Black Forest Cake – Almost Authentic

Thank you for sticking with me through my exploration of German Sausages–even last week’s Blood Sausage (Blutwurst). There will be more sausages in the future, but I promised you a yummy dessert, and here it is–my own over-the-top version of German Black Forest Cake.

Frosted and choc covered cherries

I drew on two sources for my almost-authentic version of Black Forest Cake, and I encourage you to check them both out.  Genius Kitchen posts a recipe for a cake dripping with the German liqueur, Kirsch, and topped by a fluffy whipped cream frosting. The Genius Kitchen author introduces the recipe with a bit of a rant about the popular substitute for authentic Black Forest Cake–the super easy, but cloyingly sweet, cake mix with cherry pie filling recipe. I don’t think I’d try that ever–but certainly not when luscious black cherries are in season, and I have some melting chocolate at hand.

Cherries naked and covered

Because the original version introduced by Genius Kitchen had a whipped cream frosting (in addition to a buttercream filling) and I wanted a cake that would last longer than the quickly-deflating whipped cream, I borrowed the filling and frosting recipe from another site, The First Year Blog. 

Black Forest Cake Icing

Black Forest Cake Icing

Check out that site for an absolutely gorgeous cake that she calls Fresh Cherry Cake with Chocolate Ganache.  While the recipe definitely owes its origins to Black Forest Cake, it ups the ante by dribbling the Ganache over the top of the cherry-flecked frosting. This recipe also leaves out the kirsch.

  I found a way to stabilize whipped cream frosting, but I haven’t tried it so not sure how much shelf life it adds. This is the suggestion:  Let 1 tsp plain unflavored gelatin sit in 4 tsps water until thick, then warm over low heat.  Whip 1 C heavy cream to 1/4 C confectioner sugar to stiff peaks, then stir in the gelatin. If you use this, or try it, let me know how it works.

I was serving the cake to my grandson for his 11th birthday,  so I subbed cherry juice for the liqueur, my second step away from authenticity.  And although I loved the look of the ganache on the cake, I had already decided I was going to do my own over-the-top finish by decorating with chocolate covered cherries.  As you can see here the eleven chocolate drenched cherries substitute for candles on the grandson’s cake.

Cherries instead of candles

Black Forest two-layer cake with chocolate covered cherries.

Confession time–The first attempt at this cake turned out to be a poison cake (explained in the post following this one).

Since I didn’t discover the disaster until the day of the celebration, I had to shorten the time available to make the cake. Plus, the original recipe (which is in the recipe below) is an extremely delicate cake, so it takes extra care, which I wasn’t in the mood for any more.  See the holes in the top layer in this picture? That is what happened when I moved the cake from the cooling rack.

German Black Forest cake.

German Black Forest cake. 2 of 3 cake layers, showing pieces broken in moving,

So I used a dark chocolate cake mix instead of remaking the original Black Forest cake recipe. But don’t worry–I did not succumb to the pie filling shortcut. And everyone who tasted the cake loved it.

I think everything is explained in the recipe, but if you have any questions or suggestions, please do leave them in the comment section.

German Black Forest Cake

Serves 12
Prep time 13 hours
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 13 hours, 20 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly
Region German
A delicate chocolate cake infused with cherry flavor and frosted with a pretty pink cherry frosting. Topped with chocolate covered cherries.

Ingredients

Filling/Icing

  • 1 cup cherries (pitted (divided))
  • 1 cup butter ((two sticks) room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 cups powdered sugar

Chocolate Covered Cherries

  • 20-24 cherries (Pitted from the side, stem on)
  • 10oz Melting chocolate wafers ((see note))

cake

  • 1 2/3 cup flour (all-purpose)
  • 2/3 cups cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening (vegetable shortening or butter, room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk ((see note))
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cherry juice ((see note))

Directions

Cake
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom of three 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper.
2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa,baking soda and salt.
3. In large bowl, cream shortening and sugar.
4. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
5. Add dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk and mix until no dry spots appear, but do not over beat.
6. Pour batter into cake pans evenly.
7. Bake 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.
8. Let cakes cool in pan. When cool, remove from pan and prick all over with toothpick. Drizzle about 1/4 cup cherry juice over each cake.
Filling/Frosting
9. While Cake is baking, chop 1/2 cup cherries and set aside.
10. Puree enough cherries to make about 1/2 cup puree, using blender, food processor or stick blender. Set aside
11. Beat butter and vegetable shortening with electric mixer untili fluffy--2 minutes.
12. Add vanilla extract and cherry puree, beat with electric mixer.
13. Add powdered sugar 1-2 cups at a time until frosting is the consistency you want. Stir in the chopped cherries.
Filling
14. Put one layer of cake on cake plate and spread frosting on that layer--spread evenly. (Optional) Add a layer of pitted, halved cherries on top of the frosting, and top that with more frosting. ) If using 3-layer cake, put 2nd layer on top and do the same. Top with 3rd layer but do not frost.
Resting
15. Put cake in refrigerator overnight so the cherry juice will penetrate the cake layers. Seal remaining frosting well and put it in the refrigerator as well.
Chocolate Covered cherries
16. The next day, make the chocolate covered cherries for decoration. Nest a smaller saucepan in a larger pan, putting water in the lower pan. Bring the water to a simmer, stir the chocolate until it is smooth. (This is very fast if you use the melting wafers.)
Chocolate Covered Cherries
17. Holding a cherry by the stem, swish it through the chocolate to cover, and as much as possible fill the hole left by pitting. Set the chocolate-covered cherries on a piece of wax paper to harden.
Final Frosting
18. Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, mixing to soften. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and cover sides and then top with frosting.
19. Arrange chocolate-covered cherries on top and around bottom of cake.

Note

This almost-authentic German recipe substitutes cherry juice for alcoholic kirsch since I'm baking it for children. I also substituted butter cream filling and frosting for the more traditional butter cream filling and whipped cream frosting because a whipped cream frosting will deflate after a short period of time, and I wanted the cake to last longer.

The cake is very delicate and difficult to remove from pan and move from cooling rack to plate.  If you do not want to tackle the authentic cake, use a Duncan Hines dark chocolate cake mix instead.  You may decide to make two layers, as I did rather than three.

Use either dark or milk chocolate.  We like dark chocolate, so I used Ghiradelli's dark chocolate melting wafers and was pleased with the results.  If you have not used melting wafers before, I recommend you try them. Melt quickly and smoothly and have a nicer look when they cool than chocolate chips or even baking chocolate.

If you have trouble finding cherry juice, substitute apple juice, or if the cake is served to adults, use Kirsch for a really powerful cake.

If fresh cherries are not in season, used drained, canned cherries (not cherry pie filling!).

To ensure the cake layers are even, I weigh the pan with batter.  Usually when I eyeball the amount I'm right on target, but being off by a couple ounces can make an uneven result. Also be sure to smooth the batter out with a spatula.  It won't even itself out as it bakes.

Don't like buttermilk?  Substitute sour cream or plain yogurt.  (But I think buttermilk gives the best results.)

The authentic version of the cake uses plain naked cherries--but I love the over-the-top-ness of using chocolate covered cherries to decorate the cake.

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Vera Marie Badertscher

About Vera Marie Badertscher

I am a grandma and was named for my grandma. I've been an actress, a political strategist and a writer.I grew up in various places, went to high school in Killbuck, Ohio and graduated from Ohio State University. My husband and I moved to Arizona after graduation and have three adult children. I love to travel and read--and have another website for that called A Traveler's Library. I ponder family as I cook.

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