Author Archives: Vera Marie Badertscher

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.

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.

The Prince and the Poison Cake

Every week I learn something new about cooking. Sometimes the truth is not pleasant, as in this true fairy tale about a poison cake.

Poison cake

Poison cake in refrigerator

Once upon a time there was a Prince who was about to have a birthday.  His grandmother decided to make him a special cake for his birthday–a Black Forest Cake.  Since his birthday came in June when the beautiful big black Bing cherries were in season, grandmother had cherries in her refrigerator. And being a grandmother, she always had a lot of chocolate around. She was prepared to make a large chocolate cake and fill and frost it with a cherry icing.

So the grandmother looked at recipes and picked one called an Authentic German Black Forest Cake. She decided to top the finished cake with chocolate covered cherries instead of candles.  She measured and mixed and baked three layers of chocolate cake. At this point in the story, if she had been the wicked grandmother, she would have been preparing a poison cake.  But she was not the wicked grandmother.

While the cake was baking, she pitted a bowl of cherries, briefly wondering if she missed a cherry pit and it wound up in the chocolate covered cherries she was putting on top of the cake if it would cause a choking problem.  She decided she would just give the usual warning about being careful of missed pits.

Then grandmother used a filling recipe from another web site, and chopped some cherries. The day before the Prince’s celebration, grandmother put a small batch of the pitted cherries into a deep container, got out her stick blender and whirred them into a cherry puree.  She mixed butter, sugar and pureed and chopped cherries into a luscious pink filling, which she spread on top of two of the layers of cake, after drizzling cherry juice over the cake layers.

The three-layered cake went into the refrigerator so the cherry juice would have time overnight to soak in.  Grandmother, pleased with her work, sat down with the bowl of leftover filling and ate every leftover bite. The small amount of leftover cherry puree went into the refrigerator beside the cake.

The next morning, Grandmother put the bit of leftover cherry puree on her cereal.  But as she ate, her teeth crunch down on something hard. Uh-Oh.  One of the cherry pits had escaped notice and been pulverized by the stick blender and mixed into the beautiful pink cake filling.

Remembering that she had read that apricot pits are toxic, she decided to check on cherry pits.  She did not intend to bake a poison cake. [She recalled that her ancestors in aprons used bitter almond to flavor baked goods until it was discovered to be toxic.) Sure enough, she read this on Bon Appetit’s website:

Don’t freak out if you accidentally swallow a cherry pit—they’re rarely poisonous when eaten whole—but whatever you do, don’t eat a broken pit. Because aside from tasting really bitter and generally being impossible to chew, the stones of certain stone fruits, like cherries, apricots, plums and peaches, contain cyanogenic compounds—science talk for “stuff that your body can turn into cyanide.” So, how many cherry pits is a lethal amount of cherry pits? After some quick Googling, we found that hydrogen cyanide is lethal at about 1.52 milligrams per kilogram, meaning that it takes little more than 0.1 grams (a dime weighs about one gram) of the toxin to dispatch a 150-pound human. A single cherry yields roughly 0.17 grams of lethal cyanide per gram of seed, so depending on the size of the kernel, ingesting just one or two freshly crushed pits can lead to death.

Since this grandmother did not want to wind up as the wicked grandmother in a fairy tale, she threw the beautiful three-layer cake with filling into the garbage can.  She did this even though, she had eaten quite a bit of the filling the night before, and more of the puree in the morning, and still was healthy. But not being the evil grandmother, she did not want to take a chance on feeding poison cake to the Prince and his family. So she made a new cake.

Not poison cake

Black Forest two-layer cake with chocolate covered cherries.

The moral of the story is: Rather than poison the Prince, throw away the cake and start over again.

For the non-poisonous version recipe for Black Forest Cake, follow this link.

Beyond Bratwurst– Blutwurst, German Blood Sausage

Stick with me through this post on Blutwurst, and you will be rewarded by the next recipe to come–a luscious dessert is coming soon.

Now here’s a sausage that will test how adventurous your eating habits are.  Blutwurst, the German means Blood Sausage in English, turns some people off right there. Just the name.  Even if you get your steak rare or barely medium, with a little bloody juice dripping out, there is just something about being so bold as to actually eat something called blood.

Blutwurst Package

Blutwurst Package

Other Names for Blutwurst

The English, in their coy way, disguise their blood sausage under the name Black Pudding. Well, that sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it?  Since the English also tend to call all desserts “pudding”, you might be fooled by Black Pudding.

The French call it boudin (boo-DAN), which sounds pretty classy.

Italians say biroldo.

In Poland it’s kiszka.

Ingredients of Blutwurst

And so on.  Proving that every culture that eats pigs has found a way to maximize the use of ALL of the pig.  So while I found that I do like Blutwurst, I find it necessary not to dwell on the ingredients.  It is not the blood (which can be pork or beef blood) that gets to me–it’s the “pig snouts, pork jowls and pork belly fat that are added to chopped pork, seasonings like clove and ginger, marjoram and garlic.

It seems that most other nationalities add fillers of wheat or rice or other grains, but my German ancestors thought the left over parts of the pig were just fine all by themselves–with a few seasonings, thank you.

The Blutwurst I got from Wisconsin’s German sausage maker Steiglmeir is fully cooked, but it does contain nitrite–a chemical not found in many of their sausages.  That makes it a food you eat once in a while, but not frequently.

People’s Reactions

Blutwurst sliced

Blutwurst sliced

People have a ‘love it’ or ‘hate it’ reaction to blutwurst. There seems to be no neutrality about this stuff.  Some are turned off at the mere thought of blood in the name. Some think they detect a strong, iron aftertaste that they hate.  Some don’t mind the taste but don’t like the texture.  (Blutwurst is soft, rather more like liverwurst than like the solid texture of bratwurst.)

How To Eat It

Like other German sausages, blutwurst can be eaten as a cold cut or fried. I was a little put off by the big globs of fat, so preferred it fried.  I found that the texture improved if I fried it longer than I would other sliced sausage.  When it cooks all the way through, it loses that “gooey” texture that it has otherwise.  However, even in an oiled cast iron skillet, it was prone to stick, so I turned it frequently.  It cooks up black and is not terribly photogenic.

Blutwurst fried

Blutwurst fried, on pumpernickel with mustard

As with the other sausages, the traditional German accompaniments taste great with blutwurst–namely potato salad and sauerkraut.  I didn’t have any sauerkraut on hand, but made a cold potato salad without mayo. In cooler weather, I would definitely make a German (hot) potato salad.  I also think I would love a few slices of apple cooked along with the sausage.

One Other Thing Not to Think About

Let’s face it, sausage does not qualify as health food, no matter how you slice it (or fry it).

But besides not thinking about ingredients, I try not to think about the nutritional value of the German Sausages I am trying out.  This one is loaded with iron, if you have an iron deficiency, however many people have to be careful not to ingest too much iron.  Otherwise, here’s the bad news about a serving of  blutwurst:

Good:

Protein, 15 grams  28%

Mixed:

Iron, 35%

Bad:

Saturated fat: 13 g., 65% of daily requirement

Ployunsaturated Fat 3.5 g.

Monosaturated Fat 16 g.

Cholesterol, 120 mg., 40% of daily requirement

Sodium 680 mg, 28 %

Vitamin D 13%

B-12  16%

Blutwurst dinner

Blutwurst on pumpernickel with potato salad

But once in a while, for a special treat, Blutwurst, sauerkraut and potato salad will fill my plate. Add some pumpernickel bread and a splash of German mustard.

Or maybe I’ll have one of these that I wrote about earlier.

  1. Weisswurst
  2. 2. Gelbwurst
  3. 3. Krakauerwurst