Cuisine Fiend

black forest gâteau

Updated: Tue, 6 July, 2021

Black forest gâteau, German classic 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 forrest gateau

Undaunted by its seventies’ throwback label, I’ve always revered black forest gâteau, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. The cloud of cream wrapping juicy bloody cherries, it seems 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, eh?

I’m sure it tasted poetically divine and 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 much prefer the classic, soft sponge base.

contemporary take on black forest gateau

Chocolate sponge base and fresh fruit

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

The whipped cream is classically barely sweetened and hinting of vanilla, but the cherries I used were fresh, stoned, and very lightly roasted.

It made the cake so much better that sickly, syrupy and overpreserved tinned fruit. Now THAT would be a throwback to the seventies! But I couldn’t resist putting a few Maraschino cherries on top – and, since I already opened the jar, using the syrup to drizzle over the bottom layer of the sponge.

the classic black forest gateau

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 didn’t sozzle the cake and all the better for it I think – the booziness was 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.

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 (1 13 cup) sugar
  • 125ml (12 cup) groundnut oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 350ml (113 cup) 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, on 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.

easy and impressive black forest gateau

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.

chocolate cake layered with cherries and cream

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 whatever pattern you fancy, as much or as little as you like. Decorate with the maraschino cherries, as they are or 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.

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