Now, I think it’s time for dessert.
The Gourmet Belle’s recent London-Olympics-inspired recipe for traditional Roast Beef with Yorkies demands to be followed by a good pud.
Because the Brits love a good pud (don’t we all?).
And ‘back in the day’ (in this case the 1970’s), there was none more impressive or indulgent than the Black Forest Gateau (or, more accurately, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte).
Fast forward 40 years, and this Anglo favourite is a little kitsch. However, kitsch inevitably translates into cool…especially when culinary superstar, Heston Blumenthal, proclaims a love for it.
Heston (obviously) has his own fantastical version of this decadent multi-layered cake.
And I love it.
However, like most mere mortals, I do not have the precision, tenacity or inclination required to perfectly execute his exquisite rendition (and I cannot even contemplate using the vacuum cleaner as a cooking utensil, as Heston suggests in his recipe).
Therefore, my take on black forest cake is definitely more modest; and it certainly looks a little more ‘rustic’ than Heston’s (ok…it looks a LOT more rustic). But, it is still ‘Heston-inspired’.
Most importantly, Heston’s interest in this flamboyant German dessert serves to remind us that it’s a classic because it’s actually pretty bloody delicious (no matter how it looks)!
There are a lot of components to this cake (yes, it’s a long recipe) and you will need to set aside a good amount of time to create it. But, please don’t let that discourage you!
The recipe for each layer is straight-forward and not difficult to execute. Believe me, it is worth putting aside a few hours for it. The result is not only delicious, but it also looks pretty impressive!
However, if the recipe really is too lengthy for you; skip to the bottom of this post to The Change Up. Here you will find a simplified version of this wickedly delicious cake.
My recipe is also completely gluten-free (and has dairy-free options)! If you are making a dairy-free version of the cake, be sure to check that the dark chocolate you use does not contain milk (it shouldn’t if it is couverture or of good quality).
INGREDIENTS (full method follows further below)
Honey Cake Base
Heston calls it the ‘Madeleine biscuit’ base…which, does sound more posh. But, I think a ‘honey cake’ sounds more approachable. It is actually a cross between a biscuit and a cake (a ‘cakey biscuit’, if you will). I love this layer. I make slabs of it just to eat on its own (or to have with a nice cuppa).
- 40g unsalted butter (or dairy-free margarine)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/3 cup sorghum flour* (or plain flour if gluten is not a concern)
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch (if using plain flour, above, replace the tapioca with another tablespoon of plain flour)
- 3 tablespoons gluten-free icing sugar, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
- Pinch of salt
*Sorghum is a gluten-free flour made from an African grain. It is a fantastic flour to use in baking due to its mild flavour and medium texture. It is available in health food stores and Indian grocery stores (where it may be labelled, ‘Jowar Atta’).
Other gluten-free flours such as amaranth, brown rice flour or a commercial gluten-free flour mix can be used if you cannot find sorghum.
Flourless Chocolate Sponge
Another straight-forward layer to create. This recipe produces a wonderfully light and fluffy cake, which nicely soaks up all of the black foresty flavours that will be sandwiched between it.
- 65g top-quality, dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
- 7 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup caster sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons good-quality cocoa powder, sifted
- 5 egg whites
My chocolate mousse recipe strikes again! I love chocolate mousse because it is so versatile and can be incorporated into many desserts, cakes and other sweet treats (and it’s gluten-free!).
- 200g top quality, dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 egg whites
- 2 teaspoons caster sugar
- 100g butter (or dairy-free margarine), softened
According to Heston (and most black forest cake ‘purists’) it’s all about the Kirsch (cherry flavoured brandy). However, Kirsch is not generally something you find knocking about in Aussie homes, so I have substituted it for (regular) brandy in this recipe (and hope the ‘Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte gods’ don’t strike me down).
- 2 x 400g tin cherries, drained (reserve juice)
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons brandy (though Kirsch is best if you have it)
Cherry Sugar Syrup
This will be used to ‘brush’ over the cake layers and infuse the dessert with a yummy, boozy cherry flavour.
- 1/3 cup caster sugar
- Reserved cherry juice (refer method below)
- Reserved compote juice (refer method below)
This ganache is another staple in my recipe arsenal. So simple and so versatile. If you have any leftover (ha!), I’m sure you can find a good use for it (a dip for marshmallows or strawberries sounds like a good one).
- 100g chopped top quality, dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa)
- 50g unsalted butter (or dairy-free margarine)
- 25ml water
You will also need:
- 300g freshly whipped cream (or dairy-free soy or rice whipped cream)
- 30g gluten-free milk chocolate (or dairy-free dark chocolate)
- 9 whole fresh cherries that have been soaked in brandy
For the Honey Cake base
- Heat the oven to 200°C. Line a 20cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper.
- Melt the butter (or margarine) over a low heat, then leave to cool a little.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg and honey together until white and thick, about 5 minutes. A food mixer with a paddle attachment is ideal for this job.
- Gradually add all of the dry ingredients to the egg and honey. Add the cooled butter and mix until just combined. Do not over beat.
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 10 minutes, or until a pale golden brown.
- Remove the cakey biscuit from the oven and reduce the temperature to 100°C.
- Lift the cakey biscuit out of the tin and place on a baking tray.
- Return to the oven and bake at the low temperature for 20 minutes, until deep golden brown and crisp. Leave to cool.
- The base can be stored overnight in an airtight container, if necessary.
For the Chocolate Sponge
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line three 20cm round cake tins with greaseproof paper. If you don’t have an inordinate amount of round cake tins, you can also use (32 x 22cm) slab or brownie pans.
- Break the chocolate into chunks and place in a glass bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and let the chocolate melt (or heat the chocolate at medium power in a microwave for 1–2 minutes, checking and stirring with a metal spoon). Leave to cool.
- Beat the egg yolks with a third of the caster sugar until white and thick, about 5 minutes. A food mixer with a whisk attachment is ideal for this task.
- Stir the cocoa powder and the melted, cooled chocolate into the egg yolks.
- Whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar in a separate, clean bowl until soft peaks form.
- Gradually fold the egg whites into the chocolatey, egg yolk mixture, then pour this mixture evenly into the three cake tins.
- Bake for 20–25 minutes. The surface of the cakes will look a little dry when removed from the oven, and may sink slightly. Leave it to cool before removing from tins.
- If you used slab or brownie pans, you will need to cut circles (20cm in diameter) out of the ‘slabs’. You can use the base of the round cake tin as a guide by gently placing it on top of the cake and cutting around it with a sharp, pointed knife.
For the Chocolate Mousse
- Break the chocolate into chunks and place in a heatproof, glass bowl.
- Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water), stirring the chocolate occasionally with a metal spoon until it has melted. Alternatively, you can heat the chocolate at medium power in a microwave for 1–2 minutes, checking and stirring with a metal spoon.
- Remove the chocolate from the heat and add the egg yolks one at a time quickly, yet being sure to mix each through the chocolate thoroughly before adding the next (the chocolate may ‘seize’ a little and become stiff, but keep pursuing – it will loosen up once all of the eggs are mixed through).
- Add the softened butter (or margarine) and mix until well incorporated and the chocolate becomes shiny (don’t over mix or the chocolate may ‘split’, and become oily). Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Whisk the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form (the egg whites appear shiny and satiny).
- Fold the egg whites quickly, but thoroughly, into the cooled chocolate mixture.
- Place the bowl in the fridge or freezer to thicken to ‘dolloping’ consistency (like whipped cream).
For the Cherry Compote
- Add the drained cherries and sugar to a pan and cook over a medium-high heat until the cherries start to release their juices.
- Add the brandy and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened.
- Strain the mixture and reserve the boozy compote juice.
For the Cherry Sugar Syrup
- Place the juice, reserved from the drained cherries, into a small saucepan with the sugar and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the juice reserved from the cherry compote (refer above recipe).
- Allow to cool.
For the Chocolate Ganache
- Break the chocolate into chunks and place in a glass bowl along with the butter and water. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until the chocolate melts.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool until thick, but still pouring consistency.
To Build Your Black Forest Cake…how exciting!
- Start with the honey cake base.
- Brush the cherry sugar syrup over the base so that it soaks in.
- Dollop half of the chocolate mousse in a thick ring around the cake base (about 2cm in from the edge). You can use a piping bag, with a large nozzle, if you would prefer to keep it ‘neat’.
- Add half of the cherry compote within the confines of your mousse ring (the mousse will act as a wall to hold in your cherries).
- Brush one side of one of the round chocolate sponges with the cherry syrup and place the sponge, syrup side down, on top of the mousse and cherry compote layer.
- Brush the top of the chocolate sponge with more syrup.
- Top with a layer of fresh whipped cream, reserving about one third.
- Brush one side of another chocolate sponge with the cherry syrup and place, syrup side down, on top of the cream.
- Brush the top of the chocolate sponge with more syrup.
- Dollop the remaining chocolate mousse on top (in a ring) and add the remaining cherry compote inside the ring.
- Brush one side of the last chocolate sponge round with syrup and place, syrup side down, on top of the mousse and cherry compote.
- Pour the chocolate ganache on top of the chocolate sponge.
- Grate the extra milk chocolate over the top of the cake.
- Add the reserved whipped cream in 8 ‘blobs’ around the outside of the top of the cake.
- Place a fresh (brandy soaked) cherry in the centre of each cream blob and place one in the centre of the cake.
- Leave to set and settle for 3-6 hours in a cool place or in the fridge (in hot and humid environments it is usually best to place the cake in the fridge as the ganache and mousse may have trouble setting and become horribly melty and messy).
- Cut a ginormous slice for yourself and devour. You deserve it after all that hard work!
Wine Match: A glass of kirsch would obviously be a good match. Or try a Vintage Port or glass of luscious Pedro Ximenez (sweet sherry) to complement the rich chocolate and dark berry flavours.
Decoration and Appearance: Most black forest cakes are usually finished off with a complete covering of cream (top and sides), which gives the cake a ‘cleaner’ appearance. However, I find this, along with the cream between the cake layers, is a little too creamy for my liking. I also prefer the ‘rustic’ look of the exposed layers (read: I’m too lazy to add this extra step so close to the end).
I guess I prefer to replace the cream with more chocolate! In this case, chocolate mousse. You can always replace the chocolate mousse with more whipped cream if this is more to your liking.
Allergens: Contains eggs and dairy (if not using the dairy-free options provided).
The ‘Change Up’ – A Simplified Version
This recipe can be simplified and pared back if you find it too lengthy and involved.
This modified version will only require you to make the chocolate sponge cake, cherry compote and chocolate ganache components (easy!).
- Omit the honey cake base layer and start with one of the chocolate sponge rounds.
- Omit the cherry syrup and the chocolate mousse and simply top the chocolate sponge base with a ring of whipped cream (about a third of the cream). Fill the ring with half of the cherry compote.
- Place another chocolate sponge round on top and repeat with another layer of whipped cream and cherry compote on top of that.
- Place the last chocolate sponge round on top and pour over the chocolate ganache.
- Finish off with the grated milk chocolate, whipped cream ‘blobs’ and brandy soaked cherries.
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