As a kid, I always saved up money so I could buy a slice of “Black Forest Cake” from our school canteen. Sure, the “cherry” was red glace icing, and there weren’t any cherries between the cake layers, but still. Chocolate! One of the things I said to myself when I started baking was, I needed to learn how to make this!
Six years in Germany, and I still haven’t eaten “real” Black Forest Cake. Don’t you know it is a regionally protected brand? The Kirchwasser doesn’t come from Swaben, the cake wasn’t made in Baden-Wüttemburg, so technically, this Black Forest Cake…isn’t. So call this an imitation Black Forest Cake.
I would like to thank Sofi from Chefkoch.de for sharing her wonderful recipe. It is quite easy to make, but the execution is tricky. I have made this cake in the most rudimentary of conditions in the Philippines, using my homemade cherry jam as a filling (thank you balikbayan boxes!) in a turbo broiler! My tip: refrigerate the eggs, since the whites turn to stiff peaks much quicker than ones in room temperature.
For the cake itself, you would need:
140 g baking chocolate (55% cocoa solids), 75 g (a little less than 1/3 c) butter, 6 eggs, refrigerated, 180 g sugar, 100 g all-purpose flour, 50 g cornstarch, 2 tsp. baking powder.
For the layers and icing:
2 650 g jars of preserved sour cherries, (makes 700-800 g cherries when drained), 500 ml cherry juice from the preserves, 4 level Tbsp. cornstarch, 800 ml whipping cream, 3 Tbsp. (or 3 packets, if you prefer it sweeter) of vanilla sugar. This can be replaced by sugar mixed with vanilla extract or vanillin in Manila. 100 ml Kirchwasser, (optional if making cake for children) 17 cocktail or candied cherries, and 100 grams of chocolate shavings. While it can be bought ready-made in Germany and the US, this is not the case in the Philippines. It is easy enough to make using either a potato peeler or melting, then scraping the chocolate off a flat pan. Please use European chocolate with at least 50 % chocolate solids, like Lindt or Ritter Sport. I was most disappointed by the quality of baking chocolate in the Philippines. If making this with cherry jam, about 600 ml cherry jam will do.
How to : the cake
In a double boiler (bain-Marie), melt the chocolate and the butter together over very warm (not boiling!) water. When melted, set aside to cool a little. Separate the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar with an electric mixer until lemony-yellow and foamy, then mix in the choco-butter mixture. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Sift the flour, baking powder, and cornstarch over the egg whites, then fold gently. Add the chocolate mixture to the egg whites and continue folding until the mixture is well incorporated.
Line the bottom of an 8-9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. (Cut up a sheet of paper, put over the bottom, put the barrel over it, tighten to seal, then cut the excess paper around the springform). Bake in a 175° C preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. When this is done, allow to fully cool before removing the ring. The cake is dry, as it needs to be.
Meanwhile, you can make the cherry filling. If you are using cherry jam, lucky you, no need to do these next steps.
Drain the preserved cherries, setting aside 500 ml (2 cups) of the juice. Take about half a cup of this juice, and mix with the cornstarch and sugar. Boil the rest of the juice in a saucepan, then add the juice slurry in it. Mix in the cherries, and add half (50 ml) of the Kirchwasser.
Ok here it comes. How to thinly slice across a cake . if you don’t have a cake leveler, you would need a) a bread knife, and b) sewing thread long enough to go around the cake (around 30 inches/ 70 cm)
With a serrated bread knife, cut a groove around the cake about a centimeter and a half (half an inch) from the top.
Place the sewing thread into the groove you cut. Make an x with both ends of the string. with a see-sawing motion, pull the threads to and fro until the threads cut into the cake. do this until the top separates from the rest of your cake. Set this cake top aside, and repeat this
process with the second half of the cake, cutting it in half, ending up with three different pieces of cake. Never mind the crumbs and pieces falling off: this can be repaired later with icing. If using Kirchwasser, sprinkle it over the cakes.
Whip 500 ml whipping cream, adding 2 Tbsp. Vanilla sugar in the middle of the whipping process. You know that it is whipped if you can turn the bowl upside-down and the cream doesn’t slip out. Do not overbeat unless you want to accidentally churn butter.
The next step is better done on cardboard cake lining. Place this lining on a cake butler tray if this cake is meant to be transported.
Place the ring of the springform pan on the cake board, then put the top part of the cake, baked side up, at the bottom. The ring acts as a mold for the cake.Spread half of the cherry mixture or jam over the cake. Then spread half of the whipped cream over it. Repeat the process with the middle portion of the cut cake. Then place the whole thing in the fridge overnight for the cherry mixture to set. If using cherry jam, you can skip this process.
The next morning, place the bottom part of the cake, cut side down and the smooth side up, on the cake. Remove the ring. Whip the rest of the cream, half-filling a pastry bag capped with the largest star-shaped tip you have for the garnish, and use the rest to cover the entire cake with it with a spatula.
Now, covering the cake sides with chocolate shavings takes some practice. Using a small cup or a small, stiff plastic bag, splay the sides of the cake with the chocolate shavings with a flick of the wrist. Remember how a priest douses churchgoers with holy water? Like that. Then sprinkle the top. This gets messy, so a pastry brush is very helpful to clean up the mess.
Pipe the rest of the cream on top of the cake, one very large dot at a time. then place the cherries on top.
I make this cake once or twice a year. It really is worth the effort!