Updated: Jun 13
Black Forest Cake is probably the most well known dessert of Germany. It became popular in the 1930's and while there are a million different recipes online, the true, authentic, legit German recipes all use a chocolate cake, cherries, cream and of course Kirschwasser. What is Kirschwasser and how can you get it if you do not live in Germany. Basically Kirschwasser translates to cherry water. Except this 'cherry water' has 40% alcohol! Kirschwasser is basically like a cherry schnapps, but any clear alcohol with a cherry flavor would work. I think even a cherry flavored vodka would be fantastic!
This recipe that I have for you today is out of this world, show stopping, hands down, my best cake recipe to date. I have made this cake twice, and all my German friends, said it was incredibly delicious and couldn't believe it was gluten free.
The Secret: I always wait until summer, in cherry season, and I use fresh local cherries instead of canned cherries to make this one of a kind cake.
The cake recipe is very straightforward but I do have some tips and tricks to put this cake over the top. Specifically, the cherry filling and the chocolate shards.
Let's talk CHERRIES!
I love cherry season, almost as much as strawberries. Thankfully, cherry season start at the end of June/beginning of July and I can buy my cherries from a roadside stand in Frauenstein, which is a town next to Wiesbaden (about a 10 minute drive from where I live in Kiedrich.)
All I have to do is exit the highway and pull off to the side of the road. It couldn't be more convenient. I also love the 'old school, country feel' you get from seeing the signs written by hand.
The sign translates to, 'Cherries that were harvested from the town of Frauenstein.' Meaning, this stand is surrounded not only by the vineyards but their own cherry trees!
The prices are a bit high, but that is because the season had just started. And I am incredibly impatient, and HAD to have fresh cherries.
I went a bit crazy and bought that huge box that you see to the right. When in Rome, right?
I didn't use ALL those cherries in my cake. I definitely needed a bunch just to nosh on with the kids after school.
Then of course you have to take out all the pits in these cherries. I do recommend a device like the one pictured below, one where you can put a good sized handful or about 1 cup of cherries in at a time.
This contraption works great! Especially if you also make fresh cherry pies or other desserts with fresh cherries. I bought it at one of my local grocery stores, Real, but you can also get it on Amazon.de
So it is a bit loud, and cherry juice does spray out a little, and it doesn't work 100% of the time, but I still think this machine is worth it. It works by getting the cherries, one by one, in a small hole. Then you basically puncture the center and that should release the cherry pit down to the bottom of the container and the rest of the cherry should roll out the spout. I would say the pit doesn't fully come out of 1 out of every 15 cherries. You do have to double check each batch to make sure there aren't any sneaky pits still hanging about.
You want to make sure that you have about 4 cups of pitted cherries for your cake. I prepared 6 cups, because I wanted extra filling just for fun... or to put on top of vanilla ice cream, so when you look at the following pictures of the cherry filling do be aware that it is more than what I recommend for the recipe.
Here is what you need for this black forest cake.
On the left is cherry syrup which does not have any alcohol. On the right is the Kirschwasser in a small container. I ended up using about 1/3-1/2 of the bottle for this cake.
Do you absolutely need to use Kirschwasser or cherry schnapps in this recipe? I am going to say YES! You really should. This cake is massive and a lot of the alcohol does burn off in the cherry filling while you are simmering it. The rest you brush onto the cake layers (after they have baked) to help add moisture and to cut the sweetness of the cake. Here in Germany, we have zero qualms about using this in our black forest cake and letting kids eat it. The amount of alcohol is SO minimal. Of course if you will be enjoying this cake without any kids and you love the taste of schnapps in your desserts, feel free to add a bit more Kirschwasser to your cherry filling. Taste as you go and you can always add more.
I used the cherry syrup to give my cherry filling just a bit more 'cherry flavor.' You don't necessarily need this syrup, but I found it at my local grocery store, Rewe, and really wanted to try it. If you do not want to brush your cake layers with the Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps), then brush on the cherry syrup instead.
Now it is time to make this filling.
Here you can see how nice and thick the filling became.
After the filling cools in the refrigerator it will thicken up even more.
The Whipped Cream: You have all read about how I absolutely love homemade whipped cream in my other blog entries. I get this love of whipped cream from my mother. I remember she always used to tell me how terrible buttercream was and how much more superior in taste whipped cream is. She is right, but I am fairly certain she was thinking of store bought, prepackaged American buttercream, which is disgustingly sweet and often gritty. My buttercream is lucusious and smooth, but that is a story for another time.
In addition to powdered sugar and a bit of vanilla extract, here are the stars of this whipped cream.
Heavy whipping cream and these little packets of Sahnesteif, which if you are not in Germany, you can use cream of tartar. If you are in Germany, buy these and buy a ton of them! They are incredibly cheap. Like less than 2 Euros for a pack of 4. You need two packets for every 2 cups of heavy whipping cream. These little packets help to stabilize your whipped cream so that after you decorate your cake, the whipped cream will not break down right away.
The Assembly of the Cake: You start like how you would any typical layered cake, but you have to work a bit faster because of the whipped cream. That is the only downside, it's summer and super hot out, so make sure to either have your air conditioner on or make this cake late at night or early in the morning.
Here are the steps:
Place cake board on turntable and put a dollop of whipped cream in the middle. This will act as the glue and keep your cake in place.
Place 1 cake layer on top of your cake board.
Brush cake with some Kirschwasser or cherry syrup.
Pipe a ring of whipped cream along the outside of the cake to act as a border.
Fill the center with half of your cherry filling.
Pipe more whipped cream on top and smooth it out.
Repeat steps 2-6
Place 3rd and final layer of chocolate cake on top and brush it with Kirschwasser or cherry syrup.
Cover the entire cake (top and sides) with a layer of whipped cream.
Chill in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to set.
Spread another layer of whipped cream all over, smoothing it out as best you can.
Now you can pipe on small swirls on the top and decorate with fresh cherries.
Place in the refrigerator while you work on the chocolate shards.
The Chocolate Shards: This next step is optional, but I do think it gives your cake that extra amazing homemade quality. This step does require a candy thermometer, because you have to temper chocolate. You can just buy chocolate shards at the grocery store called 'Schokolade Raspeln' if you are running short on time.
Tempering chocolate means melting it to a certain temperature that will ensure once it has hardened that it will have a fantastic sheen to it and will have a good crisp bite. If your chocolate is too hot or too cool it can harden in an ugly dull color that is definitely not appealing.
Melt it, test the temperature and once you have it between 90-95F you are ready to pour it onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a rubber spatula to smooth it out so it is thin and even.
Then place it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes. Then break it all up.
I started to use my metal scraper and realized my pieces were just so big and it was taking too long. I put all the chocolate into a plastic bag and use my meat-tenderizer to hammer it all and make smaller pieces.
Now work quickly. You need to take small handfulls and just press them all over the sides of the cake as well has sprinkle on a good amount into the top center of the cake. The heat from your hands will start to melt the chocolate so make sure to do this step when you will not be distracted.
This cake was made for a special occasion to share with neighbors at a bbq/pool party where we also watched the European Championship soccer game of Germany vs. Portugal. It was just the group phase, but we did end up winning that match, then we got knocked out in the next round, but this night was epic. We all got dressed up in our Germany gear and even my girls put on Germany flag tattoos.
Then after hours of swimming, cheering on Germany, and grilling we finally cut into the cake.
The chocolate cake was tender and juicy but the real stars were the fresh cherries and that homemade whipped cream. Light and fluffy with just a hint of sweetness from the added powdered sugar combined with the fresh tartness of the local cherries soaked in alcohol made my heart warm with pure joy.
This cake was a winner for sure!
Even my 7 year old agreed. And yes she did eat that entire slice! Oops.