To me, a Black Forest Cake is a party cake.
What says "celebration" more than chocolate cake, Kirsch flavored Morello
cherries, and loads of sweet whipped cream? As its name implies, Black Forest
Cake comes from the Black Forest region of Germany. The first written recipe for
this very popular cake appeared in 1934, and there are many theories as to its
origin. Heston Blumenthal in his book "In Search of Perfection" gives an
excellent account of its history. He tells us that some believe its name
'Schwarzwalder Kirsch Torte' is a tribute to the Kirsch (cherry distillate)
flavor that is prominent in this dessert. (Kirsch is made in over 14,000
distilleries in the region.) Others say that the chocolate shavings that garnish
the cake remind people of the thick trees that grow in the Black Forest. The
cake's origin, itself, also has a few stories. It could have originated from a
dessert that was made in the region that combined cream, cherries, and Kirsch,
although it was not a cake. Some say the chocolate part of the cake originated
in another part of Germany (Bad Godesburg). There is also a story that a
Dutchman who settled in the region invented the cake. Although we may never know
its true origin, everyone will agree that this cake is both beautiful to look at
and delicious to eat.
We begin this dessert by making a
chocolate cake. I
like to use a Chocolate Genoise as its light and airy texture is perfect
for absorbing the Kirsch flavored cherry syrup we brush on the cake to
make it deliciously moist. A Chocolate Genoise is similar to a sponge
cake, although it does differ in that the eggs are not separated and it
contains a little melted butter. It is, however, like other sponge cakes
in that it is leavened solely by the air beaten into the egg and sugar
mixture. To make a light and airy genoise
warm the eggs
and sugar, over a water bath, which melts the sugar so that the eggs will reach
their full volume when beaten. The eggs and sugar are beaten until
thick (the batter becomes lighter and paler in color as it thickens). The other difference between a regular
sponge cake and a genoise is that we add warm melted butter which
makes the genoise light and tender with a nice flavor. The melted butter
needs to be warm, however, so it does not solidify once it is added to the
cake batter, causing streaks, or worse yet, causing the batter to deflate.
Once baked, the genoise can be covered and stored for a few days, or
frozen for up to a month.
A Black Forest Cake would not
be the same without the sour Morello cherries. These tart flavored cherries
perfectly complement the rich chocolate flavor of the cake and the sweet whipped
cream. I like to use the bottled dark
mahogany red colored Morello Cherries that are packed in a light syrup. You can
usually find them in specialty food stores (Trader Joe's) or some grocery stores
(Whole Foods). If you cannot
find them, use canned sour cherries that are packed in water. Now, once the
cherries have been drained, take 1 cup (240 ml) of the syrup, add a little
sugar, and then heat to dissolve the sugar. We then add a little Kirsch to
intensify the cherry flavor of the syrup. (If you are using sour cherries packed
in water, you need to add a little more sugar than the recipe states as they are
more tart tasting than cherries that are packed in light syrup.) This juice is
used to soak the chocolate genoise to accentuate the cherry flavor of this
dessert and to moisten the cake. I like to make this dessert a day before
serving to allow the flavors to mingle and for the soaking syrup to fully
moisten and flavor the cake.
Drain the cherries, reserving the liquid. Place the cherries in a bowl and toss
with 2 tablespoons Kirsch. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside. Place
1 cup (240 ml) of the reserved cherry syrup in a
small saucepan, along with the sugar, and heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove
from heat, add 2 tablespoons Kirsch, and let cool.
Chocolate Genoise: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
Butter, or spray with a non stick spray, a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and
line the bottom of pan with parchment or wax paper.
In a bowl, sift
the flour, salt and cocoa powder.
In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of
simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer
to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture is
thick (about 5 minutes) (the batter
will fall back into the bowl in a
pattern). Beat in the vanilla extract.
one-third of the
flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently
fold in using a
rubber spatula or
whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then
fold in the rest. Take 1 cup of
the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it). Then gently
fold it into the egg batter. Pour into
your pan, smoothing the
Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until a toothpick
inserted into the center comes out clean (cake starts to shrink from sides of
pan). Cool on a metal rack before removing from pan. The cake can be stored for
two days or
frozen for a month.
Frosting: In your mixing bowl place the whipping cream,
vanilla extract, and sugar and
stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at
least 30 minutes, then beat the mixture
just until stiff peaks form.
Cake: Using a sharp knife,
cut the genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Turn over the top
layer of the cake (top of cake becomes bottom) and place on
your serving plate. Brush the cake layer with 1/4 cup (60 ml) cherry syrup.
Take 1 cup of whipped cream and spread on the moistened genoise. Place
the cherries evenly over the cream. Brush the cut-side of second genoise layer with
1/4 cup (60 ml) syrup. Place cut-side down on top of
the cherries, gently pressing to compact. Reserve one cup (240 ml) of whipped
cream and spread the remaining cream over top and
sides of cake. Place reserved cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip
and pipe rosettes on top of cake. Cover and refrigerate the cake for several
hours (or overnight) before serving. Decorate
with fresh cherries and shaved chocolate.
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