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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.



  • 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))


  • 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))


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.
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.
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.
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.


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.

Celebrating 2017 at Ancestors in Aprons

First Things First

THANK YOU! My mother and father thank you. My grandparents and great grandparents to the 14th X thank you.

I am so grateful to the ever-increasing number of readers who find Ancestors in Aprons.

Some of those readers turn out to be relatives. I won’t list them all here, but hardly a week goes by that I don’t get a contact from someone who is related. I love the sharing.

And I must thank the wonderful folks at the Facebook Group, Killbuck Gang. They answer questions about our old home town, share photographs, and frequently come and read posts here,

Another Facebook Group provides encouragement and sharing with other people doing the same thing–research and writing. That is the great group of people at Genealogy Bloggers.

Thanks to every library or organization that has digitized records, newspapers, and books.

Thanks to my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and various cousins for being pack rats and story tellers.  You’ve given me a great treasure to work with (even though sometimes it may seem like a curse).

Most of all, though, thanks to the faithful readers.  Thanks for commenting, thanks for sharing links to posts, thanks for correcting my errors (whether typo or fact).  This blog is for you.

Taking Stock

What I Said Last Year in January

Last year, I warned that I would be concentrating on research and that would mean fewer posts. Indeed, the number of posts in 2017 came to just slightly more than one a week–60 in total. Compare that to 2016 with 86 posts. Also, food posts continue to beat out ancestor stories, but in 2017, I did fewer food posts, and still drew more readers.

If you doubt the value of older posts, consider that in June 2017, I posted nothing-zip-zilch. And yet June 7th was the best day ever for drawing readers! Because Ancestors now has four and a half years worth of posts, overall content continues to grow, and slowly, slowly, more people discover the stories and recipes.

I also started the “Slice of My Life” series in 2016, which has slipped in importance this year, as I shared so many family letters, heirlooms and new research.

Last year I mentioned playing with the app, We’re Related.  I found I could use it to jump start research on a line, but all together it is not very accurate.  For the time being, my plate is full, so I am not looking at that app these days.

Your Favorites Last Year

Former food posts on food, particularly Perfect Pie Crust, Baked Beans with Molasses, Corn Pone, Corn Meal and Hominy,  American Fruit Desserts, Raisin Pie, and Apples in Nightgowns continue to make the top twenty.  But in 2017, the only food post that shows up was about my Grandma Vera Anderson’s lemon pie.

Other older posts that attracted your attention were the all-time favorite, my sister-in-law’s post on the Dalton Dariette, owned by my husband’s uncle and the story of Hepzibah Death.

The 2017 Top Ten

  1. Scandal Comes to Killbuck Bank (December) I pieced together the story of an ebezzelment from my Grandmother’s December 1943 letter to my mother and newspaper articles from the Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune. I suspect people were attracted to the word “scandal”, but I also shared it with a group on Facebook of people from the small town of Killbuck, Ohio.
  2. This Old House  (October) When I discovered a rare photo of the home of my great-great grandmother, I combined it with other family houses for a photo essay on where ancestors lived. Again, I believe the Facebook group of Killbuck people may have pushed this post to the top.
  3. Dreams Crushed when Mame Kaser Died This sad story revealed a part of my father’s history as a young man. (July)
  4. Who Is This Man?  I discovered a picture of my grandfather as a young man.   (October)
  5. Great Grandma Baked Cakes  A delightful slice-of-life letter from my Grandmother Hattie Morgan to her daughter, Maude gave me new insights into her life. (November)
  6. Which Lemon Pie? In a rare food post, I compared a recipe in my grandmother’s handwriting with another lemon pie and asked people to choose their favorite.(February)
  7. Bless the Census, Curse the Census Taker.  This post aims at fellow researchers as I give an example of unraveling the errors made by a census taker to get the true story.
  8. The Doctor’s Daughter and the Medicine Show  A very precious letter from my grandmother as a young girl to her grandmother, reveals traits that stayed with her all her life.  This may be my favorite heirloom letter. (October)
  9. Martha Bent, American Born  When I wrote about my seventh great-grandmother, Martha Bent, I learned that her family had many fascinating stories, so I spent several weeks researching and writing about her siblings and others. (March)
  10. John Bent, Sr., Father of the American Bents (April)  My 8th treat grandfather, and a founder of Sudbury. Much of the research on John Bent in Sudbury came  from the wonderful book, Puritan Village by Sumner Chilton Powell.

The Positivity

I’m also going to snitch a few of the prompts from Geniaus blog in the “Accentuate the Positive” list.

Elusive Ancestor I Found

Milton Kaser, my father’s brother who died at 16. When I found a letter from Milton, just months before he died, it revealed a lively, ornery teenager.

Other elusive ancestors–all on my father’s side–began to take shape when I spent days at the Family History Center at a nearby LDS church and poured over microfilms of church records from Pennsylvania in the 1700s.

Most Helpful Newspaper Article

I enjoy reading the personals in the Coshocton Tribune, because it tells me about the lives of my Holmes County, Ohio ancestors.  My big find this year turned out to be a date. I had a picture of a family gathering during World War II, and a cousin had identified a date, but the newspaper wrote about the party and solidified the actual date.

I also found in a stash of papers saved by my great-grandmother, a newspaper from the late 1877 that includes an ad for my great-grandfather W. C. Stout’s medical practice. Limited office hours because he spent most of his time making house calls.

Dr. William Stout ad

Holmes County Republican 1877 Doc Stout Ad front page croopped

I Found an Important Record

I am still scratching my head over this one.  While researching the Bents, I dsicovered a foonote in a town history that helped. But the most unexpected summary of a trial that involved family members turned up in a book of passenger lists!  Bless those footnotes.

Newly Found Family Members

If I take this to mean current family members, many, many people have contacted me through emails or messages this year to share information or ask questions about mutual ancestors.

The Stone Cousins

Mary, Frank and Harriet /Hattie Stone, from collection of pearson 1295 on

If I take this to mean ancestors, my most interesting find has to be the discovery of information about the Stone sisters from Guernsey County.  They had signed my Great Aunt’s autograph book, but I knew next to nothing about them.

I Got Surprises

We moved our home in August, and I am still finding heirlooms, letters and pictures that I had forgotten or never seen.  The most exciting discovery has to be a photograph of the Switzerland home of my husband’s great-grandparents. I knew it existed, but I had misplaced it and given up finding it.

Second most exciting –the many family letters that will keep me scanning, transcribing and posting on Ancestors in Aprons for the foreseeable future.  These include letters from World War II soldiers, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-uncle.  Those last two are the ONLY things I have in their hand writing.

I quickly shut one box, because I would have been sifting through for weeks.  So I have many more surprises waiting.

One Terrific Find

Autograph books

Vera’s large and Maude’s smaller autograph books

Of all the heirlooms that I have dealt with during our downsizing, the most precious to me may be the autograph books of my Grandmother and her sister.


I promise to dig up and test out and share more family or vintage recipes next year.

I will continue to try to sort out my father’s ancestors, who continue to be elusive.

I will try to stick more closely to my pedigree list and save the “peripherals” for later. (Lots of luck with that one! I never can resist a good story.)

On my wish list –a trip to Columbus, Ohio to the Ohio History Center, and to Holmes County,Ohio to look for more records there.

But number one BIG DEAL in 2018 involves….nah, I am saving that for my first post in this year’s #52Ancestors series.  Stay tuned.  I will share that project in a couple of days.

Keep those comments coming!


Happy Holidays

Time to take a bit of a break. Actually, because I have been presenting Grandma Vera’s letters from 1943 near the dates that she wrote them, I have kept the doors open here longer than I usually do during the holidays.

After the first of the year, I’ll be back with some statistics about the last year and a look forward at what may happen at Ancestors in Aprons in the new year.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting. Thanks for asking questions and adding information.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful New Year.