Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

Here's my first attempt at Black Forest cake! Why for? Well, I used to dislike Black Forest cake because most versions I'd tried before were either on the dry side, too sweet (I'm not a fan of maraschinos), and/or not boozey enough. After researching the origins of this German dessert, I learned that the traditional cherries used are not the cloyingly sweet maraschinos but rather sour cherries. Also, the frosting/filling is all whipped cream, and the chocolate cake layers are judiciously sprinkled with a deliciously boozey cherry juice spiked with kirschwasser (a clear spirit made from sour cherries). Then all is topped with chocolate shavings. This recipe is a work in progress, but I'm pleased with the end result. For the cherry component, I parboiled some fresh bing cherries in sugar and water, then placed them in mason jars with some kirsch. I brushed the cake layers with a good amount of the cherry juice-kirsch liquid. Next time around, I'm going to frost the entire cake (including sides) with whipped cream and garnish with fresh cherries and extra shaved chocolate.

1 lb. fresh pitted Bing or other dark cherries* (reserve 12 fresh cherries to garnish on top)
1/3 cup sugar
1 3/4 cups water
1/2 cup kirsch

*An easy way to pit cherries without a cherry pitter is to put a de-stemmed cherry on top of an empty wine bottle and punch through the middle with the thick end of a chopstick (the pit will fall into the wine bottle).


2 cups unbleached cake flour
1 cup double Dutch dark or regular process cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. King Arthur Flour Cake Enhancer (optional)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla
4 large eggs

1. FOR THE CHERRIES: Bring 1 3/4 cups water and 1/3 cup of sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Let cool then stir in the fresh pitted cherries and 1/2 cup of kirsch. Pour into mason jars, seal, and let marinate overnight at room temperature.

2. FOR THE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350F. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, cake enhancer (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Using a hand mixer, gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry, then mix in one egg at a time. Do not over mix. Pour the mixture into two greased 9" cake pans layered on the bottom with parchment and bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick put into the center comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Turn the cakes out of the pans and place onto racks to cool completely.

3. FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM: Combine 1 cup of powdered sugar and 8 tbsp. of King Arthur Flour Whipped Cream Stabilizer (optional) in a small bowl; set aside. Combine 4 cups of heavy whipping cream and 2 tsp. of vanilla extract in a medium bowl and beat until the mixture starts to thicken. Gradually add the powdered sugar mixture and continue beating at medium high speed until the whipped cream reaches firm peaks (do not over whip). 

4. ASSEMBLY: Slice each cake layer through the middle in half. If you like a towering cake, you can use all four layers. Otherwise, use just three and reserve/freeze the 4th layer for another use. Remove the parchment paper from the bottoms of the cake layers. Place one layer onto a cardboard cake round. Brush the top generously with the cherry juice-kirsch mixture. Top with about 1/2 cup of the whipped cream and spread over evenly with an angled/offset spatula. Place some of the kirsch-soaked cherries (halved) on top of the whipped cream. Top with remaining cake layers, brushing each with the cherry-kirsh mixture, whipped cream and halved cherries. Spread the remaining whipped cream over the sides of the cake. Pipe rosettes of whipped cream over the perimeter of the top layer of cake. Top each rosette of whipped cream with a fresh cherry. Sprinkle grated chocolate over the top and sides of the cake.

Fresh Bing cherries.

To pit, place destemmed cherry on top of an empty wine bottle. Insert the wide end of a chopstick through the middle of the cherry until the pit is pushed through into the wine bottle.  

Stir the pitted cherries soaked in cooled simple syrup (water and sugar), and kirsch.

Pour the cherries and liquor into mason jars, seal, and refrigerate overnight before using.

King Arthur Flour's Cake Enhancer (optional), cake flour oil, buttermilk, cherries, salt, cocoa powder,  vanilla extract, baking powder, eggs, and baking soda.

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.

Dry and wet ingredients.

Gradually mix wet ingredients into the dry, then beat in one egg at a time. Do not over mix.

Divide the batter between two greased, parchment-lined  9" cake pans and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake pans from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes; turn the cakes out of the pan and let them cool completely on a rack.

Remove the cherries to a strainer to let drain (reserve the liquid).

Combine the powdered sugar and whipped cream stabilizer in a small bowl. 

Whip the cream and vanilla until slightly thickened.

Stir in the powdered sugar/whipped cream stabilizer mixture and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Cut each cake layer in half using a serrated bread knife.

Brush the top of each layer with the cherry-kirsch marinating liquid.

Top with a layer of whipped cream.

Place kirsch-soaked cherry layers on top of the whipped cream.

Continue layering, then top the cake with decorative rosettes of whipped cream, topped with whole cherries and sprinkled with shaved chocolate.

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