August seems full of birthdays (not sure what makes November such a sexy month!) so I’ve been making a lot of birthday cakes, including for one of my brothers. We’re both children of the Seventies, so maybe that’s why he requested this rich chocolate and cherry concoction – Black Forest Cake (I don’t feel justified in calling it a gateaux). This isn’t strictly following a classic recipe; if it was the sponge would get soaked in kirsch and I’m not a fan of soggy sponge, but all the essential Black Forest flavours are here and everyone enjoyed it so nobody seemed bothered that I strayed from tradition.
Black Forest Cake
For the cake:
- 225g butter, softened
- 175g caster sugar
- 50g dark brown sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 50g cocoa powder
- 175g self raising flour
- half tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 1 tbsp milk
Heat the oven to 190C and grease and line two 9″ cake tins with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugars. Add two of the eggs and beat to incorporate. Sift in the cocoa and about half the flour, mix well, then add the remaining eggs and beat again. Add the remaining flour and baking powder and give a good mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the vanilla, coffee powder, syrup and milk and give a final good mix before dividing the cake batter between the two tins. Gently even out the mixture with your spatula and bake for 20-25 minutes. The cakes are done when coming away from the sides of the tin, a skewer inserted comes out clean and they spring back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven, leaving to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or so, before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the cherry syrup:
- 2 tins black cherries in light syrup
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tbsp creme de cacao liqueur (optional)
Strain the cherries into a bowl so that you save the liquid. Press gently on the cherries so that any juice trapped inside gets squeezed out. Set the cherries to one side. In a saucepan, boil the syrup, icing sugar and liqueur (if using – you could also use kirsch, cherry brandy or anything else you have that wouldn’t overpower the cherry flavour) until reduced by about half. The syrup should coat a spoon but still be pourable. Leave to cool.
For the cream filling:
- 400ml double cream
- 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
In a bowl, whisk all the ingredients until thick – I find it best to do this by hand with a balloon whisk as you can quickly find you go too far with an electric whisk. You want the cream thick enough to cling to the whisk, dropping off easily when tapped on the side of the bowl.
To assemble, put one of the cake on your serving plate and cover with about half the cream. Drizzle a few spoons of the syrup over the cream then add a layer of cherries. Put the other cake on top of the cherries, cover with the remaining cream, decorate with any remaining cherries and some syrup (don’t feel you need to use all the syrup). If you have any chocolate knocking around, finely grate a little over the top of the whole thing. Probably best served after a dinner of duck a l’ orange or alongside a nice cold Cinzano!
If you have any cherry syrup left it would be great on vanilla ice cream, or even a knickerbocker glory!