This black forest cake is beautiful and delicious: rich chocolate cake, soaked in cherry liquor, filled with cherry filling, smothered with whipped cream, and topped with curled chocolate and cherries.
Growing up, we always had grocery store black forest cake for birthdays because it was a favorite of our family. Then one day I decided I was going to make one from scratch. I always thought it was a complicated cake to make. Little did I know it was very simple to make, and of course, when you make it from scratch, it’s so much better. As always, it ruined me for the store-bought ones because I know how good one can be.
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What is Black Forest Cake
Black forest cake goes by a few different names: black forest gâteau, or in German, it is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. This three-layer cake is usually always decorated with chocolate shavings, flavored with kirsch syrup, covered in whipped cream, and topped with cherries.
Black forest cake originated in southwestern Germany in the Black Forest region. It’s debated who invented the original recipe, but it first appeared in 1934 and became a very popular German dessert.
Ingredients in Black Forest Cake
This cake is simple to make, it’s a moist chocolate cake with whipping cream and cherries in between the layers, topped with whipping cream cherries, and shaved chocolate as a garnish.
- Sour cherries This is a must-have in a black forest cake; you can use sweet cherries, but sour is the authentic cherry to use. When I can find them, I like to get a can of Morello cherries.
- Cornstarch is used as a way of thickening the cherry juice to make a sauce.
- Cherry liqueur this recipe uses kirsch cherry liquor if you want to omit the alcohol you can use cherry juice. The liquor is ideal to have the authentic black forest cake flavor.
- Vegetable oil you can use canola oil too, but I usually always use vegetable oil.
- Coffee you can use just hot water but I like to use coffee in my chocolate cake it brings out the flavor and you don’t take the coffee at all.
- Eggs use room-temperature eggs if you can.
- Vanilla adds flavor to this cake
- Flour you can use all-purpose flour or cake flour either works.
- Sugar of course will make your cake taste sweet
- Unsweetened Cocoa powder Make sure you don’t use the Dutch process, as it changes the texture of your cake.
- Baking soda helps the cake to raise so that you have a moist and fluffy cake.
- Salt I don’t usually add salt to my baking but when it comes to chocolate it really enhances the flavors.
- Water will create the base for your syrup
- Sugar Adds the sweetness you need for the tart cherry flavor
- Cherry liquor you can use this or cherry juice.
Homemade Whipping Cream
- Heavy Whipping Cream Making your whipping cream This results in a nice, light, and fluffy whipped cream that will hold together better than the premade stuff.
- Powdered Sugar for my whipping cream I like to always use powdered sugar because it dissolves so much better than granulated you want a nice smooth and creamy finish for this cake.
- Vanilla Extract adds a little bit of flavor to your cream.
- Cherries I like to top my cake with maraschino cherries but you can use a nice dark fresh cherry too.
- Cornstarch is optional but I like to add it to my whipping cream to help stabilize the whipping cream.
How to make Black Forest Cake
This cake does take a bit of time to make, so you can comfortably set aside over an hour to make the cake, cool it, and assemble it, but you won’t regret putting in the time.
- Cherries If you are using fresh cherries, remove the seeds and slice them in half; if using canned or jarred cherries, drain the cherries and reserve the cherry juice.
- Thickening combine cornstarch and liquor or reserved juice.
- Heat In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add water and sugar, and stir until dissolved. Then add in the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine.
- Add Cherries to the sugar mixture, and cook the mixture until the cherries let out their juices and begin to soften.
- Remove from heat when the cherries and the sauce have begun to thicken. Pour mixture into another bowl and allow to cool until ready.
- Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) and prepare 3 8-inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray and parchment paper on the bottom and set aside
- Dry Ingredients in a medium bowl sift together flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Wet Ingredients in another bowl whisk together the vegetable oil, warm coffee, egg, and vanilla until combined
- Mix together add the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and gently whisk until combined
- Fill pans divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes until the center of the bake springs back or a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan then remove and cool on a rack.
- Cool once completely cooled the cake is ready to be assembled or you can wrap the layer in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight before assembly.
- Mix in a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, cornstarch, and cherry liqueur
- Simmer and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 2 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Cool and allow the syrup to completely cool.
- Combine In a stand mixer, add cream, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla.
- Whisk with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks are achieved
- Prepare layers To layer the cake, you want to first use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the tops of the cakes so that they are flat and layer nicely and evenly.
- Soak Layers Lay the three-layer cakes on a cooling rack with the bottom side facing up. Brush the cherry syrup over the three layers. You want the syrup to soak into each of the layers.
- Stack Layers place the first cake layer on a serving plate or cardboard cake round.
- Prepare for the filling pipe a dam with a piping bag of whipping cream around the outside of the cake layer.
- Cherry Filling spread ¾ of a cup of the cherry mixture on top of the cake in the center of the dam.
- More whipping cream fill in the rest of the dame with a layer of whipping cream and spread it into an even layer.
- Repeat add the next layer and repeat the previous steps
- Final layer add the third and final layer of cake on top.
- Frost the top and the outside with the remaining whipping cream
- Garnish finish off the cake with a few additional cherries and chocolate shavings.
Baking Tips and Suggestions
- Use Room Temperature Ingredients Plan ahead a little bit and set out your wet ingredients and allow them to reach room temperature. This will result in a much smoother cake batter, which will end up with a lighter and fluffier cake.
- Vegetable oil I prefer to use vegetable oil because I believe it results in a more tender crumb and keeps it moist, but you can definitely substitute butter for the oil. might change the texture slightly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What alcohol is similar to kirsch?
There are not many that are similar; kirsch is not something that can be found all the time; it’s kind of like a brandy, so you could try and use cognac or brandy. You could also try a cherry-flavoured liquor.
Cherry juice will work for a kid-friendly version or a non-alcohol version as well.
What is the difference between chocolate cake and Black Forest cake?
The difference is that black forest cake is traditionally made with a chocolate sponge cake brushed with kirsch, cherry filling, and whipped cream as frosting. It’s then garnished with maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings.
I know you’re probably thinking, “What’s the difference between my favourite chocolate cake recipe and this one?” It’s more that you want a chocolate cake that’s going to hold the whipped cream and cherry filling. I’ve tried other chocolate cakes, and the weight of the whipping cream and cherry filling made them collapse.
The Best Black Forest Cake
- 3 8-inch cake pans
- 1 Stand Up Mixer
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup cherry liquor or cherry juice
- ½ cup sugar
- 3 cup cherries, pitted and quartered or jar of sour cherries (drained)
- 1-1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
- 1-3/4 cup warm coffee
- 3 large eggs
- 2-1/2 tsp pure vanilla
- 3 cup flour
- 2-1/4 cup sugar
- 1-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa not dutch process
- 3 tsp baking soda
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup Cherry liqueur or cherry juice
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- ⅓ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 2-1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and quartered or maraschino cherries
- 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate coarsely grated
- Prepare your cherries by removing the seeds and slicing them in half. If using the cherries in the can or jar, drain the cherries and reserve the cherry juice.
- Combine cornstarch and liqueur or reserved cherry juice.
- In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add water and sugar and stir until sugar dissolves, then add in the cornstarch mixture and stir to combine.
- Add in the cherries and stir to coat them with the sugar mixture. Cook mixture until the cherries start to soften and let out juices.
- Remove from heat when the cherries are juicy, and the juice has begun to thicken. Pour the mixture into another bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 325°. Spray three 8 inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Add parchment rounds to the bottom of the pans and spray the parchment with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a large bowl whisk together the vegetable oil, warm coffee, eggs, and vanilla until combined.
- In a medium bowl sift together the flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and gently whisk together until fully combined.
- Fill the three pans evenly and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the center of the cake springs back lightly when pressed on, or a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting the pan on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
- Once completely cooled you can either wrap the layers in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight before assembling the cake, or you can assemble the cake once they’re cool.
- In a medium sauce pan combine the water, sugar and cherry liqueur. Bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for 2 minutes until the sugar us completely dissolved. Let cool completely.
- To make the whipped cream, add the heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl. Whip with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form.
- Lay the three cakes out on a cooling rack with the bottom side facing up. Brush the cherry syrup over the three layers, letting it really soak in to each one.
- Lay the bottom layer top down on your cake plate or cake stand. Spread a nice thick layer of whipped cream over the layer and generously cover with cherry quarters.
- Stack the second layer on top of the cherries and do another layer of whipped cream and cherries. Top with the third layer of cake.
- Add large dollops of whipped cream to the top of the cake and smooth out as much as you would like or create some swirls in the whipping cream. Decorate with fresh cherries or maraschino cherries and serve immediately.