There are so many variations on a Black Forest Cake, but they really miss the mark. This nearly authentic black forest cake gives you all the traditional flavors with some of the shortcuts we busy people need!
Being Czech, I am all about all things Bavarian, chocolatey, rich, and decadent. We are neighbors with Bavaria afterall, and the cross over blessedly gave us the Black Forest Cake. But in the States, a Black Forest cake typically just means a lack luster chocolate cake, with overly sweet cherry filling and a buttercream frosting that just puts the sickly sweetness into overdrive. Hard pass.
A few years ago, my step dad wanted to do the nice thing and get my mom one for her birthday, and the Americanized version was what we got. Major bummer for us all. So, short of finding an authentic German bakery in Seattle, I wanted to try and make one that was a close replica, and this one from America’s Test Kitchen does a fairly decent job of bridging the gap between the authentic Bavarian version, and an easy make-at-home cake.
The authentic version is a solid chocolate cake, slightly drier than most American cakes, but ATK used their Devil’s Food Cake recipe as the base, creating a slightly fudgier cake than the “real” version. For the frosting, the cake is made with a stabilized, not-too-sweet, whipped cream. The whipped cream is key, and you will not miss the Americanized buttercream for an instant. I will happily do a step-by-step tutorial for the stabilized whip cream.
And of course, you need the kirsh. You can find Kirsch, or Kirschwasser, at most stores or liquor stores. This would also be excellent with a good brandy.
For the cherries, I followed ATK’s instructions and found Morello cherries at my local Trader Joe’s. I would not recommend using a cherry pie filling for this.
To get the best of all the flavors, I highly suggest you make this cake two days in advance. The flavors will continue to mellow, and meld as it sits and chills. So while this nearly authentic Black Forest cake a bit labor intensive, it is so. damn. worth it.
Want more inspired cake ideas?
Nearly Authentic Black Forest Cake
Devil’s Food Cake –
- 1 /2 cup Cocoa Powder, preferably Dutch Processed
- 1 1/2 cup Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1 1/4 cup Boiling Water
- 4 oz Unsweetened Chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp Espresso Powder, or other instant coffee powder
- 10 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup Brown Sugar, packed
- 3 Eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 cup Sour Cream, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 8 ounces Chocolate Bar, shaved (a veggie peeler works great). Reserve shavings for final decoration
Cherries Soaked in Kircsh –
- 2 cups jarred Sour Cherries, in light Syrup, drained and 1 cup of the syrup set aside. (I bought the Trader Joe’s Morello Cherries)
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1/2 cup Kirsh, or Kircshwasser, or other cherry flavored booze
Stabilized Whipped Cream Frosting –
- 1/4 cup Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
- 3 cups Heavy Whipping Cream, chilled
- 1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Devil’s Food Cake
Place racks in the middle position of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease 3 8-inch cake pans, and dush with extra cocoa powder, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a second bowl, whisk together the water, chopped unsweetened chocolate, cocoa, espresso powder until smooth.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – about three minutes. Add in one egg at a time, and mix for about 30 seconds before adding the next. Beat in the sour cream, and vanilla. With the speed on low, pour in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the wet chocolate mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl, and ensure everything is completely incorporated.
Divide the cake batter between all the pans, and tap the pans to settle the batter and smooth the tops. This also releases any potential air bubbles. Bake for 18-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.
Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Cool at least 2 hours prior to completing cake.
For the Kirsch Soaked Cherries –
Drain the cherries and reserve 1 cup of the syrup. Pick out the 8 prettiest cherries and set them aside to garnish the top of the cake. Cut the remaining cherries in half and place them in a second bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the 1 cup of cherry syrup and the sugar to a simmer. Simmer until the syrup reduces to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the kirsch. Take 1 Tbsp of the mixture and pour this over the 8 pretty cherries you set aside. And an extra 1/4 cup of the syrup should be poured over the halved cherries. Set aside the remaining syrup to brush over the cooled cakes.
For the Stabilized Whipped Cream –
Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a saucepan and whisk in 1/2 cup of the heavy cream. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly until the mixture begins to thicken, about 3-5 minutes. Set it aside to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the remaining 2 1/2 cups of the heavy cream until it is begins to get very frothy. Add in the cooled sugar/cream mixture. And beat the whipped cream until soft peaks form.
To Assemble Cake –
Using a skewer, poke holes into the layers of cake about 1 inch apart. Brush the reserved kirsch/cherry syrup over the cakes. It will take about 1/4 cup of syrup per cake. This seems like a lot, but DO NOT SKIMP on this step!! Use it all!! (This is a lesson learned from me.) It may take time to get it all in there, but do it.
Line a cake stand with four strips of parchment paper. Place the first layer of the cake on the cake stand. Top the layer with 1/2 cup of the stabilized whipped cream. Spread evenly over the layer. Top with half of the halved cherries into the whipped cream. Gently top with another 1/2 cup of the whipped cream.
Top with another layer of cake and repeat the process above.
Top the last layer of cake. Spread the whipped cream over the top layer, and around the sides of the cake. (reserve some of the whipped cream if you would like to add swirls of whipped cream to the very top, like I did.) This does NOT need to be super pretty or smooth. The chocolate shavings will cover the whipped cream.
Lightly press the chocolate shavings into the side of the cake. Using a piping bag with a star tip, fill with whipped cream and make 8 evenly distributed swirls on top of the cake. Gently press the eight reserved cherries on top of the swirls. Sprinkle the top of the whipped cream and cherries with some extra chocolate shavings.
Refrigerate the cake for at least one day before serving. Slice and serve.
Cake from America’s Test Kitchen Black Forest Cake, mildly adapted and my notes added.