Monday, January 8, 2018

Hubert Keller's Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte)

Here's my second attempt at Black Forest cake and this one's a keeper. 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. The first time I made Black Forest cake I used cake flour, buttermilk, eggs, vegetable oil and dark cocoa powder to make the cake batter, then parboiled some fresh bing cherries in sugar and water and placed them in mason jars with some kirsch. I brushed the cake layers with a good amount of the cherry juice-kirsch liquid, scattered the kirsch-soaked cherries between each cake layer, and frosted the whole thing with sweetened whipped cream. Second time around, I used Hubert Keller's recipes for the cake and a jar of French Morello (Griottine) cherries in liqueur, available through Amazon The cherries are small, not too sweet, pitted, and infused with just the right amount of alcohol. Sure, they're not exactly cheap (about $18.00 for 11 oz.) but there's no need to mess around with making your own kirsch-soaked cherries and you can use the liqueur straight from the jar to brush the cake layers.


Hubert Keller's Black Forest Cake:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-process, if you can find it)
Pinch of salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup ultra fine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:

4 cups heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup or a 12-ounce jar sour cherries such as morello or amarena in liqueur (my fav is Griottines)

For the Cake:
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350° with the rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan. The original recipe called for a 10" pan, but it's hard to slice the cake into 3 layers after after it's baked - a 9" pan produces a higher cake. 
  2. 2. Sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together onto a sheet of parchment paper and set aside. 
  3. 3. Using a whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla at high speed in a stand mixer until the mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick, about 8 minutes. When the whisk is lifted, the batter will form a thick ribbon as it falls back into the bowl.
  4. 4. Lower the speed to stir and carefully add the dry ingredients on the parchment into the egg mixture. As soon as all the flour has been added to the eggs, stop the machine. 
  5. 5. Pour in the melted butter, leaving out as much of the white, milky solids as possible (aka clarified butter). With a large rubber spatula, finish folding the flour mixture and butter into the batter using as few strokes as possible until evenly mixed.
  6. 6. Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared pan, place the pan on a baking sheet, and bake until the cake feels just firm to the touch, about 35-40 minutes. 
  7. 7. Transfer the cake to a rack and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Then turn the cake upside down onto a rack to cool. This will flatten the slightly domed top.
For the Whipped Cream:
1. Add all the whipped cream ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat the cream on medium high until firm peaks form (may take 5-6 minutes). Do not over beat or the  cream will become like butter. Using a rubber spatula, mark the whipped cream into four sections; set aside.

2. In the meantime, place a colander over a bowl and pour in the jarred cherries. Let sit 10 minutes or until all of the liquid has drained into the bowl. Reserve both and set aside



1. Place the cooled cake onto a work surface, like a kitchen countertop or large chopping block. 

2. Using a long serrated knife, trim off any hard crusts and then slice the cake horizontally into 3 even layers. 

3. Place the top layer of the cake, top side down, onto a serving plate or cake turntable (I prefer to use use a cake turntable with a cardboard cake round on top for easier handling and decorating). Brush liberally with the drained syrup from the cherries. 

4. Place 1/4 of the whipped cream over the cake layer spreading evenly, preferably with an offset spatula. Scatter about 30 of the drained cherries over the whipped cream. Repeat with the second layer.

5. For the top (3rd) layer, brush with the liqueur and spread 1/4 of the whipped cream over evenly. Place the remaining 1/4 of the whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe large rosettes of whipped cream around the outer edge of the cake, then pipe the rest onto the sides of the cake to cover.

6. Top each whipped cream rosette with a cherry, then sprinkle shaved chocolate over the center. Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours (preferably overnight) to allow the flavors to meld before serving.

Eggs, unsweetened cocoa powder, Griottine cherries in liqueur, ultra fine sugar, 
vanilla extract, unsalted butter.

Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on high for about 8 minutes or until the mixture has tripled in volume and forms thick ribbons when the whisk is lifted.

Sift the cocoa powder, flour and pinch of salt onto a sheet of parchment paper.

After the egg mixture has tripled in volume, reduce speed to stir and carefully add the cocoa-flour mixture on the parchment (fold the parchment in half and tap the mixture in). As soon as all the dry ingredients have been added, turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the melted butter, leaving out as much of the milk solids as possible.

Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the flour-cocoa-butter mixture into batter, using as few strokes as possible, until just combined.

Pour the batter into a buttered and flour 9" springform pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes at 350F or until the cake is just firm when touched in the center (or a toothpick comes out clean).

After the cake has cooled to room temperature, slice into 3 layers using a long serrated knife (I use my bread knife).

These are jarred Griottine cherries in liqueur from France, available through Amazon. They are about half the size of Maraschino cherries, and not cloyingly sweet.

Drain the cherries in a colander, reserving the liqueur.

An easy way to assemble and decorate the cake is to use a turn style. I place a 10" cardboard round on top to make removal of the final assembled cake, well, a piece of cake!

Brush each cake layer generously with the reserved cherry liqueur.

After spreading the whipped cream on top of the cake layer, top evenly with about 30 cherries.

Repeat with the second layer.

Pipe large rosettes of whipped cream around the outer edge of the top cake layer and top each with a cherry. Sprinkle some grated chocolate in the center. 


Best to refrigerate the cake 3-4 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.

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