While pondering on my options to bake a cake to celebrate a special occasion in my life, the idea of Black Forest Cake struck my mind and got glued like anything. I wanted an authentic recipe and my first impulse was to contact my aunt in Germany, who is a Deutsche lady but rewinding the telephone conversations we have had in the past, I thought it is better not to get into an adventure, to get a recipe even before all that baking escapades to follow. Whenever I call my uncle and if she picks up the phone, we greet each other saying “Hello” and “how re you?” and after that we both start giggling and laughing, wondering what to say next, as she is not at all comfortable in English and I cant speak her language too. During my childhood, my father taught me to greet her saying, “Guten Morgen ”, on one of her visits to our place and I still remember her straight-face when I uttered that word. Now I understand that my accent was too weird for her to understand what I said was a German word or not!!!! :) :) After that incident, I never ventured out to impress her with my multilingual proficiency!!
Being a product of Google generation, my next option was to depend on the World Wide Web and I did hit the jackpot itself!! I came across Simply Anne’s , with lots of her sweet celebrations and Anne had a post on her family favourite Black Forest Cake. Since she had not given the recipe in the post and I could not find those books she mentioned, in our library as well, I mailed her requesting the recipe and the next morning when I woke up, I had a mail from Anne with the recipe!!! I was extremely excited and when I approached her again with few doubts, she mailed me the scanned copy of the recipe from that particular book!! I admire and appreciate Anne’s responsiveness and her generous nature. Anne is an exceptionally talented baker and you will be surprised to learn that she is self-trained in cake decorating, if you check out her beautiful creations.
I am sure some of you will have the same doubts I had, when you go through the ingredient list for the sponge cake layers, which yields two 9-inch cakes. The answer is, as per the book, “Light airy sponge cake layers obtain their height from vigorously beaten eggs, which form a network of bubbles that rise in the heat of the oven. “and it is absolutely right! I used two 8-inch cake pans and my cakes had enough height. Here goes the recipe and I have tried to give maximum details as per the original recipe from the book, hoping it will help you enjoy this cake as much as we enjoyed :)
For Chocolate cake layers (makes two 9-inch cake layers):
- ¾ cup (3 oz or 90g) cake flour (Not all-purpose Flour)
- ¼ cup ( ¾ oz /20g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- ½ tsp instant coffee powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 6 large eggs separated at room temperature
- 1 cup (8 oz/ 250 g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
For Cherry Syrup:
- ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60ml) water
- ¼ cup (2 oz/60 g) granulated sugar
- 2tbsp Kirsch OR Kirschwasser
- ½ lb (250g) Bing cherries or any fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved and some for garnishing.
- 2 ½ cups (20 fl oz/625ml) heavy (double) cream
- 3tbsp Confectioners Sugar
- 1tbsp Kirsch OR Kirschwasser
- For the cake: With rack in the middle, preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper, butter the paper and grease the sides and sprinkle lightly with flour.
- Combine cake flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder and salt; sift the dry ingredients. This process help to combine the ingredients better and aerates the flour.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and ½ cup of the granulated sugar and beat on medium –high speed for about 3 minutes or until thickened, pale yellow and when the beater is lifted, the batter should fall back on itself like a ribbon. Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the bowl sides. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
- In another large mixing bowl, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for about 2-3 minutes, until the whites look shiny and smooth and form soft peaks. Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat in the remaining ½ cup sugar at a rate about 2 tbsp every seconds. After the sugar has been incorporated, beat the whites for 1 minute longer and when you stop the mixer and lift the whip, the peaks will be firm and straight or will be looking like stiff peaks. Note: It is important that the egg whites are beaten in a clean and dry bowl without any trace of grease/fat/water; otherwise the whites will not expand to its full volume.
- Add one-third of the egg whites on the top of the yolk mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold the mixtures together very gently, (Do not beat) until no white streaks are visible. This first addition will light the batter. Add the remaining egg whites to the mixture and fold them again until egg whites are thoroughly combined.
- Next, fold in the flour mixture in 4 additions. Sprinkle about one-fourth of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and then using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture, until no streaks of cocoa powder are visible. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture. The batter towards the end will be light and foamy. Note: Sprinkling the flour makes the folding easier and this step takes a bit of patience and time. The dry ingredients are added in small quantities to prevent their weight from deflating the egg mixture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly and bake the cake undisturbed for 18 minutes. If the cake looks set and the surface is slightly browned, touch the tops gently. If they feel firm, insert a skewer or toothpick and if it comes out clean then the cake is done or if it comes out wet or with crumbs clinging to it, bake for another 2-5 minutes until the skewer comes out clean. Note: The baking time varies from oven to oven, and also depends on the pan size and positioning in the oven. The thumb rule is to bake until the skewer or toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes and later invert them onto a wire rack and let it cool completely for about 45 minutes. The cake layers will shrink lightly as they cool. The cakes are now ready to be filled and frosted.
- To Make the Cherry syrup: In a small saucepan, stir together water and granulated sugar over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Stir in 2 tbsp Kirsch. Remove from the stove top and add pitted and halved cherries to the syrup and let it sit for about 30 minutes. At this stage, sieve the cherry mixture and separate the cherries and let the syrup cool.
- For Filling and frosting: Combine heavy cream, confectioners sugar and 1 tbsp Kirsch in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat on medium-high speed, until it forms soft peaks.
- Assembling the cake: Cake should be completely cool before applying the frosting. When ready to assemble, brush 3 tbsp Cherry syrup onto the top of each cake layer and spread about 1 ½ cups whipped cream evenly over the first cake layer and arrange the cherries (the ones saved from the syrup) in an even layer over the whipped cream and press gently to level the filling. Now place the second cake layer and frost the entire cake, sides and tops, with the remaining whipped cream. Note: To be on the safer side, I applied a very thin layer in the beginning to lock in all the crumbs and immediately after that final frosting was applied. If still few crumbs are visible, use a toothpick to remove those crumbs. Decorate the top with chocolate shaving and fresh cherries. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
To Make the Chocolate Leaves: You can decorate your cake anyway you want. I wanted to have some chocolate leaves. The best method to make chocolate leaves is to melt some chocolate in the microwave and brush the melted chocolate on to any non-toxic leaves (without any traces of water), leave them on a parchment/wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate harden. Peel away the leaves gently and one side of the leaf will have all the impressions of the fresh leaf, including the veins. Rose leaves and ficus leaves are said to be non toxic. Since I don’t have a rose plant, I tried with my bonsai ficus leaf and the result was quite impressive but since I was not sure of the non toxic aspect of the bonsai variety and also did not want to use up all those leaves, I resorted to another easier method for which I melted the chocolate ( I used chocolate chips and melted at 30 seconds intervals until it reached the creamy consistency) and poured it into a plastic bag, pushed it into a corner and snipped off the edge a bit and squeezed out, on to a parchment paper, to make leaves. You can follow a free –hand method or draw your desired shape first and then spread the chocolate. Refrigerate until firm and ready to decorate. You can make this in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container.
I suggest the first method, if you can find non-toxic leaves, as that gives a natural look to the leaves which will come in various sizes and impressions.
Verdict: This recipe is a keeper for sure and a new addition to my baking repertoire. I will be making this again, during the cherry seasons for sure. The two complementary flavours of chocolate and cherry, marrying the refined Kirsch flavoured whipped cream with the mild and delicate cocoa flavour emanating from the Dutch-process cocoa powder, used in chocolate cake layers, gives a light, airy and delightful taste to the cake, tempting you to go for one more slice. It does not have an overwhelming flavour of Kirsch as well. I could never stop with one slice! The sponge cake has a nice homemade texture which is not overly moist and sweet, unlike the box cakes. It is to be noted that the texture of the cake mainly depends on the way it is beaten. I used a hand mixer and still it yielded a good texture but I am sure, if a stand mixer is used, then it must be real spongy and not at all an effort to beat to get the stiff peaks from the egg whites. The only challenge I faced was, one of the cakes got stuck to the parchment paper and had to separate it, which has never happened to me and I still don’t know the reason. I recommend this recipe and it is definitely worth taking all the effort.
Well, most of us know that there has been a deluge of an award tag in the food blog world and some of my blogger buddies were kind and thoughtful enough to send few of the titles in my way. It is a nice feeling when you get recognition and appreciation from the fellow bloggers and I sincerely thank Cynthia, Sunita, Mallugirl, Sandeepa, Archana, Sia, Pravs and Mathew for this nice gesture. I also thank all my fellow bloggers and readers for encouraging and supporting me and helping me maintain the same energy in all my posts. It would not have been possible with your appreciation and encouraging words. And for all those ghost readers out there, “Thank You” for coming back to my site and trying out the recipes :)
I assume most of the food bloggers have been awarded with these titles, let me pass this to two of my favourite bloggers who really makes me think, trough their posts.
- Mathew of Spark, a born satirist makes everyone laugh and think at the same time, with his brilliant sense of humor. His humorous take on everyday life situations is absolutely impressive. Some of his touching and insightful posts, revealing certain simple universal truths, make the reader probe into his/her own responsibilities.
- Nanditha of Miles to go before I sleep, a talented dancer and truth seeker dresses up her each and every posts with stories and incidents which has a spiritual aspect and in-depth meaning, making the reader think how the simple pleasures of life are to be enjoyed and stresses the importance of living in the moment.
UPDATE: Based on some of the responses I received, let me make a small note here. Kirsch OR Kirschwasser is generally available in liquor stores and might be hard to find in supermarkets here in US; take the help of a liquor store assistant and check for Kirschwasser, flavored brandy with natural cherry flavour. If Kirsch is not at all available, use rum or brandy in lesser quantity as they do not have a refined taste and smell like Kirsch. If the target group consists of children, you may consider avoiding them too. Instead of that make the syrup (1/4 cup water+ 1/4 cup sugar) and when it is cold, add 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla extract (depending on the taste you want), just before assembling the cake.
As for the cherries, if fresh ones are not in season or unavailable, two options are there, 1) go for dried cherries which will be quite plump when soaked in the moistening syrup for 30 minutes. 2) Use the glace cherries , but don't go for the pie filling which will be extremely sweet and will spoil the taste of the cake. But you can never beat the taste of a Black Forest cake made using Kirsch and fresh cherries when you make so much of variations.
As for the Dutch Process Cocoa- powder, either stick to the brand I have given in the link or use a good quality product for the sole reason that if you use any not-so good products, it will spoil the cake. Dutch process cocoa- powders are light and mild and not bitter unlike the regular cocoa-powders. For instance, Hershey's dutch process cocoa- powder may not be suited for this recipe as it is too bitter.
Thank you !