Black Forest Cake
Updated November 28th 2022
This is an absolutely delicious cake and always a show stopper. There can’t be an easier way to make this Black Forest cake recipe. Black Forest cake is a beloved and popular cake from Germany, also known as Black Forest gateau or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. The traditional German dessert version consists of multiple layers of chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream and cherries, and traditionally its infused with Kirschwasser or ‘Kirsch’, a type of cherry liqueur similar to brandy. This particular recipe may not be the most traditional but it is so tasty, not overly sweet (often my biggest complaint about some recipes) and easy to make! Of course there are a few steps involved as there are layers of flavour in a Black Forest cake. All the steps are quite easy to follow and do and are very manageable and almost every layer of this cake can be made ahead if you wanted to make things even easier. More on that below.
The reason why I bake lies heavily on the two men in my life. My dad and my hubby. They both have serious sweet teeth! This time it was dad that inspired this bake up. Black Forest cake always reminds me of him. Its his favourite. He loves it and growing up he loved Tim Hortons Black Forest cake - like loved it. Anytime we were invited over to family or friends and he was craving it he insisted my mom not make dessert but we pickup black forest cake from Timmies. I hated it!! I hated the processed tasting whip cream, the canned cherry filling that to my young palate tasted bitter from whatever they soaked the cherries with and the very fluffy chocolate cake in. I had zero appreciation for it and couldn’t understand his obsession with it. I have come to appreciate the flavours in It much more over the years but I’m still not a fan of the store bought kind. I wanted to make him a homemade version for him and mom for their anniversary so he could really see the difference in flavours. He loved this version of course cause homemade cakes almost always taste better and I was so happy he did. Now he will call on me to make this every time he has a craving for some and I’m totally fine with that!
Ingredients For This Black Forest Cake Recipe:
- Flour - all purpose flour is what I use but you can definitely use a good 1-1 gluten free flour if you wish to make this cake gluten free
- Baking Powder & Baking soda, Salt - you will need all three as leaveners and a pinch of salt for flavour
- Cocoa Powder - unsweetened and natural is what you will need for this recipe
- Butter - I used unsalted butter for this recipe and melted and slightly cooled - a good 1-1 substitute is coconut oil melted and cooled slightly
- Yoghurt - I used greek yoghurt but you can use plain yogurt or even sour cream for this recipe
- Sugar - granulated sugar is what I use and you will need it in both the cakes and the frosting
- Eggs - make sure they are room temperature to ensure that they mix evenly into the batter
- Vanilla Extract - for extra flavour - I also like to add a drop of almond extract too as almond extract goes nicely with the cherries but that is totally optional
- Espresso powder - this really enhances and intensifies the chocolate flavor in this cake - gives it a richer flavour - feel free to use instant espresso powder or instant coffee to mix into the boiled water or simply replace the boiling water with hot brewed coffee (this is an optional add in - you can leave out the coffee all together and just use boiling water )
- Cherries - fresh is always best for this recipe but fresh is not always easy to find when they are not in season so the next best thing is frozen (I used frozen cherries in the video) and one thing I love about frozen cherries is that they are already pitted. I have made this recipe using both fresh and frozen and love it either way. I have not made it using canned cherry pie filling or canned cherries but it will work - you will need approximately 2 cups of cherry pie filling and you might want to heat it up and infuse it with the cherry brandy - or leave it plain. I used sweet cherries because they are easier to find, but sour cherries are more traditional. If you use a sour variety, I’d recommend increasing the sugar a bit.
- Cherry Liqueur - (a popular brand being Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser Black Forest Cherry Brandy) or cherry brandy is what Black Forest cake is infused with - it gives the cake its distinct flavour. I like to infuse the cakes with it or the cherry syrup by brushing some of it all over the cakes and of course the cherry syrup is infused with it too. Use as much or as little as you like - making it as boozy as you like or feel free to leave it out or use cherry juice in its place.
- Heavy Whipping cream - you will need this for the frosting and the ganache if making
- Cream cheese - I use full fat for better flavour and keep it chilled for this recipe
- Dark chocolate - you will need this for the ganache
- Garnishes - feel free to garnish the cake with chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles, fresh cherrie sweet or sour cherries - or even maraschino cherries for decorating cake with
How to Make This Decadent Black Forest Cake
- Cakes - Start by whisking the dry ingredients then beating the butter sugar, eggs and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients with wet then add the coffee or boiling water to make a smooth batter. Divide batter between prepared pans and bake until tester inserted comes out clean. Brush with cherry syrup or cherry liqueur once out the oven and allow to cool before removing from pan and assembling.
- Cherries - pit the cherries if using fresh and simmer with sugar, cherry brandy if using and corn starch until thickened.
- Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting - I love this frosting and use it on just about anything - beat the cold cream cheese until mostly smooth then beat in the sugar, vanilla and salt (I like to switch to the whisk attachment at this point) drizzle in the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks - this can easily be piped on cake or slathered on like shown. Some like to create a bit of a dam with the icing piping around the edges of the cake and placing the syrup and cherries in the middle between each layer - that is up to you. I kept it simple and slathered a whole bunch of it between each layer and you could also top the cake with it. There is enough frosting in the recipe to coat all three layers generously and even lightly coat the whole cake if you prefer it fully frosted. If you prefer to go lighter with the frosting that is fine just halve the recipe for less frosting.
- Chocolate Ganache - this is great drizzle dover the top layer of the cake or over the frosting. Simply bring the cream to a simmer the pour hot cream over the chopped chocolate - allow to sit a few minutes then stir until smooth - allow to cool a bit before pouring or drizzling over
- Toppings - feel free to top the cake how you like - as shown in the photos or the video with the ganache over the cake and then garnished with fresh cherries or frost the top as well and drizzle ganache over frosting and garnish with cherries - thawed frozen ones, canned cherries or maraschino cherries. I love to sprinkle over some shaved chocolate, or chocolate sprinkles or even dgive the cake a dusting of cocoa powder. You can drizzle over any extra thick and rich cherry syrup reaming for extra drama as well.
Make Ahead & Storage Instructions:
- For the Cakes - The cake layers can be baked, brushed wit the cherry brandy, cooled, and covered tightly with plastic wrap or ziploc bags wrapped separately or even in the baking tins wrapped tight at room temperature overnight. If you are making them days ahead store in the fridge. If you wanted to freeze the cakes wrap in an additional layer of foil and freeze the cakes for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
- For the Cherry Syrup - cool the syrup then cover and refrigerate overnight. Will last a couple of days in the fridge in an airtight container. Feel free to separate the cherries from the syrup and store separately or just use a slotted spoon when assembling the cakes.
- For the Frosting - this cream cheese whipped cream frosting can be prepared, covered tightly, and refrigerated overnight. It’s nice and thick and rich and holds up well.
- For the Chocolate Ganache - if using this can be prepared, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before using. Let ganache sit at room temperature to soften or microwave for 5-10 second increments, stirring in between before using.
- Storage - The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day before slicing and serving. Leftovers will keep tightly wrapped with plastic wrap and chilled in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days. The frosted cake can also be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
My husband who doesn’t like cooked fruit in dessert (he’s one of those) absolutely loved this cake and so did our friends who we shared it with. It’s an updated and simplified classic (cause I like things simplified and dumbed down in the kitchen as much as possible) that I loved making and will definitely be on repeat. It’s quite a statement cake and has some presence. It’s elegant, decadent and gorgeous - making it a great one for special occasions. I hope you give it a try. I know you will love it!
For the Dark Chocolate Cake layers (makes three 9 inch round cakes)
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ⅔ cup + 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1⅓ cup greek yoghurt, at room temperature
- ½ cup or one stick of butter, melted and cooled (or coconut oil melted and cooled)
- ⅔ cup + 3 tbsp boiling water
- 1 teaspoon of instant coffee powder or ½ teaspoon of espresso powder mixed in with the boiling water (optional but recommended to accentuate the cocoa flavour)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Cherries
- 500 g (16 oz) whole cherries approx 80, pitted (feel free to slice them if you wish)
- ½ cup kirsch or any other cherry liqueur/ cherry brandy (non alcoholic wine is a good substitute)
- ½ cup sugar (alternatively you can sweeten with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup or date syrup which I used in this recipe)
- 1 tablespoon corn starch or cornflour
For the Dark Chocolate Ganache
- 100 g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate
- ½ cup thickened (heavy) cream
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
- 500 g or two 8 oz blocks of cream cheese, cold
- 1 cup sugar, plus more up to 2 cups if you want it sweeter ( you could swap it for powdered sugar too)
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Fresh cherries or frozen and thawed cherries canned cherries or maraschino cherries
- Chocolate shavings
For the Dark Chocolate Cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and line the bottom of three 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper rounds.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- In a large bowl using a hand mixer or standing mixer, mix the butter and sugar together for a minute until fully combined.
- Then add the eggs and mix until fully incorporated.Then add the yoghurt and vanilla extract and mix until full combined.
- Slowly start to add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
- Then mix in the hot water and coffee mixture and mix just until the batter is uniform and smooth.
- Divide evenly between the three prepared cake pans. Bake for approximately 18-25 minutes or until tester or toothpick comes out clean or mostly clean. (If they all don’t fit in the oven to bake at the same time simply wrap the pan with plastic wrap while they are waiting to go in the oven)
- Remove from oven and brush cakes lightly with cherry liquor or cherry syrup (Optional but will keep the layers quit moist while adding a little extra flavour) then let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Feel free to brush the remaining areas of the cakes generously with the syrup or more cherry brandy. Let the cakes cool completely before assembling (or trimming/levelling any domed tops with serrated knife- optional I usually don’t)
For the Cherries
- While cakes are baking prep the cherries. Place the pitted cherries in a saucepan with the kirsch cherry brandy, sugar and cornstarch. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a light boil and then reduce temperature and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the cherries have softened but are not reduced to mush and still hold their shape and syrup has thickened
- Strain the mixture, placing the cherries in one bowl and reserved syrup in another. Or you could use a slotted spoon to separate them from liquid when placing them on cake.
- Use the left over syrup to brush over the cakes as the are cooling (optional but recommended to keep the cakes moist) - feel free to brush either the cherry syrup or even straight cherry brandy on the cakes. I also like to drizzle the syrup over cherries between layers and eve drizzled on the top of the cake too.
For the Dark Chocolate Ganache
- Roughly chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl.
- Bring the cream to a light simmer in a saucepan. Once at a simmer, pour the mixture over the chocolate. Leave for 2 minutes, and then stir until smooth and thick. Leave it to cool a little before pouring over cake.
For the Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting
- In a large mixing bowl, using stand mixer or hand mixer beat the cold cream cheese for about 15 seconds or until creamy. Add sugar, salt and vanilla and whip until fully combined. (I usually use paddle attachment or regular beaters for this part then switch to the whisk attachment when I add the cream)
- Drizzle in the cold heavy cream down the side of the bowl (to prevent splashing) while you beat on medium high speed until soft peaks form then continue beating until stiff peaks form. You’ll see your beaters leaving clear trails in the mixture at this stage. (Use immediately for frosting, filling or to pipe. Store leftovers and whatever you’ve frosted or filled in the refrigerator)
- Place the first cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Spread a thick layer of the cream cheese frosting on top using an offset spatula - approximately 1heaping cup of it or feel free to pipe it on. Leave a ½-1 inch border around cake so that the frosting has some wriggle room as the cake layers are heavy and will defiantly press out someone the frosting.
- Then place half of the kirsch macerated cherries over the frosting and gently press in to indent. Drizzle over some of the reserved cherry syrup over top.
- Repeat with remaining layers gently pressing cakes down a bit between layers to ensure they sit in place and are sitting flat.
- For the top either drizzle over ganache on cake or over the cream - either works.
- Garnish with fresh cherries or frozen thawed ones, canned or even maraschino cherries
- Refrigerate cake for 15 minutes or more before serving for an easier cut. Leftovers will keep tightly wrapped with plastic wrap and chilled in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.
- Can I Use cherry pie filling instead? I have not used cherry filling in this recipe but it is possible to - feel free to use store bought or homemade - you will need approx 2 cups for this recipe. Feel free to use as is or heat it up with the cherry brandy to infuse it with more flavor. That being said my preferred method is using fresh or frozen cherries for this recipe.
- For an alcohol free version try using cherry juice instead or leave out of the recipe
- UPDATED November 28, 2022: I updated the recipe for the frosting as I found it wasn’t thick enough with the old ratios - this version ensures a thick rich and spreadable frosting every time. Since the last time I made it I also added some corn starch to the cherry syrup to thicken it up because I love to drizzle it over the cherries - its a messier cake but way more delicious - I use to brush the cakes with it but I also like to brush them with straight cherry brandy too for a boozier flavour - either or works. I also made it with the frosting on top and ganache drizzled over the frosting and that was just as delicious too - so any variation works when it comes to finishing or garnishing this cake. I halved the cherries the first time - probably because pitting them probably did that to half of them but that is optional and no need to halve them.