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Black forest gâteau

Updated: Wed, 8 June, 2022

Black forest gâteau, classic German dessert is a rich chocolate cake layered with cherries and cream. This recipe has fresh cherries lightly roasted and heaps of barely sweetened fresh whipped cream. And a (Maraschino) cherry on top!

black forest gateau with fresh cherries and fresh cream

The mystique and glamour of black forest gâteau

Undaunted by its seventies’ throwback label, I’ve always revered black forest gâteau, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. The cloud of cream wrapping juicy boozy cherries, it always seemed so much more adult than a Victoria sponge.

The dark, murky chocolate base with the fragrance of Kirsch, black Morello cherries instead of bog common glace cherries - very foreign, very exotic, very much more appealing.

Black forest gâteau featured in the first series of Heston Blumenthal, the iconic British chef’s TV programme ‘In Search of Perfection’. Not too much of a competition then, eh?

I’m sure it tasted poetically divine and that it was a work of art but however breath-taking it looked, I thought the shortcrust chocolate base that Heston devised wasn’t quite right.

I really think something soft, spongy and airy would be more fitting as well as classic.

contemporary take on black forest gateau

Chocolate sponge base and fresh fruit

And so the first time I set out to make the gâteau, I looked for the softest, dampest chocolate cake for the base, and one that would also slice well. Samin Nosrat’s midnight cake was the answer – and it’s madly easy to boot.

Fresh, albeit softened cherries make the cake so much better than sickly, syrupy and over-preserved tinned fruit. Now THAT would be a throwback to the seventies!

But it wouldn’t be right without a few Maraschino cherries on top. And the syrup from the jar is used to drizzle over the bottom layer of the sponge.

assembling black forest gateau

That base is then laden with fresh, pitted and very lightly roasted cherries, whole or halved if very large.

assembling black forest gateau

Whipped cream filling is classically barely sweetened, with just a hint of vanilla. Half the amount is piled onto the cherries.

assembling black forest gateau

The other cake layer comes on top of the cream, followed by the remaining cream. It’s looking gorgeous already!

assembling black forest gateau

The finishing touch is dark chocolate ganache, drizzled artistically or at random patterns over the cream frosting.

assembling black forest gateau

And the Maraschino cherries to adorn the creation, dipped in any remaining chocolate ganache, for dazzling result.

My black forest cake is sober

The classic has a lot of booze in it; after all it’s allegedly named after Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser, the German cherry liqueur.

But I am a believer in ingesting my spirits and my sweets separately so I don’t sozzle my cake and it is all the better for it I think. After all the booziness is probably a big factor in condemning the cake to a seventies’ museum.

And so there you have it: freshened up black forest gâteau, fresh cherries and fresh cream making it lighter and more contemporary.

Chalk it down for the next birthday or celebration and I promise you’ll be out to impress.

the classic black forest gateau

More celebration gâteau recipes

Cherry cream dacquoise is an exquisite cake which is far easier to make than you’d think. Almond meringue dacquoise layers filled with fresh cream and homemade candied cherries – and you can make ahead and freeze the dacquoise.

Chocolate and fudgy, frosted with malted cream and hazelnut praline topping, devil’s food cake with hazelnut praline is stupidly good.

For a very special occasion, consider dome cake made with genoise sponge filled with raspberry mousse and buttercream. You don't need a special tin - it's shaped in a bowl after baking.

More cherry recipes

Turn fresh sweet pitted cherries into quick and simple glace cherries, the best and the easiest homemade candied fruit. There are only two downsides to them: one, pitting cherries is a hassle and two, they disappear too quickly.

Good cherry jam beats any strawberry or raspberry preserve, in my personal view. Especially if you add a spoonful of balsamic vinegar to the jamming pot.

Buttery cornmeal muffins with glace cherries are gluten free but wholly satisfying. Crunchy around the edges, and the jewelled glace cherries intersperse the rich yellow cornmeal crumb.

Black forest gâteau

Servings: 12Time: 2 hours


  • 500g (just over 1 pound) fresh or frozen and thawed cherries, stoned
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • For the cake base:
  • 255g (2 cups plus 1 tsp) plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 55g (12 cup) cocoa powder
  • 300g (113 cups) sugar
  • 125ml (12 cup) groundnut oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350ml (113 cups) boiling water
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • For the frosting and topping:
  • 500ml (2 cups) cream
  • 1 tbsp. icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. maraschino syrup
  • 60g (2 oz.) dark chocolate
  • 30g (2 tbsp.) double cream
  • 6-8 maraschino cherries


1. Preheat the oven to 220C/450F/gas 7. Place the cherries in a baking dish in a single layer and sprinkle the sugar over them. Roast them for 20-25 minutes if using fresh or 10 minutes if frozen, shaking the dish about once or twice. Remove from the oven, drizzle with lemon and leave to cool.

2. For the cake, turn the oven down to 180C/350F/gas 4. Butter two 20cm round cake tins (they must be watertight as the batter is liquid) and line their bottoms with parchment.

3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa and sugar together into a large bowl; don’t skip this step as cocoa tends to lump. In a smaller bowl stir together the oil, vanilla and boiling water.

4. Gradually whisk the oil mixture into the dry ingredients until smooth. Whisk in the eggs; the batter will be very runny.

5. Divide it between the prepared tins, tap the tins against the worktop to remove air bubbles and transfer to the oven, onto the middle rack. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the tins.

6. While the cakes are cooling, whip the cream with the icing sugar and the vanilla to soft peaks, don’t overwhip.

7. When the cakes are cold, invert one onto a cake plate or stand. Spoon the maraschino syrup over it, then spread the roasted cherries in a generous layer, breaking the bigger ones in half. Top with half the whipped cream and smooth it over the cherries with a palette knife. Cover with the other cake and pile the remaining cream on top.

8. Break the dark chocolate in small pieces into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until almost boiling, in a microwave or a small pan, and pour it over the chocolate. Let it stand for half a minute, whisk until smooth and cool down.

9. Drizzle the chocolate ganache over the top and sides of the cake in a random pattern, as much or as little as you like. Decorate with the maraschino cherries dipped in leftover chocolate ganache.

10. Chill the gâteau before serving; it will last a couple of days if stored in the fridge but the bottom layer of cream will colour purple from the cherries.

Originally published: Thu, 10 October, 2019

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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