An absolute stone cold classic dessert, nothing says wonderful, creamy, chocolatey indulgence like the three simple words… black… forest… gateau.
It’s making my mouth water just thinking about it! So, get your baking apron on and get set for a showstopping cake that will win the hearts, minds and taste buds of all your friends and all your family.
Products you need for this recipe
There are a whole host of items that will make the baking and assembling process so much easier.
- Icing spatula – an essential cake maker’s tool. If you want to get creative and artful with your cake decorating, an ice spatula is the perfect piece of equipment
- 3 x 20cm (8in) springform tins – you’ll need three of these springform tins to make the cake layers for your black forest cake
- Stand mixer or Whisk – either a stand mixer or a simple balloon whisk is needed to whip up your cake batter and to make your whipped cream
- Amarula Ethiopian Coffee Cream Liqueur – this wonderful cream liqueur has a unique taste that will make every single slice of black forest cake extra special
- Kirsch – a classic German cherry infusion, kirsch is the essential ingredient to make an authentic black forest cake
- Cherry pitter – the easiest way to pit cherries is to use one of these handy gizmos
- Black cherry jam – not only do you need fresh cherries for this recipe, but also a rich cherry jam
- Vanilla paste – to add an extra dimension of taste, there’s nothing quite like vanilla paste
- Dark chocolate – melted chocolate plays a key part in this recipe. Go for a quality brand of chocolate and you’ll really notice the difference
- Cocoa powder – essential for that deep chocolatey flavour
- Coffee powder – the coffee undertones such add an extra dimension of deliciousness
- Piping bag – a simple piping bag and nozzle go a long way to adding some finishing flair to your cake
- Cake stand – a serving plate or cake stand adds that final flourish
Black forest cake recipe
Few desserts are quite as indulgent and wonderfully satisfying as a black forest gateau.
It really is a showstopper! Place one of these on a table and it will draw collective gasps. Not only does this black forest cake look incredible, but it tastes like a dream.
Just one slice of black forest gateau is enough to take the breath away. Here are the elements to this very special dessert.
The marinated cherries
An essential part of this black forest cake is the juicy marinated cherries. In keeping with the traditional German method, the cherries are marinated in kirsch – a delicious cherry liqueur – to give them that extra juiciness and deep flavour.
The chocolate coffee sponge
The chocolate cake makes up the main part of this recipe. The cake batter is made from eggs, caster sugar, butter, flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder and vanilla paste. Three separate chocolate sponge cake layers make up the chocolate coffee sponge.
Coffee amarula cream
Nestled in between each cake layer, just waiting to tantalise your taste buds, is my extra special coffee amarula cream. Made from double cream, icing sugar, corn starch, vanilla paste and my secret ingredient, Amarula Ethiopian Coffee Cream Liqueur, it’s tailor made to taste incredible alongside the chocolate cake layers.
Whipped cream frosting
A mixture of double cream and icing sugar, whipped together into fluffy, creamy heaven. This is spooned into the piping bags to create your creamy swirls to decorate the top of your black forest cake.
A big part of the appeal of this cake is its spectacular appearance. This layered chocolate sponge cake starts with a cake layer, followed by cherry jam and then the cherry and Coffee Amarula cream mixture.
This is followed by another cake layer and then more jam and cream. When all the cake layers are in place, the remaining cream is piped over the whole black forest cake stack, before being decorated with cream swirls and chocolate shavings.
Origins of Black Forest Cake
This classic cake has been dropping jaws for centuries! It has a long and fascinating history, originating from the enchanted forests between Germany and Switzerland in the 17th century.
The idea is said to have come from the land surrounding the central Swiss lakes, specifically Zug – a small town south of Zurich. Zug was well known for producing incredible sour cherries, which in turn was used to make kirsch – a cherry liqueur.
The first black forest cake – or kirschtorte, as it is known in Switzerland and Germany, was made, and its popularity soon spread towards the Rhine Valley in Southwest Germany.
It’s said that the famous German confectioner Josef Keller invented the version of the black forest cake that we know and love today. The addition of whipped cream to the chocolate cake layers came about when he decided to bring a touch of innovation to the traditional cake, when working at a cafe in Bonn in 1915.
The earliest written black forest cake recipe appeared in the mid 1930s. By the ‘40s and ‘50s, this cherry chocolate cake was well on the way to achieving classic status and, by the 1970s, it became a huge exotic hit in Britain.
So exotic, in fact, that it couldn’t be properly replicated, as kirsch was hard to get hold of. Cherry syrup was often used instead and the term ‘black forest gateau’ was coined.
What’s the difference between a torte, a cake and a gateau?
Essentially, they are the same thing, with the main difference being the language each of them originated from.
Torte is the German word for cake, while gateaux is the French word for cake. Still, the traditional styles of each country’s cuisine has an impact on their definitions.
For example, a French gateau is typically a multilayered, fancifully decorated cake, with combinations of cream, fruit and sponge.
A torte tends to be less sweet, less focused on dairy and more focused on fruits and nuts. Traditional cakes usually consist of sugar, eggs, butter and flour.
So, when you think of the differences between a gateau, a torte and a cake, think of the differences between French, German and English baking.
Kirschwasser or kirsch is a clear, colourless brandy made from distilled sour cherries. It was originally made from Zug cherries in Switzerland, but now Morello or other types of sour cherries are commonly used. Whole cherries, including their stones, are used to ferment kirsch.
Kirsch takes its name from the word for cherry in German. It’s not like a typical cherry liqueur, as it's not sweet. A distinctive sour taste, with a subtle cherry flavour and undertones of almonds from the cherry stones, makes it a fantastic ingredient for baking.
In fact, it’s not technically a liqueur at all. This is because there is no sugar added during the distillation process. Instead, kirsch can be called an ‘infusion’.
Can I make my own kirsch?
There are lots of recipes online for making kirsch. Many of them call for using only cherry pits, some of them call for using vodka and others say to add mountains of sugar.
Personally, I would make the effort to track down some genuine kirsch. The unique flavour makes this dessert extra special. So, leave it to the experts on this one.
Where can I buy kirsch?
Kirsch is available online, as well as in-store at most good supermarkets and off-licenses.
What cherries should I use for a Black Forest Cake?
This chocolate black forest cake calls for cherries to be marinated in kirsch, before being added to the cream filling mixture. Here are a few different cherries you can use.
The king of the sour cherry, fresh morello cherries are the best type to use for this black forest cake. If it’s the right season – cherry season is from May to August – buy fresh cherries! You’ll have to pit them, of course, so make sure you get a quality cherry pitter – see ‘Products you need for this recipe’ above.
Maraschino cherries are amazing! Sweet, plump and utterly delicious, they would make an excellent decorative cherry for the top of your black forest cake. Not the best cherries to steep in kirsch though, as they are too sweet.
The larger than life classic Italian cherry, Amarena Fabbri has been used in desserts for generations. In fact, this Italian stallion of a cherry dates back to 1905!
It’s slightly sour, which would work for the filling of this black forest cake. You could also use a few to decorate the top of the cake.
Tinned natural cherries are readily available and affordable. They wouldn’t be my first pick, but if you want a budget option, this could be the one for you.
What cream liqueur should I use?
Ah, the magic ingredient!
While you may have had black forest cake before, you’ve never tasted anything like this cherry, chocolate coffee cake. That’s because of the addition of Amarula Ethiopian Coffee Cream Liqueur.
It combines the unique flavour of the marula fruit – a South African fruit that only grows in a specific region and nowhere else on the planet – with full-bodied, fragrant mocha-chocolate undertones of single origin Ethiopian Arabica beans.
How should you store black forest gateau?
Black forest cake needs to be stored in an airtight container. As it contains cream, it needs to be stored in the fridge. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days, but good luck waiting that long to polish it off!
If you want to store this delicious chocolate cake for longer than 3 days, you can also freeze it. Freezing it preserves it for around 4 months. After it has cooled down, double wrap your cake in clingfilm, then store it in an airtight, freezable container. This will help to protect it from freezer burn.
What wine goes with black forest gateau?
Although it’s often tricky to pair wine with rich chocolate desserts, there’s still a few great options out there. Try a sweet Italian red like a Recioto della Valpolicella or a late harvest Tannat or Zinfandel.
You could also try a sweet sherry or a tawny port, both of which would be delicious with a black forest cake. The important thing is to go for a wine with lower alcohol content and low tannins.
In terms of white wines, fry a German Riesling, a New Zealand Pinot Gris or a chardonnay.
More classic decadent desserts
Want to show off your baking skills? Here are some more incredible recipes that will hypnotise the whole family!
- Chocolate concrete – cheap and easy to make, this retro school dinner recipe is loved by all.
- Cornflake tart – old school British desserts don’t come more satisfyingly simple as this one. Buttery, crumbly shortcrust pastry, smothered in rich raspberry jam, with lashings of sweet and crunchy cornflakes, drizzled with luscious golden syrup. Retro heaven!
- Pink custard – pair up your cornflake tart with another beautiful blast from the past. This pink custard is like the classic custard of yesteryear, only a heck of a lot healthier!
- Chocolate orange cupcakes – it’s hard not to fall head over heels for these utterly divine cupcakes. Just one taste and you’ll be begging for more!
- Apricot cobbler – another old school canteen classic, this fully flavoured fruity cobbler will make you feel like a kid again. Classic comfort food at its very best.
- Salted caramel apple crumble – there’s something so incredibly satisfying about this sweet and wonderful, slightly salty Autumn classic. A fantastic way to celebrate the changing of the seasons.
- Cherry crumble pie – another celebration of this magnificent fruit, this melt-in-your-mouth cherry pie is packed full of flavour and will tingle your taste buds until you’ve eaten every last crumb.
- Rhubarb dump cake – so simple, yet so very satisfying, this rhubarb dump cake is a fruity retro pudding that you’ve got to try. Fresh and tangy and full of flavor, if you’re a fan of rhubarb you can’t afford to miss it.
- Chocolate flapjacks – how can you not love a good flapjack? This chocolate flapjack recipe really is as good as it gets! Simple yet absolutely glorious, it doesn’t get better than a gooey, chocolate flapjack. Bake this recipe once and you’ll be hooked!