I have been thinking about cakes lately, and my thoughts inevitably drift to Black Forest Gateaux for which I’ve always had a great appetite. This cake is not named after the mountain range in southwestern Germany but that region’s specialty liquor distilled from tart cherries called “Schwarzwalder Kirschwasser”, or “Schwarzwalder Kirsch”. That ingredient has a distinctive cherry pit flavour and alcoholic content which gives the cake its special kick. “Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte’” was first mentioned in print in 1934. At that time it was known best in Berlin but also by good confectioners in German, Austrian and Swiss cities. In 1949 it took 13th place in the list of best-known German cakes. From then onward, “Schwarzalder Kirschtorte” was world-renowned.
The traditional way to prepare this sumptuous cake was to have four sometimes even five levels, the base being biscuit, with cake next, then mousse, more cake and finally the topping. The dessert here is a little play on this concoction, simply made with cake and without the mousse and biscuit base. It’s a truly luscious cake whichever way you make it.
Start with a basic chocolate sponge mix. I usually use a genois – named after its place of origin, Genoa, Italy, and belonging to the family of light and airy sponge cakes. While the technique for making this batter is similar to that of any sponge cake, it does differ in that it contains melted unsalted butter (or clarified butter). This does produce a more tender and flavourful sponge cake but it also requires us to perform a few extra steps in making the batter.
3 tbsps. clarified unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 cans black cherries, drained
3 litres fresh whipping cream
1 packet of cherry jello
Note that the butter will need to be in liquid form and warm in order to keep it from solidifying, which can cause streaks in the batter as well as deflating it. We will as well need to warm the eggs and sugar over simmering water to ensure the eggs reach their full potential volume when beaten. (This will also help compensate for the loss in volume that is inevitable when melted butter is added.) Taking these two steps will ensure a delicate flavoured chocolate genoise.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Butter your cake tin or spray with a vegetable spray. A nine-inch round cake pan is recommended; line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the melted, unsalted butter with the vanilla extract. Keep this mixture warm. If needed re-warm for a few seconds just before using. In a medium bowl sift together the flour and cocoa powder and set aside.
In a large heat-proof bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until lukewarm to the touch. Remove from the heat and transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the mixture has cooled and tripled its original volume and looks like softly whipped cream.
Now sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and fold in using a large rubber spatula. Fold in half the remaining flour, and then fold in the remaining flour. Do not over mix or you will deflate the batter. Fold a cup of the batter into the hot butter mixture using a small spatula.
Refrigerate for two hours.
When completely combined, use a spatula to fold the butter mixture completely into the rest of the egg batter. Pour the batter into greased pan and smooth the surface.
Bake the cake until it shrinks slightly from the edges of the pan and the top springs back up when lightly pressed. Cool on a metal rack. Once cool, refrigerate for two hours.
Now the fun begins. With a carving knife, cut horizontally through the cake twice, to produce three individual pieces of cake.
Open and drain the cherries, placing the cherries’ liquid on your stove to gently simmer. Once the liquid is reduced a little, add one-half of your jello packet. Stir in and leave to cool.
Place the whipping cream in an electric beater and whip until firm. Place one portion of the cake on your serving plate, and drizzle a little kirsch over the cake. With a piping bag, pipe around the outside edge of the cake to form a wall one inch high, and place half your cherries (only) inside the wall across the surface of the cake. Place your second piece of cake over the cherries. Drizzle more kirsch and scoop on some whipped cream, levelling it completely. Finally place the last piece of cake on top. Again drizzle some kirsch over the cake for moisture.
Using a pallet knife, gently cover the outside of the cake with whipped cream and then affix your chocolate vermicelli. (I use a spoon and take my time; it is a little tricky but the result is well worth the effort.) Now pipe a decorative pattern around the top edge of your cake and place the remaining cherries inside.
The final stage: the cooled down cherry liquid should have formed a very soft jello; gently pour this over the top of your cherries to give added flavour and an attractive appearance. (This is an important step as it keeps the cherries from drying up.) Enjoy your cake.
Originally published on Lifestyles 55