Once a year I host a book club meeting at my house. My night was last night. The book was “The Book Thief” so the theme was German food. Thanks to input from the Internet, I decided to make a “Black Forest Torte” for dessert. I found a recipe posted on Food.com by a “real German lady”, and decided to make it, with no advance practice session (I know, living on the edge!).
The cake was a delicious show-stopper. Just look at that picture! I haven’t made too many show-stopper cakes before so I was quite thrilled with the way this one turned out. PHEW! And I’d like to extend a big, grateful ‘danke’ to the “real German lady” 🙂
I made a few changes to the recipe, of course: I used pitted sour cherries from a jar, rather than fresh cherries (they’re not in season right now), and I used butter, rather than shortening, in the cake batter. I also made two 9.5 inch cake layers instead of the three 9-inch layers specified in the original recipe (I really dislike 3 layer cakes). I modified the mixing method for the cake. I used espresso powder, rather than cold brewed espresso, in the filling and adjusted the amount of Kirsch in the filling as well. I upped the whipped cream frosting by 50%.
Now, if you make this cake, you’ll need to start three days in advance and, please, DO make this cake!
- Day 1: Drain the cherries and soak in Kirsh.
- Day 2: Make the chocolate layer cakes, soak the cakes in the Kirsch drained from the (now boozy) cherries. Make the filling and assemble the layers one on top of the other. Refrigerate overnight.
- Day 3: Make the chocolate curls and the whipped cream frosting. An hour or two before serving, decorate the cake with the whipped cream, reserved cherries, and chocolate curls. Serve!
- Day 4: The leftovers are yummy! I called four friends over for tea, and they all accepted, enjoyed the cake, and took slices home for their husbands! (So far, I have cut sixteen slices from this cake, and there is one slice left in the refrigerator for my 23 year old twins to fight over.
Black Forest Torte
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (8 oz)
- 2/3 cup cocoa powder (I had Hershey’s on hand, so that’s what I used)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Mocha Buttercream Filling
- 1/2 cup kirsch
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 2 jars of pitted sour cherries, drained (I got mine at Trader Joes-1 1/2 lbs each, most supermarkets have 1 lb. cans of cherries in the canned fruit section) OR 1 1/2 lbs fresh black cherries, pitted
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2-3 tablespoons kirsch
- 2 tablespoons dry milk powder (optional, but helps with stability of whipped cream icing)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- One large, 3.5-4 oz. dark chocolate bar, grated or curled
- Drain the cherries then soak them in 1/2 cup Kirsch overnight. Discard the cherry juice UNLESS you want to make a non-alcoholic cake. If you want a non-alcoholic cake (like, if children will be eating it) use the cherry juice from the cherries instead of the Kirsch and proceed as outlined below.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Drain the cherries from the Kirsh. RESERVE the liquid! Most of the liquid will be poured over the hot cakes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the liquid for the filling.
- Line the bottom of two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment. Spray the sides with “Pam for Baking”, or grease with a bit of butter or oil.
- Sift the dry cake ingredients together and set aside.
- With an electric mixer beat the shortening to soften, then add the sugar. Beat for six minutes or until the shortening-sugar mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well. Stir in the vanilla.
- Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add half of the buttermilk. Beat to combine. Add another one-third of the dry ingredients and beat to combine. Add remaining buttermilk. Beat to combine. Finally, add the last of the dry ingredients and beat well. alternately with the buttermilk and mix well.
- Pour batter into the prepared cake pans.
- Bake in preheated 350 oven for approx. 25 minutes or until a cake springs back when touched.
- Remove the cakes from the oven. Leave the cakes in the pans and immediately and slowly, pour some of the reserved Kirsch-cherry juice mixture over both cakes. Let the Kirsch soak in, then repeat until all but 2 tablespoons of the Kirsch-cherry liquid has been used. (The remaining 2 tablespoons liquid will be used in the filling)
- Let the cakes cool in their pans.
- Make the filling. With an electric mixer beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar, salt, espresso powder, and 2 tablespoons Kirsch-Cherry juice and beat well for 3 or 4 minutes. If the filling is too thick add some extra Kirsch, cherry juice, or cream (add only an extra 1/2 tsp. at a time). The filling should be spreadable, but firm.
- Place the base layer on cake plate. Spread filling over top, then cover with drained cherries (save some good, firm, pretty cherries to go on top of the cake as decoration). I took the time to place each cherry in concentric layers, which I think helped with the stability of the cake. Add the second cake on top of the filling and cherries on the first layer. Push down a bit to secure a firm fit between the layers.
- Cover the cake and let sit in refrigerator overnight for the flavors to meld.
- A few hours before serving place the whipping cream, powdered sugar, Kirsch, vanilla, and optional dry milk powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
- Spread the whipped cream frosting over all of the cake. Decorate the sides first, then the top. If you want to be fancy, put some of the whipping cream in a Ziploc or a piping bag and pipe rosettes or swirls around top and bottom of cake.
- Pat the reserved cherries dry, and then place in a pretty design on top of the cake.
- Grate the chocolate bar or use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls. Gently, and decoratively press handfuls of the grated chocolate onto the sides of the cake.
- Store cake in refrigerator until an hour or so before serving. Serve and enjoy. (You should get about 16 generous slices from this cake.)
Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and I hope there is a Special Occasion coming up soon so you can make this cake. It’s a keeper!
Just in case you are wondering, and in case you are reading this because you’ll also be hosting a book club meeting based upon “The Book Thief”, I also made Kipferls. Kipferls, which are significant in the book, were left by the window for people to take home (just like in the book). I’ll posted that recipe, too, since they were soooooo good (but soooooo expensive to make, more about that later). My book club does snacks and dessert. For snacks I had a bowl of apples, German bread with cheese and liverwurst, and soft pretzels with a beer-mustard-cheese dip (no picture of the pretzels and dip) and Stollen! To drink, we had champagne, of course. Those of you who read the book know why.