A guide to achieving Black Forest Cake bliss

(jump to recipe)

I feel like I owe this blog a step-by-step guide to bake and assemble a Black Forest Cake, especially since all I’ve shared so far on the subject is a bunch of excuses. I do make this cake every year, sometimes twice or thrice a year, and this time around I decided to do it right i.e. with pictures and detailed notes! Without further ado, here goes.

The 6-inch double layered Black Forest cake is a good size for small parties (like our party of 2). It makes tall, impressive slices, comes together quickly and is easy to decorate too. To make a 9-inch double layered cake, simply double the recipe.

Before starting with the cake, we start off the cake filling by soaking the cherries in Kirsch and leaving it room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If you can’t find good cherries (i.e. when it’s not summer) you can always go for frozen cherries (available in Whole Foods, packed and frozen at peak ripeness); just thaw them in the refrigerator before using so they are not ice-cold and stone hard. While the Kirsch (a cherry liquor) can be replaced with white or golden rum, or simple syrup, it is the highlight of this cake, used in both: the filling and the frosting. It underscores the chocolate-cherry combination beautifully so please, please go find it (available in Whole Foods and most places where alcohol is sold)!

IMG_6191
Mine comes from Portland, Oregon but lets pretend it comes from the namesake Black Forest in south-western Germany.
IMG_6220
This smells so divine, try adding it to your overnight oatmeal with almond milk and you’ll see! You will also have a rather pleasant day.

While that soaks and the cherries plump up, we start with the cake layers. Lots of eggs, just 1/2 cup each flour and sugar, but we don’t skimp on the cocoa powder!

IMG_6190
Eggs, chocolate chips (for shards), cherries, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, butter, vanilla extract, Kirsch, whipping cream and prepared cake pans.

Beat the eggs at high speed for a minute, and then lower the speed. Add the sugar and then beat again for several minutes until pale and fluffy.

IMG_6202

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, folding in gently as you go just until no streaks remain. Fold in the butter and vanilla, trying not to over mix. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 18-20 minutes until the top is dry and a toothpick comes out clean.

After cakes have cooled completely on a cooling rack, cut the cakes in half with a long serrated knife. You should have 4 small cake discs with hundreds of wee holes, ready to soak up the Kirsch!

IMG_6242

Speaking of the Kirsch, this is a good time to strain the soaked cherries through a sieve and save the syrup. Add a few spoonfuls of cold water to make about 1/2 a cup of syrup.

Next, on to the chocolate shards for the “forest” part of the cake! Melt 3-4 oz of bittersweet chocolate in 30 second bursts in a microwave-safe bowl until melted and smooth. Spread over the back side of a large, clean baking sheet and spread it smoothly and uniformly with a bench scraper.

IMG_6258
Did I say “clean”? I meant “don’t bother”.

Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes until completely hard. Then, using the bench scraper, scrape shards of chocolate off the pan, being careful not to touch them too much with your hands lest they melt!

IMG_6363
It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.

Set the shards back in the fridge so they don’t melt.

IMG_6371(1)
Pretty mess.

It is really important to use bittersweet chocolate here, as semisweet can be too sweet and take away from the delicate cherry flavor in the whipped cream. If all you have is unsweetened chocolate, then use that with a tablespoon or so of sugar (added when melting). In the end you want it to be bittersweet.

If you don’t have the time or patience to make the shards of chocolate, you can grate or coarsely peel/shave the bittersweet chocolate too. It will taste just the same!

Next up: make some stiff whipped cream frosting with confectioners sugar and Kirsch. Set the bowl in the fridge until you need it!

IMG_6252
Whipped cream frosting with Kirsch.

Now that all the components are ready, its time to assemble.

BlackForestCake_2018
Dab a bit of the whipped cream frosting  on the plate so that the bottom layer stays in place; Add syrup, then whipped cream and then the chopped cherries.

Start with a slick of frosting on the plate and set one of the cake layers, porous side up. Add couple tablespoons of the syrup and spread it uniformly. Add about a third of a cup of frosting and spread it gently. Don’t press too hard or the syrup will come up and make the frosting a pink mess. Leave a 1/4 inch border. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the soaked cherries and spread them on the frosting. Repeat with remaining layers, using up all of the syrup and cherries.

Once the cake is assembled, do a quick crumb coat with the frosting and set it in the fridge for 45-60 minutes. This will make it much easier to finish frosting the cake later.

IMG_6341
A crumb coat is a light layer of frosting, mainly to trap the crumbs. It is what gives bakery cakes that “finished” look. Just be sure to save a cup or 2 (depending on the cake size) aside for the final coat in a separate bowl, as the crumbs tend to love to mingle with the frosting.

Now, on to the final assembly – you’ll need about 1.5 cups of frosting in a piping bag with a star tip, a dozen or so cherries with twigs on (if you can’t find fresh cherries for this, use bottled Maraschino or Rainier cherries, drained and patted dry), chocolate shards made earlier, and the rest of the whipped cream frosting to cover the cake.

IMG_6370
Final assembly.

Cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting and pipe 12 roses on top along the edge to place the cherries later. You can also pipe a border or roses in the bottom to cover up any spots of chocolate. Place the shards on top and spackle on to the sides, handfuls at a time while the frosting is fresh so that the shards will stick.

s

Place the cherries on top and there you have it!

IMG_6395

If it is someone’s birthday, place candles.

20180305_184206

Enjoy the cherry-scented whipped cream pillow and the chocolate rubble!

20180305_185146(1)

• Recipe •

Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

Makes 1 6-inch double layered Black Forest Cake

For the Cake Layers

5 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Cocoa Powder (not Dutch-processed)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted then and cooled to room temperature (in liquid consistency)
1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Equipment

Two 6 inch cake pans
Parchment paper sheets (2), cut into 6 inch rounds
Flour sifter or fine sieve

For the Filling

10 oz (about 2 1/2 cups) bing cherries, pitted, roughly chopped (save the juices if using thawed, frozen cherries)
12-18 whole cherries for final garnish (use jarred Bing or Maraschino cherries [with stem] if fresh cherries aren’t available; be sure to blot them out on paper towels or else they’ll bleed all over the frosting)
1 1/2 tablespoons Kirsch (a cherry-infused brandy available in most Liquor stores and also in Whole Foods)
Few tablespoons of cold water, if needed

For the Frosting

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners/powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons Kirsch (a cherry-infused brandy available in most Liquor stores and also in Whole Foods)
2-3 oz good quality dark chocolate (for shards, shavings or grating)

Make the Syrup

Place the cherries in a small bowl with 1 1/2 tablespoons of Kirsch. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, stirring a few times in between, then drain cherries in a sieve over a bowl.

Save the syrup in a measuring cup and add few tablespoons of cold water to it to get about 1/2 cup of syrup total.

Bake the Cake Layers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line bottoms of cake pans with parchment (don’t grease bottoms or sides of the pan or the parchment sheets). Do not use Wax Paper as a substitute for Parchment Paper.

Beat eggs with the beater attachment of a stand mixer for 1 min on High speed.

Lower the speed to Medium, and with the mixer on, add the granulated sugar. Once mixed in, increase the speed to High and continue beating for a full 8 minutes. The batter should look pale yellow and fluffy.

Whisk together the flour and the cocoa powder and sift in thirds into batter, folding with a wooden or rubber spatula between each addition. Do not use the mixer for this. Without deflating the batter, mix untill no streaks of the flour remain, check the bottom of the bowl to be sure! Do not over mix, or the cake will become tough and not remain spongy (which is very important since it has to absorb all that Kirsch!)

Gently fold in the vanilla and stream in the butter, folding as you go and scraping from the bottom to the top. Fold just until mixed, and be careful not to over mix just to make the batter appear more uniform.

Divide batter equally between two prepared cake pans and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in the pans for about 10 min, and then run a rubber spatula around edges to loosen the cakes. Transfer to a cooling rack, carefully discard the parchment paper (it should come off easily), and let the cakes cool completely.

Using a long, serrated knife or a cake splitter, carefully slice the cakes in half (you will have 4 thin discs of cake total). Set aside.

Make chocolate shards (if desired)

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (in 30 second bursts, stirring in between so as to not burn it), spread it thin over the back of a baking sheet with a spatula or bench scraper.

Refrigerate for 15-20 minutes.

Once hard and completely dry to the touch, use a bench scraper or thin spatula to create bark-like shavings of different shapes and sizes. Be sure to return this to the fridge often as the heat from your hands will warm the chocolate. Be sure not to touch any chocolate with your hands.

Alternatively, you can use a peeler to shave a chunk of chocolate into peels or curls, or simply grate it.

Once the shards (or peels, curls, shavings or gratings) are ready, transfer them gently to a plate and store in the refrigerator until time of cake assembly.

Make the Whipped Cream frosting

When making Whipped Cream, its best to freeze the mixer bowl and whisk attachment for 30 minutes before using.

Beat the heavy cream with whisk attachment on High speed until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes). Lower the speed to Stir, and add the powdered sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons Kirsch and beat on High until stiff and spreadable (another 1 1/2 – 2 minutes). Refrigerate until ready to use and even when using, returning to the fridge often so that the whipped cream remains chilled and stiff.

Don’t toss the whisk attachment in the sink just yet, you may need re-whip the frosting while using, in case it starts deflating or warming up.

Assemble the Cake

Transfer about a cup of the frosting to a pastry bag with a large flower tip and refrigerate until ready to use.

Spread a couple of tablespoons of the frosting on the cake stand (or the plate) on which you plan to assemble the cake.

Place first cake layer on a cake stand and brush with a quarter of the syrup (couple of tablespoons) using a pastry brush. Cover top with about 1/3 cup frosting and spread evenly (leave a 1/4 inch border because the top layers will weigh down on the bottom layer and push the frosting and syrup out, possibly coloring it). Top with one-third of the chopped cherries.

Repeat with remaining 3 layers and top with the flattest layer.

On the cake stand, fill the gaps along the sides of cake with the remaining frosting, and then frost the top and sides. Be careful not to dab or press on the soaked cake layers, as that will [unintentionally] color the frosting cherry-red in parts.

Cover sides and top of cake with chocolate shavings leaving a 1 inch border on top to pipe blobs (or tall flowers) of frosting, as a base for each whole cherry (garnish). The decoration for this cake is more rustic so don’t worry if it’s not absolutely perfect. Place thoroughly drained and dry cherries on top of the frosting blobs.

Refrigerate the assembled cake for at least 6 hours (preferably overnight).

Set the cake out at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before serving, for best flavor contrast.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s