 cup (2 oz, about 60 ml) of cherry brandy or liqueur.
- Bring water to simmer/low boil in a pot over the stove, then add sugar, liqueur, and the 1/2 cup of cherries. Stir until sugar dissolves. Allow cherries to sit for at least 10 minutes until colour turns deep red, more if you want a stronger flavour. As a bonus, these cherries will be deliciously juicy and slightly boozy, and you can use them as your cake garnish as well or eat them on the side.
- Melt 250g (or more) of dark chocolate down. Add a tiny bit of water if consistency is too thick to pour. Leave a bit of chocolate left over to grate into dust at the end of the process.
- Pour the liquid chocolate out on a pan covered with wax or parchment paper
- Roll up the paper tightly and refrigerate or freeze it for at least 20 minutes.
- Unroll the paper over the pan when ready to place the bark on the cake. The chocolate will naturally crack into pieces when unraveled.
- Pour cream, icing sugar, and any other additives you wish into a bowl. Use a hand mixer on high speed until cream sits on its own. This will likely take several minutes. We will use about half of the cream for the tops of the cake layers, and half on the outside.
- It's the moment of truth! Remove the first cake layer from its pan. Generously brush cherry syrup over the top of the cake layer, then spread cream and place half the pitted cherries on top.
- Stack the next layer on top of the first, repeating the process with the other half of the cherries. Then, stack the final layer and coat with cream.
- When all layers are stacked, coat the entire outside of the cake with cream.
- Finalize the cake with all your garnishes of choice: cherries, chocolate dust, chocolate bark,etc. Use a hand grater and sprinkle the dust evenly across the top of the cake.
Thanks for stopping by! If you like this kind of article, why not check out some of my other food recipes as well?