Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, also known as German Black Forest Cake.
Towering layers of chocolate cake filled with whipped cream, dark cherries and decorated with chocolate curls. Spiked with cherry liqueur, this is a showstopper of a cake in both taste and presentation.
I have had this Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte ( German Black Forest Cake) on my to bake for my blog list for a long time now. It is one of my favorite cakes, one that is in my Grandma’s recipe box I inherited, and part of one of my absolute favorite movies, “Young Frankenstein” by Mel Brooks.
Classic German Black Forest Cakes are usually 2-3 small layers, typically one layer baked cut into three layers. I made mine 3 tall layers to be larger than life similar to the creature in Young Frankenstein. This cake isn’t quite “Seven and a half feet long. 54 inches wide!” but it’s close!
Gene Wilder, the star of “Young Frankenstein” recently passed away and I had been meaning to make this cake for a while now, and now with his passing as well as Turner Classic Movies honoring him this week I felt it was fitting to share it.
Young Frankenstein is such a well made movie, so funny, so many classic lines and amazing acting. Starting out with Dr. Frankenstein ( Pronounced FRONK-en-Steen not Frank-en-Stein in the movie) in his college medical class with a visit from a clergyman with his great grandfather’s will. He soon sets off for Transylvania to see the castle he has inherited that includes his great grandfather’s laboratory where he used to bring back the dead to life. He meets Igor ( pronounced EYE-gore, not EEE-gore) and Inga, his laboratory assistants. Frau Blücher ( cue the horses freaking out) is the house manager and lures Dr. Frankenstein to find his grandfather’s laboratory and private library.
Following the sounds to get to the private library begins with one of my most favorite scenes in the film, “Put the candle back!!”
They think their experiment hasn’t worked and are sitting down for what looks like a very formal dinner. Dr. Frankenstein in a tux, Inga in an evening gown. They are eating dessert, which is the cake I have made for this post, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (German Black Forest Cake). Dr. Frankenstein says ” I’m not partial to desserts myself, but this is quite good.” as he is eating the cake. It is quite good.
What is Black Forest cake?
German Black Forest cake is a classic German dessert. A chocolate sponge cake, made light and fluffy with whipping eggs and sugar to triple their size before baking, brandied cherries, kirschwasser, a clear cherry brandy, in the whipped cream, with chocolate curls and cherries for garnish.
How do you make Black Forest Cake?
This cake cane be made in a variety of ways, layer cake being the most popular. It is usually two layers, I went with three since I love to make huge cakes.
The cake is very light and has added flavor with the brandied cherry juice brushed onto the layers after baking. The filling between cake layers are the brandied cherries mixed into the boozy, sweetened whipped cream. The cake is lightly frosted with the whipped cream as well.
The chocolate curls are the classic garnish to this cake along with the cherries on top. The cake isn’t overly sweet, the tang from the brandied cherries works so well with the lightly sweetened cream and chocolate cake.
I can see how this cake is so popular and has been for years and years. It is really quite delicious.
The cake can be made non-alcoholic but to keep the authentic Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte name the Kirschwasser ( clear cherry brandy) must be used. You can substitute cherry juice or cherry flavoring but it won’t quite tase the same and the juice will turn the whipped cream pink.
This cake is garnished with black cherries, although often seen garnished with maraschino cherries. I am not fond of the waxy red maraschino cherries so I used these gorgeous dark bordeaux cherries I found at Whole Foods. I love the way they look on the cake and help make the cake look more black and white to match the film.
Enjoy this delicious German Black Forest cake, make yummy sounds while you eat it and watch Young Frankenstein at the same time!
- For the Brandied Cherries:
- 1 1/2 C frozen cherries
- 1/3 c sugar
- 1/3 c Kirsch (Clear Cherry brandy)
- For the Cake:
- 3/4 C plus 2 Tbsp Cake flour
- 3/4 C Cocoa Powder ( not non-fat)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 7 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 1/4 C granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 oz unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
- Filling and frosting:
- 3 Pints Heavy Cream
- 1/2-1 C powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 Tbsp Kirsch (clear Cherry Brandy)
- 1 1/2 C Chocolate curls
- Cherries with stems
Make the Brandied Cherries:
- The brandied cherries need to be made a day ahead of assembling the cake. Combine the frozen cherries, 1/3 c Kirsch and 1/3 sugar in a bowl and let thaw completely. Stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
Make the cake layers:
- Preheat oven to 350 Deg F. Line the bottom or three 8” round cake pans with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl sift together the flour and cocoa powder.
- In another small bowl melt the butter and allow it to cool to room temperature as the eggs and sugar mix.
- In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the eggs and sugar together on high for 5-7 minutes until thick and pale and tripled in volume. Add in the vanilla and salt and whip another minute.
- Fold in the flour mixture in two portions into the egg mixture, being careful not to deflate the egg mixture. Take out a cup of the mixture and combine with the melted butter, then add back into the rest of the batter and fold in a few more times. A few streaks of flour is ok, you really don’t want the batter to deflate too much.
- Divide amongst the prepared pans then bake for 20-24 minutes or until the cakes are puffed and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool completely in pans, then carefully run a knife around the edges and invert to a cooling rack, or wrap in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.
To make the filling/frosting:
- Whip the cream until soft peaks, then add in 2 tablespoons kirsch, vanilla extract and powdered sugar, starting with 1/2 of a cup and whip to stiff peaks. Taste and add a little at time while whipping until desired sweetness is achieved. Add in more Kirsch, up to 2 more tablespoons if a boozier whipped cream is desired and whip again. Keep chilled before using.
To assemble the cake:
- Drain the brandied cherries saving the liquid. If the sugar is still not dissolved, heat for about 30 seconds then stir.
- Place one cake layer on a cake plate, or on a cardboard cake circle on a cake decorating turntable, and brush the top of the cake layer with a little of the reserved brandied cherry liquid. Spread on a heaping cup of the whipped cream then top with half the cherries. Spread another heaping cup of the cream on top of the cherries. Repeat with another later then with the top layer brush with the brandied cherry liquid then spread a cup of the cream on top and another around the sides to crumb coat the cake. Chill the cake about 30 minutes, keeping the cream chilled as well.
- Check for any leaking of the brandied cherry juice around the edges and dab with a paper towel then spread another layer of the whipped cream around the sides and top, leaving about a cup and a half for the decoration on the top of the cake.
- Carefully press the chocolate curls into the side of the cake, scooping up any that fall off and press again. Leaving about 1/2 a cup or so for the top of the cake.
- Put the remaining whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with an open star tip and create a dozen swirls around the top to hold the stemmed cherries. You can double layer these swirls. Fill the middle of the top of the cake with the remaining chocolate curls, place a cherry in each of the whipped cream swirl then keep the cake chilled until ready to serve. The cake cuts and serves a lot easier when well chilled.
Don't let the time or instructions intimidate you, its quite an easy cake, just a lot of prep and and assembly. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. This recipe Makes one 3 layer 8” cake 3 hours start to finish bake to serve time.
Add in 1 day to make the brandied cherries ahead of time. Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma "Cakes, Sky High Cakes cookbook" and European Cuisines Black Forest Cake.
You can make the cake non-alcoholic by leaving out the kirsch, using only vanilla extract in the whipped cream and using thawed cherries, using the cherry juice to brush the cake layer tops with.
Chocolate curls are often sold in baking specialty stores or baking sections of well stocked groceries. You can always make your own with a vegetable peeler and using a chocolate bar or two. Keep the curls frozen until ready to use since they are thin and will melt easily once handled.
This cake is really easy to make and assemble. It seems like a lot of steps but it is actually quite easy. And every bite will make you say yummy sounds!!!