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!
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.
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.
That base is then laden with fresh, pitted and very lightly roasted cherries, whole or halved if very large.
Whipped cream filling is classically barely sweetened, with just a hint of vanilla. Half the amount is piled onto the cherries.
The other cake layer comes on top of the cream, followed by the remaining cream. It’s looking gorgeous already!
The finishing touch is dark chocolate ganache, drizzled artistically or at random patterns over the cream frosting.
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.
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.