Recipe: Oma’s Black Forest Cake/Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.

Let me tell you, I have wanted to do this entry for months. I could write multiple pages about Black Forest cake. As a child it was my absolute favorite, and no birthday passed without a request to my Oma for this glorious confection. As is often the way with a grandmother’s cooking, no one else’s cake ever seemed to taste quite as good as hers. I could chalk this up entirely to rose-colored glasses applied to my childhood, but I’ve tried other Black Forest recipes and they simply don’t stack up. I’ve fed multiple kinds to my husband, and even without my bias he agrees: my Oma’s recipe is the best.

I won’t go into my feelings on the various cakes that sometimes pass for Black Forest outside of Germany. I will say only this: a devil’s food cake with cherry pie filling and buttercream might taste pretty good, but Black Forest cake it is not.

This is, as much as it can be, my grandmother’s recipe. By that I mean that some of the things my grandmother uses are either rare/expensive in the US (for example, the whipped cream stabilizing powder she uses instead of gelatin) or just impossible for any of us to obtain (my grandmother’s self-jarred cherries from the cherry tree in the back yard). She also doesn’t brush her sponge with syrup. I made this addition myself, but rest assured the cake will still be perfectly delicious without it.

Black Forest Cake/Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

This recipe yields ONE 10″ cake or TWO 6″ cakes. In the instructional below I make the 6″ version.

Knetteig/Base Dough
1 cup + 2 tbsp (125g) flour
1 tbsp + 1 tsp (10g) cocoa powder
1 pinch baking powder
1 pinch salt
Scant 1/3 cup (60g) sugar
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (100g) margarine or butter, softened

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Stir the scraped vanilla bean into the sugar until it’s well distributed, and then stir in the flour as well. Mix this into the margarine until incorporated, then turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead vigorously until the dough is a smooth ball. It might take a good while for this dough to come together since there’s little liquid, but keep at it. If things go in the other direction and the dough becomes too sticky, chill it for a moment before continuing to knead.
2. Roll the dough out into a 10″ circle and pat it into the bottom of a greased 10″ springform pan. You can also use a regular 9″ pan or a pastry ring as shown below. Prick the dough with a fork all over, then bake for about 15 minutes at 375°F (190°C).

3. Release the dough from the springform pan while still warm. Allow to cool completely and place on your cake plate.

Biskuitteig/Sponge Cake
4 eggs
2 tbsp hot water
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp (110g) sugar
1/2 scraped vanilla bean
2/3 cup (75g) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (30g) corn starch
1 tbsp + 1 tsp (10g) cocoa powder
1 big pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tbsp baking powder

1. Whip eggs with hot water on high speed until thick and lightened in color. While still mixing, gradually add in your sugar, HALF the baking powder, and scraped vanilla bean. Beat on high speed for an additional two minutes.
2. Sift together your flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, cinnamon and remaining baking powder. Carefully fold the flour mixture into your egg mixture in two parts. Pour the batter into a greased and parchment-lined 10″ cake pan and bake at 350°F (175°C) for 23-30 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched at the center. Allow to cool.

Filling
1/3 cup (30g) cornstarch
2 tbsp (25g) sugar
3 tbsp kirsch

EITHER
1 lb. 10 oz (720g) drained, canned sour cherries (packed in water) + just over a cup (250ml) juice they were canned in
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (75g) sugar

OR
1 lb. 10 oz (720g) fresh sour cherries, pitted and washed
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp (75g) sugar

1. If you are using fresh cherries, mix them with the (75g) sugar and allow them to sit for about a half an hour to extract the juice. Cook them down in a saucepan until just boiling, then strain the whole cherries from the juice and measure out 250ml of the liquid. If you don’t have enough liquid, top it off with water. Set aside 4 tbsp of the juice and allow it to cool entirely. If you’re using canned cherries, simply go straight to the next step.
2. Place your juice in the saucepan and mix it with your sugar. Bring it to a simmer. Mix the 4 tbsp of liquid with your cornstarch until smooth, then stir it into your simmering liquid. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 1 minute while whisking vigorously. Take the sauce from the stove and fold in whole cherries. At this point you should add the kirsch and 25g sugar, tasting the filling until you like the flavor. Allow to cool.

Whipped Cream
3 cups (720ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (60g) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp powdered gelatin
2 tbsp water

1. In a small bowl, mix your gelatin with your water and allow it to bloom for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whip your cream to soft peaks. Add in the sugar and vanilla and whip to medium peaks.
2. Heat your gelatin in 5-10 second increments in the microwave until just melted. Do not boil. Continue to whip your cream, stirring the gelatin in as you whip. Once the cream just reaches stiff peaks, it’s ready to ice with.

Syrup
Scant 1/3 cup (60g) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) hot water
1 tbsp Kirsch

1. In a small bowl, mix the water and sugar and stir until dissolved.

Garnish
About 4 oz (115g) chocolate curls
4 oz (115g) high-quality chocolate
Vegetable oil (optional)
8 fresh cherries

Assembly

1. Before you start, place a large cookie sheet in your freezer to make chocolate curls on later. Split your cake into 3 thin layers and set aside. Fill some whipped cream into a piping bag with a large round tip. If you haven’t already, place your base dough on your cake plate.
2. Cover your base with a thin layer of whipped cream and place one layer of sponge cake on top. Brush the cake lightly with syrup and pipe a rim of whipped cream on the sponge layer to act as a dam. Spoon cherry filling into the middle and smooth it out, then cover this in a thin layer of whipped cream as well. Then place another layer of sponge on top and repeat this process. Finally, place on your final sponge layer and give your cake a crumb coat.

3. Ice your cake in a final coat of whipped cream. Work with a spatula or scraper (whichever you prefer) until your cake is iced evenly. To get a smooth final finish, go over it with a warm spatula at the end. I keep a container of hot water on the side that I dip the spatula in. Be sure to wipe the spatula off before you use it to ice the cake, otherwise water will pool at the base of your cake.

4. Pipe 8 bulbs of whipped cream on the top of your cake, and place a cherry on top of each one. Cover the side of your cake in chocolate curls. If you have issues with them melting, check out the below video!

5. Place the cake in your fridge and make your chocolate curls. Have a bowl of tempered chocolate or a chocolate with a “faux” temper (mix about 1 tsp of vegetable oil into your melted chocolate) ready to go. Pull the cookie sheet out of the fridge and quickly spread your chocolate very thinly across the whole surface. It will begin to firm up almost instantly. Give it just a moment to harden up, and then scrape small sections of the chocolate with a pastry scraper to achieve curls. Begin at the side of the cookie sheet furthest from you, about 4″ from the edge of the chocolate, and push the pastry scraper away from you. You’ll need to be quite firm, but the chocolate should roll onto itself into a curl. Repeat this in small sections for the remainder of your chocolate. If it simply peels off in a sheet, your chocolate is too warm. Allow it to firm up a bit more.

6. Garnish the cake with your chocolate curls and enjoy!

7 comments

  1. Alexandria Web says:

    Black Forest Gateaux was my favourite as a child too! I’ve never actually tried to make it, but I think I might give it a go.
    Your site is rad by the way, I’ve just been looking at some of the Sailor Moon themed cakes and I really envy your talent!

    • Katharina
      Katharina says:

      Thanks! I’m really glad you’re enjoying it! Next week will be Neptune, I’m super excited.

      Black Forest is just the best. It’s such a classic and so well-balanced.

  2. sylvie says:

    My Nan also had her own incredible recipes and all of them are great! Black forest is the cake to make to please every one, love the fine balance between all ingredients and flavors, yum!

  3. Anne says:

    I enjoyed your blog post. My grandmother also used to bake Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte and I baked one yesterday in memory of her using the Dr Oetker recipe which seems similar to the one you are using. My cake didn’t turn out quite as elegantly as yours.
    I admired your Kutani Crane – I have the same dinner set 🙂

    • Katharina
      Katharina says:

      I am sure your cake was fantastic, Anne! My grandmother’s cakes were never quite as decorated as mine, but frankly no amount of careful icing can make my cakes live up to hers! There’s just a special touch a grandmother’s cooking has, I think.

      Happy to meet another Kutani Crane owner! It’s a set I received from my (other, American) grandmother and use very gladly, but carefully. Want to be able to pass it down to my own children one day if I can!

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