Black Forest Cake is a classic German cherry filled chocolate cake that’s covered in whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Grown-up elegance at its best!
I made this Black Forest Cake for my mom’s birthday this year. When she saw it, she was so happy, she started to cry: it had been ages since someone had made her her favorite cake for that special day! I was so touched, I almost started crying myself.
You know, it’s things like this that make me especially happy that I recently decided to loosen up a bit and not be such an intense health nut anymore. Try as she might, there’s simply no way that Health Freak Me would have been able to give that royal dessert a decent healthifying treatment; at least not without totally disrespecting the poor thing, that is…
I remember when I was a kid, my mom and I would share that same love for this classic German dessert. If anyone had asked me back then what my favorite cake was, I would have answered, without hesitating for even a second, a Black Forest Cake! Today? Not so much anymore. I’m much more of a cheesecake kinda girl. But surely you have noticed that, by now?
But the cake I was making that day wasn’t for me, it was for my mom, and I wanted it to be as close to perfect as possible. Not only would it have to be the best Black Forest Cake that she’d ever eaten, it would also have to be as authentic as could be for a cake that had been made outside of its country of origin.
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (yes, that would be the cake’s official name, but I think I’ll stick with Black Forest Cake if you don’t mind; it’ll be much easier on my fingers and tongue!) is a German dessert that is traditionally made with layers of chocolate sponge cake, which get generously drunken with a simple Kirsch syrup and dressed with a combination of lightly sweetened whipped cream and sweet or sour cherries. It then gets garnished with even more whipped cream and covered with a generous amount of elegant chocolate shavings
According to the official German guidelines for fine pastries, an authentic Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte must contain all of the following elements:
- Several layers of chocolate sponge cake
- Whipped Cream
- Cherries (Sweet or Sour)
- Kirschwasser (Kirsch or Cherry Liqueur)
- Finally, the cake must be covered with whipped cream and decorated with cream rosettes, cherries and chocolate shavings or gratings.
Ha! I think I’m good. My cake definitely has all that.
Since there is quite a generous amount of alcohol in this cake, it’s definitely considered a grown-up cake. In my version, pretty much all of the alcohol gets cooked off, which makes it a bit more kid friendly, but still. You may want to refrain from feeding it to young children. Besides, this cake is really not all that sweet by nature, so it may not even appeal to the younger crowd in the first place.
Let’s just say you probably shouldn’t make this your top choice for a kid’s party…
Plus, I think a cake so elegant is much better suited for an all adult party, wouldn’t you agree?
Again, I’ve been very generous with my pictures, so don’t let the lengthy post discourage you from trying your hand at making this cake. It’s actually quite easy. The only real tricky part resides in making the chocolate shavings, and I’ve shared a few tricks with you in the detailed instructions.
You’ll see, there really isn’t much to it. Go! Make this. Have fun!
STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS & PICTURES
CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE
Start by making the chocolate sponge cakes and let them cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, combine the frozen cherries, sugar and Kirsch in a small saucepan and place it over medium heat.
At first, there won’t be much liquid in that pan, but it won’t be long until the cherries start releasing their delicious, sweet juices… Bring that to a boil and then simmer for five minutes.
Dilute the tapioca starch with the water and lemon juice and pour that right into the simmering cherries. Mix continuously with a large spoon until it’s fully incorporated.
Bring the cherry filling to a boil and continue boiling it for one full minute, stirring constantly, to allow the starch to reach its full thickening power.
Throw the butter in and stir until it’s completely incorporated, then transfer your cherry filling to a bowl.
You’ll want to let the mixture cool completely before you use it; transfer to the fridge if you have to.
If you used it while it was still warm, it would no doubt melt the delicate whipped cream. So really, make sure that this gets real cold.
Also too, it’s very important that you use tapioca starch and don’t try and replace it with corn starch. While they are usually pretty much interchangeable, in this case, they’re not. Only tapioca will give you this beautiful translucence and the slight elasticity that we’re after.
You should be able to find tapioca starch at your local grocery store, most likely in the baking aisle, or in the organic section, with the gluten free products. If you can’t find it there, try your local ethnic store. They will most definitely carry it.
KIRSCH SIMPLE SYRUP
This is the syrup that will be giving its much needed moisture to your cake. Sponge cake might be very light and airy, but it also tends to be on the dry side and GREATLY benefits from being drowned in simple syrup. Not only that, but this boozy syrup will also confer TONS of flavor to this classic dessert.
To make it, simply combine the sugar, Kirsch (or maraschino liqueur) and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat and keep boiling for one full minute, or until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup has a slightly viscous consistency.
Don’t let your syrup get overly thick, else your cake won’t be able to absorb it well.
When your syrup is ready, transfer it to a small measuring cup and set it aside.
You may feel as though you have way too much, but trust me, you’ll be using ALL of it. Every last drop!
WHIP THE CREAM
Combine the heavy cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and whip until firm. You could also do this with an electric mixer, or even by hand, if you felt like getting a good arm workout that day…
Store your whipped cream in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
PUTTING YOUR BLACK FOREST CAKE TOGETHER
Now here comes the only tricky part about doing a Black Forest Cake: making the chocolate shavings.
There are several methods of doing that, but my favorite (and by far the easiest, too) is to shave them from a big *ss block of chocolate (oops, sorry! Do I still have to put money in the jar if I used the asterisk?). Since chocolate keeps for a very long time, I like to buy it in big blocks of 2.5kg or 5kg (that’s 5.5lb or 11lb). These are simply the best for this task. However, if you couldn’t find one that big, or didn’t care to store that much chocolate at a time, I’m guessing that even a 1lb chocolate block would do the trick.
What you want to do is grab one of those big blocks (or a great big chunk of it anyway) and slightly soften it in the microwave. Not MELT it, just SOFTEN it. You just shove the whole block in there for no longer than 10 to 15 seconds at a time, let it rest for a few seconds and then test it by running a STURDY round cookie cutter across its surface. Don’t go using a flimsy cookie cutter, it’ll only bend and lose its shape on you… When the shavings start to “curl”, the chocolate is ready to use. Usually, 5 to 6 passes in the microwave will do the trick.
All you need to do then is hold the cookie cutter at a slight angle and pull it towards you, scratching the surface of the chocolate bar as you go, as if you were trying to peel it off.
Alternately, if you didn’t have a big *ss block of chocolate like that (shucks, there goes another quarter!), you could get similar results with a vegetable peeler. Use it to “peel” the sides of a thick, large chocolate bar (like those one pounders that they sell in the baking section at the supermarket). You’ll still have to soften the chocolate, for best results.
Or, you could melt some chocolate, spread it on a baking sheet and let it set, and then scrape it away from you with a metal scraper to make it curl. (see this post for a visual).
Whichever method you choose to use, you need to make about 200g (7oz) worth of chocolate shavings and then place them in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Oh, and you might want to do some extra, ‘cuz I can guarantee you’ll be munching on that…
PHEW! Aren’t you glad that that’s out of the way? And how much chocolate did you end up eating? It’s okay, you can tell me. I promise I won’t tell…
Movin’ on… If you haven’t sliced your sponge cakes in half yet, now’s the time to do it.
Grab one cake layer and place it cut side up on a cake board or plate. Brush 1/4 of the Kirsch syrup all over the surface of the cake, paying special attention to the edges, as they tend to be a tad dryer.
And really, take my word for it. You want to DRENCH that cake in syrup. It’ll soak it right up, you’ll see.
Spoon about one third of the chilled cherry filling over that cake and spread it not quite all the way to the edge. You’ll want to leave about half an inch all around.
Top with a thin layer of the whipped cream. Use just enough to cover the cherries. If you go too heavy on the whipped cream, you won’t have enough to make your rosettes later, and it may also make your cake slightly unstable.
Resist the urge… a thin layer will suffice.
Repeat this same process with 2 more layers…
Top your cake with the 4th and final layer.
As much as possible, try and save your best and flattest layer for the top. Brush that top layer with the last of the Kirsch syrup.
Now cover the entire cake with whipped cream, making certain that you fill the cracks between the layers as you go.
The use of a cake turntable makes this task much easier! If you don’t yet own one of those, I strongly urge you to get one. I bought mine about 30 years ago (boy, that makes me feel so old!!) and it still works like a charm. Best 20 bucks I ever spent…
Make sure that your cake is completely and fairly generously covered in whipped cream. While it’s good to have it look fairly nice and straight, you don’t have to be excessively fancy about it, since we’ll be covering pretty much the entire cake.
To cover the side of the cake with chocolate shavings, hold it in one hand and press the chocolate against the cake with your other hand.
Work quickly and delicately so you don’t end up breaking or melting all the delicate chocolate curls that you worked so hard to make.
Mound some of those shavings on top too, leaving a gap of about 2 inches around the edge to allow for piping the rosettes.
Equip a pastry bag with a large French star tip (Ateco 868) and fill it with the rest of the whipped cream.
Pipe 12 large rosettes around the cake and then top each rosette with a maraschino cherry.
And there you finally have it! How spectacular is this thing, right? It might be a lot of work, but it’s so very well worth it, if only to have the pleasure of looking at it!
You could serve your cake immediately, but it would greatly benefit from a little rest, in order for all those delicious flavors to meld and intensify. Ideally, send it to the fridge for at least 4 hours, or even better yet, overnight. Do, however, take it out of the fridge at least 2 to 3 hours prior to serving. If you served this cake too cold, you wouldn’t get to appreciate all of its delicate flavors to their full potential, nor would you get to experience just how truly fluffy and moist this cake can be.
Trust me on that one. Give it time to relax and get back to room temperature. Your taste buds will thank you for it…
- 2- 8" round chocolate sponge cakes (1 recipe)
- 4 cups (625g | 22oz) frozen dark sweet cherries (make sure they're pitted!)
- 1 cup (200g | 7.1oz) granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup (60ml) Kirsch or maraschino liqueur
- 1/4 cup tapioca starch (do NOT sub corn starch)
- 2 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup (200g | 7.1oz) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (180ml) Kirsch or maraschino liqueur
- 1/2 cup (120ml) water
- 4 cups (960ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (60g | 2.1oz) powdered sugar
- 200g (7oz) dark chocolate shavings (from large chocolate block)
- 12 maraschino cherries with stems, patted dry
- Start by making the chocolate sponge cakes and let them cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling, combine the frozen cherries, sugar and Kirsch in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then dilute the tapioca starch with the water and lemon juice. Pour that into the simmering cherries, mixing continuously with a large spoon until fully incorporated. Bring the cherry filling to a boil and continue boiling it for one full minute, stirring constantly, to allow the starch to reach its full thickening power. Stir in butter and transfer to a bowl. Let the mixture cool completely before you use it; transfer to the fridge if you have to.
- Combine the sugar, Kirsch (or maraschino liqueur) and water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat and keep boiling for one full minute, or until the sugar is completely dissolved and the syrup has a slightly viscous consistency. Don't let your syrup get overly thick, else your cake won't be able to absorb it well. Remove from heat and reserve.
- Combine the heavy cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer and whip until firm. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Slightly soften your big block of chocolate in the microwave, no longer than 10 to 15 seconds at a time, until it's soft enough to form nice shavings when you scrape its surface with a sturdy round cookie cutter.
- To make those shavings, hold the cookie cutter at a slight angle and pull it towards you, scratching the surface of the chocolate bar as you go, as if you were trying to peel it off.
- Alternately, if you didn't have a big block of chocolate, you could get similar results with a vegetable peeler. Use it to "peel" the sides of a thick chocolate bar. Make about 200g (7oz) worth of chocolate shavings and then place them in the refrigerator until ready to use. (see post for more tips)
- If you haven't sliced your sponge cakes in half yet, do it now.
- Grab one cake layer and place it cut side up on a cake board or plate. Brush 1/4 of the Kirsch syrup all over the surface of the cake, paying special attention to the edges. Spoon about one third of the chilled cherry filling over that cake and spread it not quite all the way to the edge. You want to leave about half an inch all around. Top with a thin layer of the whipped cream.
- Repeat this same process with 2 more layers and top with the 4th and final layer. (Try and save your best and flattest layer for the top). Brush that top layer with the last of the Kirsch syrup and then cover the entire cake with whipped cream, making certain that you fill the cracks between the layers as you go. The use of a cake turntable makes this task much easier!
- Cover the side of the cake with chocolate shavings and mound some on top too, leaving about 2 inches around the edge to allow for piping the rosettes.
- Equip a pastry bag with a large French star tip (Ateco 868) and fill it with the rest of the whipped cream. Pipe 12 large rosettes around the cake and then top each rosette with a maraschino cherry.
- You could serve your cake immediately, but it would greatly benefit from a little rest, in order for all those delicious flavors to meld. Ideally, send it to the fridge for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. Do, however, take it out of the fridge at least 2 hours prior to serving.
- This cake will keep for about 5 days in the refrigerator.
Erin K Biglin says
You are the best! This recipe is truly a great take on the traditional Black Forest Cherry Cake. Your recipe may have just landed me a job at a bakery! I am so happy with the results of the break down of each part of this recipe. You did a marvelous job.
However, for my audition at the bakery, I did smaller, two stacked, one serving, type of cake. It was a pleasure to make and hopefully eat! I did make out well with your four stacked 8″ recipe too! And got compliments all around!!!!
Will be a favorite for years to come
Thank again ma’am.
Evil Twin says
That’s totally awesome, Erin! Thank you so much for your kind words and amazing feedback, you have no idea how much I appreciate that! I really hope that you get the job at the bakery. Do keep me posted, please! 😀
Erin K Biglin says
this cake from your blog will always be near and dear to my heart, and those I shared it with. What’s cool is, I found that Mexican Coke and kirschwasser also go great together, so Cheers!
Anyways, you set me off into the wonderful world of professional baking……
Evil Twin says
*HIGH FIVE* That is so very awesome, Erin. Huge congrats to you!! 🙂
Jenny from jennyisbaking.com says
I bow my head. I am German, I have made Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte several times and yes, you are very close to the classic and German version. I especially like the fact that you use so many cherries (I will never understand why often German Black Forest Cakes only have ONE layer of cherries, all others are with whipping cream only). And I also like the fact that you cut your sponge cakes in half. Rather focus on the filling, not the cake layers.
Will definitely use your cherry filling when I make mine for a Colombian friend who requested it for his birthday here in Germany. Will keep you posted.
Evil Twin says
Wow, I take that as a real compliment, Jenny. I am truly honored that you would say that. Can’t wait to find out how the finished product worked for you. I hope it turns out just as great as you hoped! 🙂
Jenny from jennyisbaking.com says
I did it! Baked the sponge cakes on Thursday, assembled it yesterday, served it today and it’s gone already. My Colombian friend loved it. THANK YOU! Your cherry filling is really wonderful! Thanks for it. If you are interested, I have some pictures here and I hope you are OK with me using your cherry filling (I did link back and rewrote it in my own words): http://jennyisbaking.com/2017/06/03/the-real-deal-black-forest-cake/
Evil Twin says
Wow, your cake looks beautiful, Jenny. I am absolutely ok with your using my cherry filling recipe. Not just ok, I’m honored, even! So thank YOU, really, for the amazing feedback, pictures and everything. You rock! 🙂
One question what can we substitute instead of the liqour? Grenadine syrup? Would that be okay? Thanks!!
Evil Twin says
Unfortunately, there isn’t really anything that would make a perfect substitute for the cherry liquor; Brandy would be an acceptable alternative, and if you’re looking for booze free options, then black cherry juice or maraschino cherry juice could do the trick.
Thanks so much!!
Ill try the juice 🙂
Tried this today for my hubby’s birthday and the flavor was just awesome! It didn’t look perfect like yours… but I’m hoping I’ll perfect it one day! This will be a recipe I will bookmark and will be making out again n again. Thank you so much for such detailed pics and instructions!
Evil Twin says
So very happy to hear, Florence, the pleasure is all mine and thank YOU so much for taking the time to give me such awesome feedback! I sincerely appreciate that! 🙂
CakenGifts.in Faridabad says
I made this it was awesome!!!. My whole family enjoyed very much after taking it. Thanks for this amazing recipe………
Making this cake is absolutely blissful! I love it and don’t mind spending time in the kitchen with this kind of result. Wish I could show u how it looked like. Thank you for sharing! I look forward to making other cakes that’s on your post! God bless.
Sharon Larsen says
I have looked a t s=dox=zens of recipes and You Tubes and blogs and yours is fantastic! VERY helpful I’m getting confident enough to try this for Christmas dinner for 21 people. So I am going to make this Schwarzwald Kirsch Kuchen for Christmas next week. Could I bake this in a 10″ springform pan and cut into three layers? How would I adjust the baking time? I really only want three layers.
Evil Twin says
I’m not sure, really, Sharon… I suppose it would be feasible, but the cake would definitely need to bake for a bit longer, and your finished cake would look slightly different, too…
M Garland Briggs says
There are so many flaws in both the sponge cake and this recipe that I probably won’t be able to list them all. I’m not even sure why I gave this a chance considering all the red flags. If I wasn’t in a rush, I would have looked closer and seen the flaws quicker.
Red flag number one: Recipe ingredients are not in order of use. That is the number one giveaway that the recipe is written by an amateur.
The cake was a disaster. Absolute mess. The eggs MUST be separated for a sponge cake.
Red flag number two: Recipe listed butter and salt. USE UNSALTED BUTTER. The additional salt caused the cakes to burn.
1/2 cup of corn starch? What? Why in the world would you ever need a thickening starch for a SPONGE CAKE?
Red flag number three: Recommending Himalayan salt. This is a recipe. I don’t have time for your woo bullshit. Any chef that would recommend Himalayan salt for a baking recipe is not worthy of your time. Absolutely inappropriate.
I love the part that tells you to double boil your whipped eggs. Utter claptrap. USE ROOM TEMPERATURE EGGS. DON’T EVER DOUBLE BOIL.
The cakes came out at brownie thickness with the outer edges burned. The crust was dry because of the flour. I’m not sure why people still butter cake pans when nonstick spray does the job 100 times better. Also… flour to coat the pan over cocoa powder?
The filling was nonsense. Where to begin?
Oh yeah, how about RED FLAG 4: “BOILING” SOLIDS. What nonsense. HOW DO YOU BOIL SOLIDS? Even more inane, FROZEN solids! The INGREDIENT should have been CANNED CHERRIES if you were going to bring it to a boil.
Butter? No. I get what you’re trying to do but no.
Tapioca is a good substitute for gelatin but gelatin is preferred… and not even that vital for this cake.
Kirsch simple syrup. WHY? Completely unnecessary. Simply coat each layer with kirschwasser or blackberry brandy. Wisnowska even. Zero reason to make it into syrup.
The whipped cream was fine except there was way too much left over.
My friends and I had to suffer through stale textured overcooked brownie and fruit lumps in cream soup thanks to this recipe. I will definitely blacklist eviltwin.kitchen after this.
Evil Twin says
Thank you very much for taking the time to share your insights and personal experience. I’m really sorry to hear that the cake didn’t turn out for you despite all the effort you put into making it!
Carmen Gloria says
Sería bueno, publicar las recetas, en versión español.
Saludos, desde Chile!
Carmen Gloria Bertin.
Evil Twin says
Lo siento Carmen pero mi español no es lo suficientemente bueno para hacer eso… Tal vez algún día!