Chocolate and cherries and cream, oh my!
I made this cake a few weeks ago for my birthday. I’ve never really been a huge fan of black forest cake but I put this down to the fact that I’ve just never been lucky enough to try a good one. Nevertheless, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making one just because they look so magnificent.
Scouring the web for recipes made me realise just how many different versions there are of this classic dessert. There are a myriad of adaptions and deconstructions that are barely cakes, let alone the real deal. I knew that if I was going to make this I wanted to make it right and stay as true to the original as possible.
The real name for this cake is Schwartzwalder Kirsh Torte which is German in origin and translates literally as Black Forest Cherry Cake. The Black Forest is a region in Germany which is famous for producing a distilled cherry liquor known as kirshwasser (or kirsch for short). Needless to say, kirsh is a very important ingredient in this cake. I have also read that the flaked chocolate usually pressed to the sides of the cake is supposed to represent the branches of trees in the Black Forest. I like the notion even if it’s not true.
Unfortunately I had a difficult time finding kirsch that looked anything like the real stuff. In the end I gave up my search and settled for a nice bottle of cherry brandy. Germans would probably look down on this, but I think it’s a far better choice than Cointreau or brandy used in many recipes, including the popular version by Gary Mehigan which has little in common with a Schwartzwalder Kirsh Torte.
Apart from the choice of liquor used, the other most important ingredient is sour cherries for the filling. I used sour morello cherries which are actually quite easy to find in most supermarkets. I encountered a number of conflicting opinions during my research about what makes up the rest of the cake; some use a biscuit base for the first layer, some use dense chocolate cake, others swear by sponge, and one even argued that cream is not supposed to be used at all.
I did a practice sponge to see if I could pull it off. It came out more like a biscuit and wasn’t very chocolatey, so I decided to just use my go-to chocolate mud cake which is actually quite light with a tender crumb. It is very easy to cut into thin layers as well which is important for this cake.
I was very conscious right from the beginning that any fillings would have to be able to stand up to the weight of the cake. Whipped cream does not have a lot of structural integrity so I experimented quite a lot beforehand with different ways to make it more stable. I also made a thick cherry filling using my sour cherries, sugar, cherry brandy and gelatin. Both stood up to the test very well, but it is important to allow plenty of preparation time for this cake so that it can be refrigerated a few hours after assembly just to make sure it sets well.
I put the cake together in this order: cake layer sprinkled with cherry brandy, cherry filling, whipped cream filling, cake (with cherry brandy), cherry filling, cream, cake, cherry filling with extra frozen cherries added for the topping, cream sides, piped cream rosettes, shaved bittersweet chocolate pressed to the sides, and cherry brandy marinated glace cherries on top. Phew!
A slice oozing with goodness
It tasted pretty amazing (especially the next day) and definitely had the wow factor I was hoping for. I don’t think I’ll be making it again in a real hurry because it is time consuming and black forest cake just isn’t my favourite of all time, but it’s definitely worth a go if you feel up to it. If I did make it again [edit: I did] I would definitely try a chocolate sponge and would possibly use more cream in the layers. If I could find kirsch I would use that too and add it to the cream; the only reason I didn’t do that with the cherry brandy is that it’s not clear like kirsch so the cream would have turned pinkish.
Continue to recipes for mud cake and fillings