Black Forest Cake

2 January 2019

Christmas Eve is a special occasion for our family. We decorate the house, light candles, serve charcuterie and Christmas ale, and eat an special meal that we’ve prepared together. At the end of the night, we somehow have room for dessert — my aunt’s rum cake, a yule log from our local bakery, or another homemade treat.

Since I will be moving away from home soon, traditions became much more important this year. I thought it’d be really special to make a German recipe for Christmas Eve to celebrate our German heritage. Ultimately it was a toss up between Black Forest Cake and German Chocolate Cake. After much discussion, Black Forest Cake won.

Last July, my parents sailed down the Rhine on a river cruise where they ate Black Forest Cake in the Black Forest itself. My dad loves German Chocolate Cake, so if he was insisting on Black Forest Cake, I knew that it must be good. And seeing as I’d never had it before anyway, I would finally have an excuse to try it too.

Black Forest Cake is a chocolate cake with layers of whipped cream frosting, cherries, Kirsch (cherry liqueur), and cherry juice. It’s then topped with more whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and cherries. There are a few steps in the recipe, but with a little time it can come out looking really pretty (this was my first cake!). This cake is a winner, and now I keep the recipe among all my other favorites.

The cake is moist from the cherry juice and Kirsch, and the whipped cream keeps it light and fluffy. The sour cherries offset the sweetness of the chocolate cake. The Kirsch was strongest on the day that we made it, but it toned down quite a bit after a few days. The Kirsch can also be substituted with more cherry juice if you prefer to keep it alcohol free.

I made the recipe with sour cherries, but I think that next time I’d like to try maraschino cherries to satisfy my sweet tooth. I might even use sour cherries with maraschino cherry juice, or vice versa. You can also use real cherries if they’re in season. The possibilities are endless.


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Black Forest Cake

Course Dessert

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup hot water

Cherries & Cherry Syrup

  • 1 cup canned sour or maraschino cherries, drained
  • ½ cup cherry juice from canned cherries
  • ¼ cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur) or extra cherry juice

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy cream, cold
  • ½ cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

Optional Directions

  • 1 ½ cups whipped cream frosting
  • 2 bars Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate premium baking bar, or other preferred chocolate
  • Fresh whole cherries or canned cherries

Instructions

  • Chocolate Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Generously butter two 8 inch cake pans that are at least 2 inches high. Dust pans with cocoa powder, then tap to remove the excess.
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a medium bowl, mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, buttermilk, and hot water. Add the hot water slowly to prevent cooking the eggs. Whisk until smooth. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, and mix until just smooth but don’t overbeat. The batter should be thin.
  • Scrape batter into buttered pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for at least 10 minutes, then unmold the cakes. Once unmolded, let cakes cool on a wire rack or wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Once cooled, cut each cake layer in half horizontally.
  • Cherries & Cherry Syrup: Drain the canned sour or maraschino cherries and reserve the juice. In a medium bowl, add drained cherries, Kirsch, and cherry juice. If not using Kirsch, substitute with ¼ extra cherry juice. Let cherries soak at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Drain cherries, keeping both the cherries and syrup. Set aside.
  • Whipped Cream Frosting: Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, beat cold heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff.
  • Assembly: Place one cake layer on a cake stand or plate. Brush with 1/3 of the cherry syrup. Cover with 1 cup whipped cream frosting. Top with 1/3 of the cherries, then another cake layer. Repeat twice more with remaining layers. Top with the last cake layer, but do not soak the top with syrup. Frost the top and sides of the cake with whipped cream. If desired, reserve 1½ cups of the whipped cream to decorate the top using a pastry bag and a flower tip. Top cake with fresh whole cherries or canned cherries. Shave chocolate, then cover the sides and top with chocolate shavings. Store cake in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days.

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