It may be old school, but I seriously love me some black forest cake. I have very fond memories of indulging in a defrosted-from-frozen (mummy doesn’t profess to be a baker) Sara Lee Black Forest Gateau during my youth and I have yet to find a combination more perfectly matched than cherries and chocolate.
A traditional Black Forest Cake matches a light chocolate sponge with the flavours of black cherries, fresh cream and kirsch – in fact, purists will tell you that without kirsch, you can’t call it Black Forest Cake. Due to the inclusion of fresh cream, it can be tricky to store due to cream’s short shelf life, so in my re-imagined take on the classic, I’ll show you how you can dress up a bog-standard chocolate sponge and vanilla buttercream, with just a couple of extra ingredients to make a perfect last minute, yet decadent Valentine’s Day treat.
This recipe makes a four layer 8″ cake.
For the cake:
- 450g butter or margarine
- 450g golden caster sugar
- 7 large eggs
- 350g self-raising flour
- 100g cocoa powder (I use Food Thoughts)
- 2 tsps vanilla extract
For the cherry compote:
- 400g fresh cherries (pitted), plus extra for decoration
- 60g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp kirsch
For the vanilla buttercream:
- 250g slightly salted butter
- 500g icing sugar (sifted)
- 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp of cherry syrup (from your compote)
For the dark chocolate ganache:
- 200g dark chocolate
- 100ml whipping cream
Start by preheating your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and grease and line four 8″ cake pans.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fully incorporated and pale in colour.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs together with the vanilla extract and then slowly combine these with the butter/sugar mixture. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a tablespoon of flour.
Sieve the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and mix until just combined – be careful not to over-beat the mixture.
Separate the mixture between the four tins and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean and the mixture has stopped ‘singing’.
While the cakes are in the oven, pit and halve your cherries.
Add your cherries to a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the sugar and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
After about 15 minutes, the fruit should be starting to break down. Remove from the heat and stir in the kirsch. Leave to cool.
By now, your cakes should be ready. Take them from the oven and leave them to stand in the tins for about 5 minutes. Then transfer them on to a wire rack to cool entirely before decorating.
To make the buttercream, beat the butter at high speed until it is pale and smooth. Sift the icing sugar into the bowl, adding the vanilla extract and a tbsp of the compote syrup. Beat until smooth. If the buttercream is a little thick, 1-2 tbsp of cooled boiled water can be added to thin the mixture (or more syrup, if you prefer your cakes a little boozier).
Finally, completely melt the chocolate over a double boiler, whilst heating the cream in the microwave for 90 seconds. Combine these in a bowl and whisk until fully combined. Leave to cool – but not set completely.
When you are ready to assemble your cake, begin by levelling your cakes with a cake leveller.
Pass your compote through a sieve to collect the syrup and then use this to liberally soak the cakes (I used a new, clean spray bottle to ensure even coverage).
Place the first layer of cake on your serving dish and pipe buttercream blobs (there MUST be a better word, surely?!) all around the outside. spread your ganache inside the ring of buttercream and then top with a third of the compote mix (as per the picture).
Repeat the last step until the top layer of cake is added.
Spread the remaining ganache on top of the cake allowing this to drip down the sides of the cake and pipe ‘kisses’ on top of this with the rest of your buttercream.
As I had a bit of syrup left, I also sprayed the outside of the cake for an extra bit of booziness.
To decorate my cake, I took some more cherries and dipped half of them in melted chocolate. Once set, I sprayed them gold and placed them on the cake. Finally I dusted the whole thing with cocoa powder.
Your cake will keep for up to 3 days in a sealed container at room temperature.