Black forest cake is a chocolate-covered, layered dessert with cherries and whipped cream. It is one of the most famous cakes in the world and a staple at birthday parties and tea time.
There are many variations of this cake, but it is best known for being made with a layer of kirschwasser between each layer of chocolate sponge and whipped cream. This specialty liqueur, also known as Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte in Germany, is distilled from tart cherries and gives the cake its unique flavor. Although some bakers choose to use this specialty liqueur in their recipes, the cake can still be enjoyed without it.
The origin of this popular treat is a bit unclear. Some believe that it was named after the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) mountain range in southwestern Germany. Others claim that the name was inspired by the traditional costume worn by women in this region, which consists of a black dress, a white blouse, and a hat with red pompoms that look like cherries.
In the United States, the cake is usually topped with chocolate shavings or curls, while in Germany and some other countries the top of the cake may be covered with additional whipped cream and maraschino cherries. It is sometimes garnished with chocolate syrup, too. Depending on the recipe, the cake can also be served with an ermine buttercream frosting, which is more substantial than whipped cream and pairs well with the chocolate and cherries in this dish.
For those who prefer not to use alcohol in their desserts, there is a version of this cake that is made with a non-alcoholic crème fraîche instead of kirschwasser. It is very similar to the original cake, but it is a little lighter in texture. The ermine buttercream is more stable than whipped cream, so it can be used on other types of cakes and other desserts that are not traditionally served with a cherry topping.
To make the ermine buttercream, beat the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, approximately 3-4 minutes. This can be done with a hand-held mixer or in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. After the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add the icing sugar slowly, beating constantly until the mixture is smooth. Finally, add the creme fraîche and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes until well combined and smooth.
When assembling the cake, wait to put on the whipped cream and chocolate shavings until you are ready to serve it. This will prevent the whipped cream from melting or the cherries from bleeding into the frosting and becoming runny. When decorating, try to be as artistic as possible with the shaved chocolate and cherries. It looks beautiful when the shavings are placed around the edges of the cake and in between the layers of whipped cream.
While this is a great recipe for anyone who wants to make their own black forest cake, it can be a bit challenging for beginners to master. We recommend enlisting the help of a pastry chef or someone who has baked this type of cake before to get a feel for how it should be assembled and decorated.