It was Australia Day (aka ‘Invasion Day’) last Thursday and I felt inclined to make something Aussie to celebrate. I settled on pavlova due to a surplus of eggs from my mum’s chooks. This was actually my first time making pavlova so I was wary; but it turned out better than I expected, albeit a tad smashed looking. The crust was very crispy and melt-in-your-mouth whilst the inside remained soft and marshmallowy. It came out of the oven looking quite spectacular but as it cooled the crust broke into shards. Once it was topped with cream and fruit it didn’t seem to matter though. I also added banana and passionfruit just before serving. I’m glad I have this iconic dessert in my repertoire now because it was really yummy and a good way to use up eggs.
My gluten-intolerant Italian friend introduced me to this amazing cake when she made it for her birthday last year. I finally got around to trying it myself recently and was surprised by how easy it was to make – for a cake with no flour or leavening. The cake itself is beautifully moist and tender with the flavour of hazelnuts and real chocolate. The coffee mascarpone topping is the perfect accompaniment. I was so impressed by how it turned out that I made a second one to bring to Christmas dinner. This is a great flavour combination and a recipe worth trying!
I posted a while back about my first attempt at black forest cake. I was reasonably happy with how it had turned out, but I knew what I would do differently if I made it again. This opportunity came in the form of my very first customer, who, having seen photos of the first cake, wanted me to make one for them.
I wanted to go for a lighter cake this time as the first one was quite dense. I decided to challenge myself and try making a chocolate sponge. For the record, I suck at sponge cakes. They are notoriously difficult for the home baker so I am definitely not alone in this boat. I spent a good amount of time researching recipes and techniques online, and eventually settled for the promising-sounding Moist Chocolate Genoise from Rose Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.
Genoise (pronunciation) is a very light, dry, and slightly elastic Italian sponge cake. It differs slightly from other sponges in that it contains no chemical leavening, so it relies entirely on air being incorporated into the mixture to rise properly. Other sponges may also use egg whites and yolks separately, whereas a genoise uses the whole egg, often heated with sugar in a bain-marie.
I was rather disheartened when my first pair of genoises came out looking like shriveled cookies. I had sifted the flour 3 times, followed the instructions perfectly, and folded the batter as gently as possible…WHY?! Why was my cake not airy and light like it was supposed to be? But failure was not an option with an expectant customer, so I reluctantly started again.
It went much faster and smoother the second time, and I began to get a feel for how the batter behaves. The second pair of cakes came out so damned perfect I was shocked. They rose all the way to the tops of the pans with a smooth, flat outer crust. It was one of my proudest baking moments. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera on hand, but I measured them each at just under 5cm tall once cooled (it is normal for genoise to sink slightly whilst cooling).
In my previous black forest I had layered it with a thick cherry filling made by cooking sour cherries with sugar and cornflour. I did the same thing but only used it in the middle layer and on top of the cake. For the other two layers I left the cherries whole and uncooked for a fresher flavour. The sponge cake lived up to its name and was quite moist for a genoise, but I still brushed the cake layers with some kirsh syrup to prevent it being too dry.
I spotted some uncharacteristically nice-looking fresh cherries at the supermarket whilst shopping for ingredients and couldn’t resist buying some. Usually you will only see cherries available in Australia for a limited time during summer for abut $20/kg, so this was an unexpected bonus. Forgive the pun, but I think they were the cherry on the cake so to speak, and I’m glad I bought them. They tasted really delicious.
Once the cake was filled and assembled, it was ridiculously, almost laughably tall. You can just imagine how large each slice was. It was quite an impressive sight though I must admit, and the customer was extremely happy with it. They thought it tasted great too which is the most important thing of all.
Pasta alla carbonara is a classic Italian pasta dish which is based on eggs, bacon, cheese and pepper. Traditional carbonara is often made with spaghetti, but in Australia it’s more common to find fettuccine being used. I like to add cream, chicken and mushrooms to give it a little more flavour, but bear in mind these are not authentic ingredients.
I was inspired by my latest cake adventure (see previous post) so I decided to make a black forest dessert cocktail.
Use equal parts:
- cherry brandy or kirsh
- creme de cacao or chocolate liqueur
- vanilla vodka
Shake very well in a shaker with lots of ice. Pour into cocktail glass and garnish. It’s creamy, rich and tastes distinctly like cherries and chocolate.
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!
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.