A combination of sweet, rich chocolate and the tangy taste of cherries – it’s truly a recipe for happiness! The classic German confection, known as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake, is believed by some historians to date back nearly 500 years to the sixteenth century, when chocolate, then very expensive, was first baked into cakes and cookies.
The Black Forest or Schwarzwald region of Germany is located in the southwest, bordering France and Switzerland, in the state of Baden-Württemberg. It's a land of mountains and pine forests so dense that the sun barely penetrates. It’s also known for cuckoo clocks, fairy tale villages, and Kirsch or Kirschwasser a clear, double-distilled brandy made from the sour Morello cherries grown in the region. No one knows for sure who first married the German passion for chocolate with the tantalizing taste of Kirsch – but Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte most likely takes its name from that popular brandy. And there has been a regional form of the dessert combining cherries, cream, and brandy from the earliest days. There is some speculation that the women’s costume of the Black Forest might have inspired the dessert – the skirt is black, like chocolate, the blouse is white like cream, and the hat is adorned with red pompoms, definitely reminiscent of cherries!
Black Forest Cake is chocolate layer cake with some delicious surprises. In the traditional recipe, the dense chocolate sponge cake is moistened with Kirsch syrup, then layered with whipped cream and Kirschsoaked Morello cherries. More cream and dark cherries go on top, along with a generous sprinkle of shaved chocolate. If you don’t have a good German bakery or restaurant nearby that makes this classic dessert, perhaps you’d like to try it yourself. We offer a recipe from the Convent of Siessen, with slight modifications for American kitchens.
Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte / Black Forest Cake
from the Convent of Siessen, modified for American kitchens
Ingredients for the cake (for three layers):
- 12 eggs
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 heaping tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 level teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ cup almond powder or nut powder
- ground cloves or cinnamon to taste
- juice of 11/2 lemons
Ingredients for the filling and icing:
- 1 1/4 cups pitted cherries
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 heaping tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 shot glasses kirsch
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 packets cream stabilizer (Whip It)
- 1 heaping tablespoon white sugar
- 1 packet vanilla sugar
Directions for the cake:
- Separate the whites from the egg yolks.
- Beat the yolks, water and sugar until foamy and the mixture whitens.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Beat whites until stiff.
- Sift together the dry ingredients – flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking powder and almond powder
- Fold ingredients gently into the egg yolks, alternating the dry mixture, lemon juice and whipped whites.
- Cover bottoms of 3 round cake pans with waxed paper or grease and flour them. Divide batter evenly into prepared pans.
- Bake 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove cake to racks to cool completely.
Directions for filling and icing:
- Drain cherries, keeping the juice. Mix cornstarch with 3 tbsp. of juice, and bring the rest of the juice with the sugar to the boil. Remove from heat, stir in the cornstarch mixture and bring briefly to the boil again. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in kirsch and cherries. Cool before using.
- Combine whipping cream, sugars and Whip It or gelatin in a chilled medium bowl. Beat at high speed until stiff peaks form.
- Place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with the half of the cherry topping. Top with second cake layer. Spread half of the whipped cream and top with the rest of the cherry topping. Add third cake layer. Frost side and top of cake with the rest of the whipped cream. Decorate with chocolate flakes and cherries.