This month, the food-blogging community is celebrating the first anniversary of that wonderful event called Sugar High Friday (SHF) , first started by the The Domestic Goddess. One Friday of every month, bloggers make a dessert based on a common theme. Unlike most people, I don't have much of a sweet tooth...I enjoy small bites of dessert once in a while, but my sugar threshold is low. So when I was making my recipe index a few days ago, I was startled to see that the dessert category had the longest list of recipes. I have to credit SHF with expanding my horizons and getting me to try many wonderful dessert recipes. Every time I make an entry for SHF, I end up with a big delicious dessert, and always invite some friends over to share it with me. So each SHF entry is also associated with the different people who came and shared those sweet moments. Home-made desserts are so much better than what I did before, which was buying a cheesecake or pie from the local bakery. So thank you Jennifer, for thinking of this event!
This month, SHF has come full circle with a theme that is probably the most popular flavor for dessert: Chocolate, chosen by our hostess Lovescool.
I do have quite a list of chocolate desserts that I enjoy: brownies a la mode (called "Ebony and Ivory" by a restaurant in Bombay), chocolate mousse (the best I have ever eaten was made by my Swiss boss at his holiday party), or hand-dipped chocolates (my grandma made these when I was a kid). But I finally decided to make black forest cake. In my opinion, this is hands-down the favorite cake in my part of India, a pastry that is much beloved at all celebrations. Black forest cake is a German creation of dark chocolate cake, filled with cherries and cream, topped with cherries and cream and blanketed with chocolate shavings. Is that decadent enough for ya? :)
For a recipe, I turned to the internet. My constraints were (a) The only cake-baking dish I own is my standard pyrex 8 inch X 8 inch dish (b) I don't own a kitchen scale so I had a find a recipe with cup measures and not weight measures. I finally adapted the cake from this Chocolate Ganache Cake recipe from Epicurious, and the general black forest method from this Black Forest Gateau recipe from BBC food.
For all the fancy, expensive pastry that I have always known black forest cake to be, it was really easy to put together. There are quite a few ingredients and quite a few steps, but it all goes very quickly once you get started. The final taste was delicious and everyone who tried some loved it. The hardest part for me was making the chocolate shavings. The traditional way is to use cold chocolate and a vegetable peeler. When I tried that, all I got was a fine chocolate powder. When I stood in the kitchen, panicking at a bar of chocolate rapidly melting, it was V who rescued me by suggesting that I use a mandoline. It worked a lot better...although I still did not get those gorgeous chocolate curls, I ended up with large-enough shavings to be happy. This mandoline is such a great kitchen gadget. My Mom bought it for me, for the princely sum of Indian rupees (Rs.) 66, less than US $0.50. A bargain if ever I saw one.
The one disappointment was the canned cherries. I had never used canned cherry pie filling before, and I was dismayed when I saw the gummy red syrup with cherries floating about. Next time I will make the filling myself. The canned filling did taste OK in the context of the rest of the cake, but it's too artificial for words with that lurid red color.
Black Forest Cake
1/3 cup boiling water
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
For filling and topping:
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp powder sugar
1 can cherry pie filling
1/2 cup cherry cordial/ liqueur/ kirsch (or 1/2 cup sugar water)
1 bar good quality bittersweet chocolate
1. Make cake layers:
a) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 8 inch square baking dish with parchment paper and butter and flour it.
b) Whisk together water, cocoa, and espresso powder until smooth, then whisk in milk and vanilla.
c) Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
d) Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy, then add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and cocoa mixture in batches, beginning and ending with flour and mixing at low speed until just combined.
e) Pour batter into baking dish, bake for 20-25 minutes till tester comes clean. Cool completely. Set aside.
2. Whip the heavy cream till it forms soft peaks. An electric beater does this job quickly. Fold in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp powder sugar and set aside.
3. Open the can of cherry filling and drain and reserve the syrup. Set cherries in a bowl. Mix 1/2 cup of the syrup with 1/2 cup of the alcohol or sugar water.
4. Slice the cake in half horizontally so as to get two layers. I was afraid of doing this with the whole 8X8 cake, so I sliced the cake half length-wise first, then made layers with each half. In the end, the top gets frosted so the seam is not seen in the end. On a cutting board, set all the layers cut-side up and drizzle with syrup-alcohol mixture so that the cake gets moist. Let it steep for 10 minutes.
5. To assemble, place the lower layer on a cake dish. Spread with the canned cherries, saving a few for decoration. Spread with 1/3 of the cream filling. Lay the top layer over this. Spread the top layer and sides of the cake with the rest of the cream mixture. Decorate with some cherries and sprinkle on the chocolate shavings liberally.
6. Chill for a few hours, then serve!
Wishing everyone a happy Friday and a sweet weekend ahead. Thanks for hosting, Lovescool!