Black forest cake is a perennial favourite in my family – it’s the most frequent offender on my parents’ and grandparents’ birthdays, anniversaries and respective mother’s and father’s days.
In the summer, it’s made with fresh cherries and topped with plenty of fresh fruit. In the winter, I use frozen cherries and other garnishes.
While I’ve certainly made the cake in a number of different ways, it’s always composed of this: a chocolate chiffon, cherries cooked with kirsch, and plenty of whipped cream.
The sweetness level in this cake is minimal with the only added sugar in the chiffon cake – the cherries and whipped cream are left unsweetened, and the cake is brushed with straight kirsh instead of a syrup – and that’s really all the sugar that is needed.
Note: The images show a 7″ cake, but I’ve reworked the recipe below as I typically make smaller cakes now.
black forest cake
Makes one tall and somewhat structurally unsound 6″ cake. For a three-layer 7″ cake make a 1.25x recipe. The chiffon cake is adapted from my mum’s recipe, which I’ve been gradually tweaking with time – more cocoa powder, less sugar, and adjusting the liquid:dry ratio to make it a bit easier to put the batter together. NOTE: There is a range of sugar for the chiffon cake. I’ve made the lower limit and it is sweet enough for my tastes, and I’ve made the upper limit and it is not overly sweet for my tastes… so I would choose based on whether you generally prefer sweeter or less sweet desserts.
chocolate chiffon cake
- 40g cocoa powder
- 80g boiling water
- 85g RT or cold water
- 108g all-purpose or cake flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
- 3 egg yolks
- 60g oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 145g egg whites (about 5)
- pinch cream of tartar
- 70-125g granulated sugar
filling & assembly
- 200g cherries, pitted and quartered
- 2 tbsp kirsch plus more to brush the cakes
- heavy cream
- 200g if not frosting the sides
- 400g if frosting the sides
- + whip an additional 60g of cream with a tsp of sugar if piping rosettes on top
Preheat oven to 325F. Line the bottom of three 6″ cake rings or tins (preferably springform for ease of removal) with parchment paper. Butter and flour the sides.
In a large bowl, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth, then whisk in the cold/RT water to cool down the mixture. Once it has cooled, whisk the egg yolks, oil and vanilla into the mixture.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standmixer. Whip the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and sprinkle in the sugar a bit a time. Continue whipping until the egg whites reach stiff peaks (to avoid overmixing I’ll often stop before then while the egg whites are at rather firm peaks).
Add the flour to the cocoa powder/egg yolk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in a large spoonful of the egg whites completely to lighten, then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Evenly divide the batter between the three cake rings or pans.
Bake for around 20-25 minutes. An inserted skewer should be removed with only a few crumbs clinging.
filling and assembly
Combine the cherries and 2 tbsp kirsch together in a saucepan until the cherries are softened and any juices have thickened and become syrupy. Chill.
Whip the cream right before you’re ready to assemble. I generally always use unsweetened whipped cream when it comes to frosting cakes, but feel free to sweeten as per your own tastes.
Place one cake layer on a plate. Brush the top with kirsch and allow to absorb (it may help to trim off the top crust to make the cake layers more absorbant, but I usually don’t bother). Spread with whipped cream. Top with half of the cherries (drain from the juices). Place the next cake layer on top and repeat. Place the final layer.
If not frosting the sides: spread with whipped cream and pile some more whipped cream onto the very centre of the cake to add height. Here you may want to chill the cake to help everything set. Pile some strawberries and cherries onto your lovely pile of whipped cream. If you pile them high, it does tend to gradually fall, so I would place the strawberries and cherries right before serving.
If frosting the sides: Spread the top and sides with whipped cream. Pipe whipped cream rosettes and top with cherries.
Either way, this cake is best if it has at least an hour or two to sit in the fridge before serving. This wait allows the cake to pick up moisture and the whipped cream to firm up a bit … the latter so that slicing the cake, always a hazard, becomes a bit easier.