Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte or Black Forest Cake

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.

My good friend Katherine gave me the recipe for the mudcake which I’ve made slight changes to. It’s amazing with a chocolate ganache frosting or even as cupcakes. Best of all it’s very easy!

Chocolate Cherry Mud Cake

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup dutch or good quality cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 190g butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp kirsh or cherry brandy

Preheat fan-forced oven to 160C. Line the base of whatever tin(s) you use with baking paper and grease the sides. I usually use a single deep ~9 inch tin.

Sift flour, cocoa, salt and bicarb in a bowl and whisk to distribute bicarb evenly.

Combine butter, sugar and boiling water and stir until smooth. Add to flour mixture and whisk to combine, add beaten eggs and vanilla. It should be quite runny.

Pour into tin(s) and bake until a moist looking dome has formed and a skewer comes out clean. For a single tin it usually takes me about 40-50 minutes.

If the top rises unevenly or has large cracks your oven is too hot (but it should still taste fine). You can get away with under-baking this cake slightly as it’s supposed to be super moist. If cutting into layers, wait until it is completely cool (or even freeze). It should last 1-2 weeks covered in the fridge and like any good mud cake should, it definitely improves with age. Best eaten at room temperature or warmed slightly in microwave.

Whipped Cream Filling

Use this when you need a thick, stabilised cream to support layers of cake or to ensure piping holds it’s shape.

  • 4 tsp gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups whipping cream with a high fat content (~35% or higher)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (replace with kirsch for black forest cake)
  • 1/4 cup boiling water

Pour cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over it to soak. Just leave it to soften, no need to stir.

It is important to use a good quality cream with a high fat content so that it forms stiff peaks without curdling and does not ‘weep’ water as thinner creams tend to do. I use Masters Pura Whipping Cream. I have found that Brownes is no good. Organic creams tend to be very suitable also and have more flavour. Combine cream with sugar and vanilla (or whatever flavouring you choose eg. mint, coffee, kirsch…) and whip to soft peaks.

Pour boiling water over soaked gelatin and stir gently until dissolved.

Add gelatin to cream in a thin stream whilst beating and continue until thick and combined.

It can be used straight away or allowed set slightly. If It does set simply stir it up gently and it can be used again. It will have a mouse-like texture once completely set.

Cherry Filling

I used a single jar of sour Morello cherries from Woolworths. I can’t remember what brand it was now or how many grams it was but there was only one brand available anyway, and the others I saw in IGA were pretty much the same size jars. It doesn’t really matter how many cherries you use anyway, as long as it’s enough for you.

Strain the cherries over a saucepan, and put them aside for later. Thoroughly combine 1/4 cup cornflour with 1/2 cup sugar and slowly whisk it into the cherry juice. Continue whisking over high heat until it becomes clear and thick. Taste it and add more sugar if needed. You can also add red food colouring if it doesn’t look red enough. Gently stir through the cherries to retain their shape. Wait until it is completely cool before using.

Published in: on May 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] posted the original recipe here but I made a couple of changes this time around. The recipe calls for quite a lot of water, which […]

  2. […] brandy to the mix but the dominating flavour was definitely chocolate. I did this once before in my Black Forest Cake, but I wouldn’t bother again unless I find a concentrated natural cherry extract or […]

  3. Certainly oozing with goodness; that’s a delicious looking BFC!

    • Thanks. This isn’t the cake I made with your recipe though, that post is coming tomorrow.

      I couldn’t figure out how the comments on your blog worked so sorry if I doubled up.

  4. […] 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 […]

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