Last year I was invited to participate in a book project with Where Women Cook, a new magazine about women, the food we make, and where we cook. The book would have a celebration theme, and each of us chose our own thing that we celebrate, large or small or anywhere in between, and share what we make for it. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Our 10th anniversary was approaching and I knew our celebration for the book had to be an Oktoberfest meal, which is one of our traditions for celebrating our years together. I had planned to publish a series of recipes for the food we like to share for our Oktoberfest celebration on my blog. Instead, I shared those recipes (jägerschnitzel, German green beans, whole wheat spätzle, and laugenbrötchen--German pretzel rolls) with Where Women Cook, along with our story.
The book, Where Women Cook: Celebrate!, was released last week, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. It includes a number of women whose blogs you may follow, along with more you will meet for the first time. Each story is unique and the food and photographs are beautiful. Working with editor Jo Packham and photographer Ryne Hazen was a joy and we loved meeting them and sharing food with them, and they will always be welcome in our home.
The one thing I make for our Oktoberfest celebration that isn’t in the book is this Black Forest cake. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little intimidated the first time I made a Black Forest cake, and every year there’s still a little trepidation when I begin the process. The tasks that usually throw in a monkey wrench are whipping the cream (crazy, I know, but I sometimes get distracted while whipping and the cream goes a little past perfect, and if I’m really interrupted I might make butter), combing the sides of the cake (I usually have to do this twice), and slicing the cake (picture cherries squirting everywhere). I’m trying to tell my inner Type A woman to relax, let it be, and just enjoy the cake and what it represents, even if it isn’t always perfect.
I’ll let you know if I ever reach that Zen state.
A traditional Black Forest cake has three layers of chocolate genoise, a European style of cake that is like a dry sponge cake. The cake layers are brushed with a liqueur-infused syrup and a tart cherry filling also helps moisten them. The cake is then decorated with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and candied or maraschino cherries.
Tart (morello) cherries are the traditional cherry for Black Forest cake filling and are sold fresh, frozen, and canned. If you can't find tart cherries or find them too tart, sweet cherries will work fine. I usually make the filling with sweet cherries because they are easy to find.
Set aside plenty of time to prepare this cake. You can make some parts a couple days ahead, such as the cake itself, the cherry filling, and the soaking syrup. Just make sure you have all the parts ready to go before you begin assembling. Assemble the cake at least 6 hours before you plan to serve and then store it in the refrigerator uncovered. Set it out to warm about 30 minutes before serving.
Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte)
- small bowl
- stand mixer with wire whisk attachment, or hand mixer and large bowl
- saucepan with a shape that will hold the mixer bowl 2 inches above the pan bottom
- fine mesh strainer
- medium bowl
- 10" x 2" cake pan, generously buttered, lined with parchment, and floured
- wire cooling rack, coated with cooking spray
- small saucepan
- medium saucepan
- thin serrated knife or cake divider
- cake stand or serving plate
- pastry brush
- large pastry bag or plastic freezer bag with one corner cut off
- large star tip and plastic coupler
- offset spatula
- cake comb
Cake (Chocolate Genoise)
- ¾ cup sifted cake flour
- ⅓ cup sifted Dutch-process cocoa
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 5 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- ⅔ cup water
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons kirschwasser (or 1 teaspoon cherry extract)
- 2 pounds pitted cherries (fresh, frozen, or canned; sweet or sour depending on your taste)
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup cold water (plus 4 tablespoons, divided)
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream (cold)
- ⅓ cup confectioner's sugar (sifted)
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 red candied cherries ( or drained maraschino cherries)
- 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate (shaved)
- Place rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350° F/175° C.
- In the small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking soda 3 times to completely remove any lumps.
- Fill the saucepan with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep at a simmer.
- In the mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and yolks with the sugar, just enough to blend. Place the bowl over the simmering water and stir the egg mixture slowly until the color turns deep gold and the sugar is completely melted and the temperature of the mixture should be between 110° and 120° F, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the mixing bowl and wipe the bottom dry. Using the wire whisk attachment, whip the egg mixture on medium high until it triples in volume and is light colored, about 4 to 5 minutes. If you run your finger through the mixture, it should leave a indentation that stays without collapsing.
- Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla. Whip to stabilize the eggs at medium speed for about 2 to 3 minutes. Take care not to mix too long or fast or it will deflate.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer. Pour the flour and cocoa mixture into the mesh strainer and sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons over the egg mixture. Use the rubber spatula to fold it in, reaching all the way to the bottom of the bowl, about 10 to 12 times. Continue adding the flour mixture a little at a time until all the flour is folded in.
- In the medium bowl, fold about ½ cup of the batter with the melted butter until the butter is completely suspended in the mixture and doesn't separate. Quickly fold that mixture back into the rest of the batter and pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Tap the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles and put it in the oven. Speed is important because the heat of the butter will activate the baking soda and you want to get it in the oven fast.
- Bake in the preheated oven until the cake is springy and completely pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to stand in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan, then release the cake onto a wire rack coated with nonstick spray. Remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely. Wrap the cooled cake in plastic wrap and store in a plastic zipper bag. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- While the cake bakes, combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When mixture is boiling and sugar has totally dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the kirschwasser. Allow to cool about 5 minutes. You can make this up to 3 days ahead and store it in the refrigerator. If chilled, warm it before using again.
- In the medium saucepan, cook the cherries (drained if using canned) over medium heat with the sugar and ½ cup water until the sugar completely dissolves. Add the lemon juice. Stir together the cornstarch and 4 tablespoons cold water until it makes a slurry, then slowly pour it into the cherries and stir. Continue cooking over medium heat until the mixture thickens and starts to glisten. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely. You can make this up to 3 days ahead and store in the refrigerator.
- Make sure the bowl and the wire whisk attachment are both well chilled. Whip the cream until it starts to thicken, then add the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until the mixture forms soft peaks, then whip for about 1 more minute. The cream should stand with tall peaks. Don't whip for too long or the cream will curdle. Use immediately.
- Use the serrated knife or cake divider to cut the cake into 3 equal layers. Place the bottom layer cut side up on the serving plate and brush with the warm sugar syrup.
- Add ½ cup of the whipped cream to the pastry bag and pipe around the edge of the cake.
- Spoon half of the cherry filling onto the cake, spreading it all the way to the edge. Smooth the cherries with the spatula.
- Add the middle layer of cake and repeat with the syrup, whipped cream, and remaining cherries.
- Lay the top layer of cake cut side up on a board and brush the cut side with the syrup. Gently, carefully, lift the moistened cake and place it cut side down on the cake. Frost the top and sides with a thin crumb layer of the whipped cream and put in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes to help the cream set. Chill the remaining whipped cream while you wait. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cover with a thick coat of whipped cream, reserving 1 cup for decorating.
- Run the cake comb carefully around the sides, taking care to not go too deep into the whipped cream. Pipe stars or rosettes around the top edge of the cake and then around the bottom edge. Place the cherries around the top edge of the cake, evenly spaced. Sprinkled the shaved chocolate on top.
- Chill the cake uncovered for at least 3 to 4 hours, then remove from from the refrigerator 30 minutes (in warm weather) or 60 minutes (cold weather) before serving.
- The cherry layers may be a little slippery when cutting and some cherries may fall out when you transfer the slices to plates, and that's okay. Use a thin serrated knife and wipe it clean between cuts. To remove the pieces neatly, cut two slices then remove the first.
- Make all of the elements--cake, syrup, filling, and whipped cream--the day before you plan to serve.
- Assemble the cake at least 6 hours before you plan to serve and store it in the refrigerator uncovered. Set it out to warm about 30 minutes before serving.