Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

Traditional Black Forest gâteau recipe with a pastry layer and sour cherries!

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Special everyday cakes and treats

When a German friend says let’s make a Black Forest gâteau there’s only one possible answer: ‘Yes, please!’.  So begins a voyage of discovery leading to a cake that’s less sweet, so delicious and perfect for a birthday party or a rainy day when the world’s gone mad.  Following a combination of her grandmother’s and online recipes, my friend and I had a wonderful evening making this classic German layer cake that’s so beloved worldwide.  I discovered bottled sour cherries that go in the bottom layer above the pastry base which provides a delightfully contrasting texture.  And the light fatless cocoa sponge is soaked in kirsch syrup and layered with kirsch-flavoured whipped cream!  Of course there has to be kirschwasser (kirsch cherry liqueur) and quite a lot, but you could replace it with the sour cherry juice.  And if you’re worried about calories the good news is slices of this cake freeze perfectly.  So I suggest you um… make this amazing Black Forest cake!!!  🙂

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

The mysterious pastry layer

The kirsch pastry layer was a total surprise to me but my friend explained it’s normal in the traditional version of this cake, making for a more solid base.  You can leave it out but it adds a firmer sandy texture that contrasts beautifully with such a soft cake. And it’s like eating a cherry pie combined with a sponge cake!  Out of this world yummy!

Nostalgia

I’ll always remember making this cake for the first time with my friend.  The evening flew by as she read out and translated the German recipes for me and we worked together weighing, beating, folding and layering, then finally getting in a bit of a chocolate mess.  We had glasses of cava (Catalan champagne) to help us along and a vacherin ice-cream cake break – my slice was alarmingly alcoholic as I accidently served it in a bowl of kirsch, oops…quite funny at the time.  Sometimes my friend would smilingly exclaim ‘That’s exactly what my granny used to do!’ as she fondly remembered when she was just a girl helping her gran make this cake.

I then made this Black Forest again alone but was still enveloped in a magic feeling of nostalgia and cake love.  So I’m sharing it with you.  The second time I didn’t use the traditional German cream stiffener or vanilla sugar and I’ve just slightly adapted the quantities and method.

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

THE RECIPE

Timings

You can make the elements in this order (the pastry and sponge could be made the day before):  1.  pastry  2.  sponge  3. Kirsch cherry filling  4.  Kirsch soaking syrup.  Then when everything is completely cold:  5. Kirsch whipped cream.  Slice the sponge in layers and assemble.  Place in the fridge to set 15 minutes then make the chocolate shavings and decorate the cake.

Yes, you need an evening but there’s about 35 to 50 minutes total baking and each element only takes between 5 and 20 minutes to make depending on your speed and how much cava you’re drinking.  Also, remember it’s totally worth it – check out the slice in the above photo again!  🙂

Pastry layer

  • 40g/1/3 cup plain/all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons/10g caster/superfine sugar
  • 1/3 tsp/1.5 – 2g baking powder
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 20g/1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 medium-sized egg, beaten (20g)
  • 2 tsp/10g kirsch cherry liqueur (or sour cherry juice)

blackforest gateau pastry layer

Note:  make the shortcrust pastry round very slightly bigger than your sponge cake, because it shrinks a little when baked.  For more details on making the pastry see my making shortcrust pastry recipe in the basics section.

Cocoa sponge

Blackforest gateau cocoa sponge

  • 50g/1/3 cup + 1 and 1/4 tablespoon cake or plain/all-purpose flour (cake flour is best)
  • 25g/2 and a 1/2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 16g/2 and a 1/2 tbsp pure unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2/3 tsp/3.5g baking powder
  • 2 egg yolks (40g) from medium-sized eggs
  • 2 egg whites (80g) from medium-sized eggs
  • 1 tbsp/14ml warm/tepid water
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (or seeds scraped from 1/2 vanilla pod)
  • 47g/1/5 cup caster/superfine sugar
  • 23g/5 tsp caster/superfine sugar
  • pinch of fine sea salt

blackforest-gateau-cocoa-sponge-illustrated-recipe

Let your sponges cool completely on a wire rack before assembling the cake.

Kirsch cherry filling and soaking syrup – buy a big jar or can of sour cherries of about 680g/24oz (350g/12.3oz drained).  Mine were in a light sugar syrup and from Lidl supermarket.

Blackforest gateau cherry filling

Cherry filling

  • 83ml/g sour cherry juice (from your can or jar of cherries)
  • 10g/2 tsp caster/superfine sugar
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 234g/8.25oz(1 and 1/6 cups) drained sour cherries (from a can or jar is best, according to my friend)
  • 1 tsp/3 g cornflour/cornstarch mixed to a smooth paste with 1 teaspoon cherry juice
  • 17g (1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) kirsch cherry liqueur
  • 7g (1/2 tbsp) kirsch cherry liqueur

Soaking syrup

  • 10g/2 tsp caster/superfine sugar
  • 34ml/g cherry juice
  • 50ml/g water
  • 24g (1 and a 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) kirsch cherry liqueur

blackforest-gateau-kirsch-cherries-and-syrup-illustrated-recipe

Kirsch whipped cream and assembly

  • 334ml/g whipping cream (like 35%)
  • 20g/4 tsp caster/superfine sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 24g (1 and a 1/2 tbsp + 1/2 tsp) kirsch cherry liqueur
  • 1 to 2 tbsp cherry juice
  • 100g/3.5oz 70% dark chocolate in bar form
  • 10 to 11 nice sour cherries for the top

blackforest-gateau-assembly

blackforest-gateau-cream-and-assembly-illustrated-recipe

Final decoration

You can make chocolate curls or shavings by pressing a sharp knife down at a right angle (90º) on the underside of your chocolate bar, and scraping towards you (have one hand holding the blade and the other hand holding the handle).  Because the chocolate isn’t tempered you need to immediately and delicately place shavings on the cake before they melt (especially if it’s hot)!

Pipe the cream swirls with a star nozzle.  Place a cherry on top of each swirl.  You can place a little gold leaf on the middle cherry.

Storing and eating

When you’ve finished making it, this cake should go back into the fridge for the flavours to develop.  It’s probably at its most tasty and best the next day but will keep up to 3 or 4 days in the fridge.

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

This cake also freezes really well, as various friends can testify.  Keep the slices in airtight containers or cut into slices and place on baking paper (on a tray) in the freezer.  When frozen hard wrap each slice tightly in plastic film.  They should keep in the freezer from 2 weeks (when frozen cakes are still at their best) up to 1 month or so.

Black Forest cake facts and adaptations

Some say Josef Keller, a pastry chef at Ahrend Café in Bad Godesberg, invented the Black Forest cake in 1915.  Others say this claim is unsubstantiated.

What is agreed is the cake takes its name from kirschwasser, the speciality double-distilled alcohol made from cherries in the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany.  I’ve read the forest is so dense it actually looks black from a distance.  And the cake is supposed to look like a forest after a snowfall.  Anyway, apparently German law mandates kirschwasser must be present in the cake for it to be labelled a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gâteau).  But in Austria they often use rum and in India no alcohol at all.  Of course you can also adapt your cake, as long as you understand your cake might not be legally recognised.  🙂

Sharing and cake tests

Both cakes passed the taste test at my friend’s birthday party and later at an afternoon tea with a German and Brazilian, then again at…  well you get the idea!  Everyone agreed it’s an amazing cake.

So I hope you’ll have a slice of this very light traditional blackforest gâteau.  The sour cherries and pastry layer make it really special.  And the kirschwasser of course.

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

Blackforest gateau with sour cherries and a pastry layer

Thanks for reading all that and dropping by again sweet reader!  Have a lovely decadent but light week ahead with some happy baking and eating! 🙂 Lili x

P.S.  Never fear, simpler and even healthier cakes will be coming soon to the blog… ! 🙂

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Making cakes with my French mother on Sundays was an important part of my childhood. As an adult I then experimented with baking books and internet recipes and did a great patisserie course in Le Cordon Bleu Paris. I'm still trying out new recipes and creating some of my own cakes with influences from all around the world, adding some healthy ones to the repertoire. Yes, I love cakes!!! :)

32 thoughts on “Traditional Black Forest gâteau recipe with a pastry layer and sour cherries!”

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