Friday, October 21, 2005

SHF #13: Black Forest Cake

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

For 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 soda
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!


  1. That looks decadent. Blackforest cake is my favorite too with the glaceed cherries on top. The shape is perfect for slicing into rectangular pastries like those in India.

  2. I really don't see how you could go wrong with Black Forest Cake!! Looks scrumptious!

  3. It looks quite fun and lovely. I agree though - I am not a big canned cherry fan either. It is just so difficult to pit the fresh ones. Sometimes middle eastern or german markets have canned sour cherries that, to my taste, are better than the icky red ones.

  4. That's a delicous cake, Nupur. Almost like tiramisu, except for the cherry filling. and I agree with you about canned cherry pie filling, that's some weirdo stuff.:)-

  5. Such a great job Nupur!!!
    Well done girl! :)

  6. As all your other desserts, this one looks heavenly!!!

    For chocolate shavings, hold the blade of the knife perpendicular to the chocolate bar and pull it towards you - pretty much like curling gift ribbons. The chocolate must be straight out of the refrigerator.


  7. It looks delicious Nupur. I love Black Forest cakes.

  8. I have been following your blog and it is really nice. I have even tried a couple of recipies and they have turned out well. What brand cherry pie filling did you use? do you get it canned or frozen?

  9. Hi Mika, yeah the square pan worked out after all...I'm glad I tried making this!

    Hi LisaSD, thanks :)

    Hi Sue, thanks for the tip...I am sure better canned cherries exist, I just have to find them!

    Hi Indira, yeah, the espresso powder really added a special taste to the cake. I think it heightens the chocolate flavor.

    Hi Clare, thanks :)

    Hi Faffer, thanks so much for the tip...I really appreciate it!

    Hi Boo, glad to know ur a black-forest fan too!

    Hi Roshni, thanks for visiting and trying the recipes! To answer ur question, I used Comstock canned cherry pie filling. Next time I might try another sour cherry brand if I can find it. or then make my own with frozen cherries.

  10. Nupur, I love Black Forest Cake, and haven't had it in years! You've got me thinking now. I have pitted tart cherries from the Greenmarket which I froze myself during the summer...or I have a lovely jar of imported cherries in syrup in my pantry. I wonder which would work better. What do you think?

  11. Artificial cherry filling or not, that looks good to me. This is one of those traditionally popular cakes that I've always wanted to do. Maybe I'll take heart from your experience and go ahead. :)

  12. Hi Julie, I think the imported cherries in syrup would work better because the syrup will contribute to the moistness of the cake.
    The pitted cherries could be cooked in simple syrup and used the same way. With the jarred ones, the work is already done for you! Thanks for visiting :)

    Hi Celia, I was surprised how easy it was to put together. I mean it only needs a dark chocolate cake (any recipe), whipped cream and cherries in syrup :) Too easy!

  13. Nupur, what a pretty entry! Too bad the canned cherries were disappointing for you. Still, you can hardly go wrong with a black forest cake! I think most everyone can agree it is a good dessert anytime!

  14. I have to confess I am hooked to your blogs. I have compiled all the recipes and will try one by one.

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  16. Nupur,

    I notice that you said to use one tsp baking powder, but the method says baking soda. I checked th original recipe from where this was adapted and that recipe requires baking soda. Which one should I use?

  17. Hey Nupur
    my parents were visiting from India and i made this cake for my dad's b'day , it turned out fabulous..!! i cud not believe that i had made it and same for everyone who had it. All credit goes to u ! thanx a ton.. it was just too easy for a BLACK FOREST CAKE !;)

  18. Abhi, Thank you so very much for the feedback! I am so thrilled that this recipe worked for you :) Black forest cake does have an elegant look. Belated birthday wishes to your Dad!

  19. Hi Nupur
    Good to see your comments on the blog.
    Happy holidays !

  20. Hi Nupur,
    I made this for my hubby's bday this weekend and it came out really well. The only problem I had was that the cake layer were a little hard probably because I didn't drizzle enough syrup but this recipe is a keeper! :) Thanks for the recipes and your tips on how to make it perfect:)

  21. Hi Nupur,
    Thanks for the recipe. Your cake looks absolutely delicious. I am planning to make a choco-strawberry for my husbands birthday. The recipe is similar to your recipe with cherries subs by straberries. I have a question about the frosting. How much ahead of time could you assemble the cake so that the frosting wont thin or melt? My cousin who lives in germany said to add cream stiffener to the frosting, but I was trying to get by without it as it is hard to find it in stores here. Will the whipped cream frosting stay as is for a day or two?

  22. Hi Nupur,

    I made this delicious cake for my husband on his Birthday! This was my first attempt at baking. The cake looked beautiful and tasted heavenly :). Best of all my husband said "It's even better than 'Baker's Basket'(from India) Black Forest!" :)
    Thank you so much for the recipe!


  23. This was awesome!! Tried it and it turned to be the almost perfect black forest cake. The "almost" was because I messed a little while slicing it horizontally. I made the cherry preserves also at home using this recipe -

  24. Hey I made this cake for the first time following your recipe. Looks Great!! I made it to welcome our friends tonight. Hope turns out tasty too!!
    Thanks :)


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