Black Forest Cake

Last month, it was my friend Gabriela’s son’s 3rd birthday.  She arranged a kid-themed cake for the first of two parties (what a lucky guy!).  Then, for the second celebration with the adults – all the “aunties and uncles” in his life – she asked if I could make a cake.

As a kid, Gabriela remembered always getting a Black Forest cake on her birthday, so she wanted to relive those childhood memories by getting a Black Forest cake for her son, too.

The only Black Forest cake recipe I had tried was a fairly complex one, from the time I took a German Cakes course.  I was taught by a German pastry chef, so I knew this was as authentic as it gets – cherry compote, dark chocolate mousse and kirsch creme in between layers of chocolate almond sponge (which was made with marzipan, no doubt!).  The taste was out of this world, but making it was also pretty time-consuming!

Surely I could find simpler versions of this cake floating around online that aren’t half bad?!  I decided to try this recipe, with only a few minor adjustments.  Gabriela even gave me the go-ahead to make her little boy’s cake with kirsch…yessss!!

It turned out to be a real winner!  The cake was so chocolaty and moist, even before brushing on the syrup.  I couldn’t find sour cherries, so I used canned sweet cherries, which were perfectly fine.  I added unflavoured gelatin to the whipped cream, which helps it to hold its shape even after a couple of days (for a vegetarian option, I’ve read that you can use agar agar in place of gelatin, although I’ve never tried it). Of course, it’s not necessary to stabilize whipped cream, but I always do it when I’m baking for special occasions, to prolong the time that the cream stays fresh looking.

The only other thing I would change the next time I make this cake (and I definitely will be making it again!) is increase the ratio of kirsch to cherry juice in the syrup (from 1/4 to 1/3 cup), just to get a stronger taste of kirsch, since it was pretty subtle.  I’d recommend decorating with fresh cherries, but if they’re not in season, you can use maraschino cherries, as I did.  But honestly, the cake was amazing!  All the guests commented on how delicious it was.  There wasn’t a crumb left on anyone’s plate! 🙂



Chocolate Cake:

1¾ cups (250g) all-purpose flour, sifted
⅔ cup (65g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup (125 ml) neutral oil, such as vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk
1 cup (250 ml) hot water

Cherries and Cherry Syrup:

1 can (400 ml) pitted sour (or sweet) cherries in syrup, drained and sliced in half (reserve the syrup)
⅓ cup Kirsch, or other cherry liqueur

Stabilized Whipped Cream:

4 cups (1 litre) heavy cream, cold
80g icing sugar, sifted
4 teaspoons unflavoured gelatin
6 tablespoons cold water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


200g chocolate shavings
Fresh whole cherries or maraschino cherries


Chocolate Cake:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Generously butter two 8-inch cake pans that are at least 2-inches high, and dust with cocoa powder, tapping the pans lightly to remove any excess.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, buttermilk, and water (pour the water slowly, while whisking, so it won’t cook the eggs, ). Whisk until smooth. Add egg mixture into flour mixture and mix until smooth. Don’t overbeat – batter will be lumpy at first, but mix gently and eventually stir with a whisk just until smooth. The batter will be thin and liquid.

4. Pour an equal amount of batter into each prepared cake pan. Bake cakes for 30-35 minutes (depending on your oven – this might take longer), or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans before unmolding, then let cakes cool completely on a wire rack.

5. Place the cakes on a baking sheet or plates and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least several hours before cutting (It’s easier to cut the cake when it’s cold; I like to refrigerate them overnight and then assemble the next day). Cut each cake layer in half horizontally.

Cherries and Cherry Syrup:

1. Place drained cherries in a medium bowl, and add to the bowl ⅓ cup Kirsch and ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the reserved cherry syrup (you can discard the remaining cherry syrup or save for another use).  Leave the cherries to soak at room temperature for 30 minutes or more.

2. Drain cherries well in a sieve over a bowl and set aside.  Reserve the Kirsch/cherry syrup, which will be brushed onto the cake layers.

Stabilized Whipped Cream:

For best results, place whisk attachment and mixing bowl in the refrigerator for a minimum of 15 minutes before using. Whipping cream should be kept in the refrigerator until ready to use.

1. Place cold water in a microwave-safe bowl, and sprinkle gelatin on top. Set aside for 2 to 3 minutes to allow it to bloom (soften).

2. Place bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 10 seconds. All the granules should be dissolved. If not, heat up again, in 5-second intervals, until completely dissolved. Set aside to cool (but make sure it does not set, otherwise you will have to re-heat and cool again).

3. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat whipping cream on medium speed for about a minute. Add vanilla, then gradually add in icing sugar, while continuing to beat until soft peaks form.

4. Temper the gelatin by first mixing 2 tablespoons of the whipping cream with the gelatin (this helps to equalize the temperature of the gelatin, otherwise it will seize if added directly to the cold cream).

5. While the mixer is on low speed, slowly pour the gelatin mixture in until well combined. Then increase the speed to medium high and continue beating until stiff peaks form.


1. Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate and brush with 1/3 of the cherry syrup. Cover top with a thick layer of whipped cream (about 1 cup) and top with 1/3 of the cherries. Repeat twice more with remaining layers and top with the last cake layer (there’s no need to soak the top layer with syrup).

2. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream. Use a pastry bag with a large star tip, and pipe rounds around the top. Garnish with fresh whole cherries or maraschino cherries. Cover the sides and top with chocolate shavings.

Cake can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days.

Tip: Prepare some strips of wax or parchment paper (about 4″ x 6″).  After placing the first cake layer on the cake stand or plate, insert the long side of each strip about 1″ under the cake.  Do this all around the cake.  The strips will overlap and cover the edge of the cake stand or plate.  When you decorate the sides of the cake with the chocolate shavings, the excess will fall onto these strips, so when you’re done, all you have to do is pull out these strips.  This will save you having to clean up a chocolaty (and melting!) mess from around the finished cake!


One response to “Black Forest Cake

  1. Pingback: Chilli Cardamom Dark Chocolate Mousse | Divinely Delish·

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