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Black Forest Cake – inspired by the German classic!
Make this easy Black Forest Cake recipe for your next special occasion!
This towering and stunning ‘naked’ version of the iconic German Black Forest Cake does not disappoint! I know, you can’t always say ‘stunning’ and ‘naked’ in the same sentence, as it doesn’t always apply (hehe). But this is an exception!
Our Black Forest Cake recipe is made with a rich chocolate cake draped in a silky ganache, sandwiched between pillowy layers of whipped cream and jarred sour cherries. Although there are several steps to prepare this recipe, it’s pretty easy to make and a to breeze assemble and it makes a beautiful presentation for all your special occasions.
What is Black Forest Cake?
Black Forest Cake has been around for more than a hundred years. It’s made with layers of chocolate sponge cake, cherries and whipped cream. Traditional Black Forest Cakes are usually covered in additional whipped cream in place of icing and decorated with shards of chocolate.
We opted for a simpler version, but with all the flavors and appeal you’ll find in a more traditional Black Forest Cake.
We use good quality jarred cherries and jam to make the filling for this Black Forest Cake Recipe.
Fresh cherries make a nice garnish for this wonderful cake, but no worries if you missed the summer cherry season! The filling for this Black Forest Cake Recipe is made with good-quality jarred cherries found in well stocked grocery stores.
Use pitted sour cherries in a light syrup for this recipe, not the bright red maraschino cherries used in cocktails or canned cherry pie filling packed in a thick, heavy sauce. Our favorite brand is Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries packed in a light syrup. Although we don’t have a Trader Joe’s in town, you can pick these cherries up online from Amazon!
Check the link at the bottom of this post for more information. And, be sure to grab and extra jar to keep in your pantry. If you’re a cherry lover you’ll want to spoon some over a bowl of ice cream, or even a slice of pound cake. You can also use these jarred cherries in place of fresh in our Cherries Jubilee.
How to make Black Forest Cake
For the chocolate cake recipe you’ll need:
- semisweet chocolate
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- all-purpose flour
- granulated sugar
- baking soda
- vegetable oil
- vanilla extract
For the filling you’ll need:
- jarred pitted sour cherries
- cherry jam
- kirsch / cherry brandy or cherry juice
- whipping cream
- cream cheese
- powdered sugar
For the ganache topping you’ll need:
- whipping cream
- corn syrup
- bittersweet chocolate
- fresh cherries for garnish
- First, make bake the cake layers in three 8-inch round baking pans. The cake rounds can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
- When ready to assemble prepare the cherry filling and whipped cream.
- Place one cake layer on a serving platter and spread half the whipped cream on top. Spoon half the cherry mixture over the whipped cream, then repeat ending with the final cake layer on top.
- Finally, make the quick chocolate ganache and slowly pour over the top of the cake. Garnish with fresh cherries.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve! Enjoy 🙂
The chocolate cake layers are drizzled with a mixture of kirsch (cherry brandy) and a little jarred cherry juice for maximum flavor.
Poke a few holes in the top of the warm cakes, then brush on a mixture of kirsch and reserved jarred cherry juice. If you don’t have kirsch or cherry brandy on hand, or if you want to make a non-alcoholic cake, use equal amounts of cherry juice in place of the spirits. It’s all good!
The cake layers can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated until needed.
Once assembled the cake should be refrigerated until ready to serve. If refrigerated, allow the cake to sit at room temperature for 30-minutes before serving for best results. For pretty slices run a large thin knife under hot running water, then carefully dry the blade before slicing. The heated blade slides through the ganache, creating beautiful individual servings.
A touch of cream cheese is added to help stabilize the whipped cream.
To ensure the weight of the cake doesn’t push the filling out the sides, I’ve added 2 ounces of cream cheese to stabilize the soft whipped cream. This small amount of cream cheese doesn’t drastically change the taste or texture of the whipped cream, nor does it make it heavy or dense. It’s the perfect trick to ensure that your beautiful cake stays beautiful, even for several days after it’s made!
Can you frost the sides of the Black Forest Cake too?
Absolutely! Double the whipped cream frosting and spread half on the outside after the cake is assembled. However you should skip the ganache on top and decorate with grated chocolate on the sides for a more traditional Black Forest Cake.
Another option for making this Black Forest Cake recipe is to use all fresh cherries in place of the jarred.
You’ll need two heaping cups of fresh cherries for the filling in this recipe. Remove the pits and slice each cherry in half. Place the cherries in a small bowl and add two tablespoons of kirsch. Cover the cherries and leave at room temperature for a few hours, stirring occasionally.
Drain the cherries before mixing with the jam. Use the reserved kirsch flavored cherry juice for brushing on the warm cake layers. Easy-peasy and so delicious 🙂
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Black Forest Cake Recipe
For the cake:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 8 ounces semisweet bar chocolate, chopped fine
- ¾ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the filling:
- 1 (24-ounce) jar pitted sour cherries (about 2 cups) Reserve 2 tablespoons cherry juice, drain the remaining cherries
- ½ cup cherry jam, slightly warmed (not preserves)
- ¼ cup kirsch / cherry brandy (or substitute more cherry juice for a non-alcoholic filling)
For the whipped cream:
- 1 ¼ cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the ganache:
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 ½ tablespoons corn syrup
- 3 ounces bittersweet (or semi-sweet chocolate) finely chopped
- 8 to 10 fresh cherries
To prepare the cake:
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly coat three 8-inch round baking pans with vegetable cooking spray and set aside.
- In a medium saucepan combine the milk, chopped chocolate and cocoa powder. Heat on low and cook, stirring frequently, until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.
- Add the oil, eggs and vanilla to the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl with the flour and sugar. Using a stiff spatula or wooden spoon, stir until combined.
- Pour the prepared batter into the baking pans. Bake for 23 to 28 minutes or until the center is firm when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few crumbs attached.
- Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool for 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack with the tops facing up. Using a skewer, prick each of the layers a few times. Mix together 2 tablespoons of the reserved cherry juice with the kirsch and drizzle or brush the mixture over the layers. Cool the cakes to room temperature. The cakes can be made 24 hours in advance. Once cooled, cover and refrigerate until needed.
To prepare the filling:
- Gently fold together the drained sour cherries and the slightly warmed jam. Set aside.
To prepare the whipped cream:
- Beat the room temperature cream cheese in a large cold mixing bowl until smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the whipping cream until blended. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix on low until incorporated. Turn the mixer to high and beat until stiff peaks form.
To prepare the ganache:
- In a small saucepan combine the remaining cream and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the chopped chocolate and cover with a lid. Set aside for 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth.
- Place one cake layer on a serving platter or cake stand. Spread half the whipped cream mixture on top of the cake. Spoon half the cherries and jam over the whipped cream. Repeat with another cake layer, the remaining whipped cream and all the cherries and jam. Place the last cake layer on top then cover with the warm chocolate ganache allowing a small amount to drip decoratively down the sides. Once slightly set, garnish with fresh cherries on top.
- Allow the cake to rest for about 30 minutes before serving or refrigerate until needed. Bring the cake to room temperature for 30 minutes before cutting. For clean cuts, run a thin, large knife under hot water then carefully dry the blade. The hot knife will slide through the chocolate ganache easily. Repeat as needed.
- The chocolate cake recipe was adapted from Cook’s Illustrated and the filling was inspired by a recipe on BBC Good Food.
Finally, here are a few more recipes you might like featuring the wonderful cherry / kirsch combo.
Cherries Jubilee is one of the easiest desserts you’ll ever make, and one of the best! The quick and easy cherry sauce is made with just a few ingredients, and served warm over vanilla ice cream. This delightful recipe is the perfect ending to any meal.
Cherry Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate – Fresh cherries soaked in cherry brandy folded into an eggless ice cream filled with more fresh cherries, then blended with dark chocolate. What more is there to discuss? This stuff is cherry-licious!