Black Forest Cake
I always feel weird around my birthday. Every year the whole thing seems a bit silly as I predictably become sheepish and awkward when all the attention turns to me for no reason other than the fact that I was born on that day. I’m not one for any sort of spotlight, and with each year that passes it just seems less extraordinary. If anything, it’s my mother who should be celebrated — after all, she did all the work that day (…and this post just happens to be going up on her birthday — happy birthday Mom! And thanks for, you know, having me. Love you!)
On the Sailor’s birthday, however, my mood shifts entirely. I become a birthday-loving fool, and I find celebrating the fact that he was born to be of the utmost importance. After all, his existence makes me very happy, so I want to return that favor. This year, we just so happened to be at the tail end of a weeklong getaway to the Finger Lakes (a story for another post, another time but suffice it to say it was wonderful) filled with wine and hiking, two of our favorite things. So for his birthday, we kept things low-key — a day in the city, some Tom Brady themed gifts (go Pats!), and by special request, this black forest cake, the Sailor’s favorite.
This was my first time making a black forest cake since my days in culinary school, and I wanted to make sure I got it right. I pulled out my trusty, stained notebooks from back in the day and found the recipe for a classic gateau, but I decided to make it my own and tweak things just a bit. Every part of this cake is simple and familiar — soft slices of chocolate sponge cake, thick whipped cream, sweet, tart cherries — and when layered together, they become a combination that’s at once comforting and oh so special. Cakes like this prove that a classic can also be utterly decadent — in fact, I’d argue that some of the most sophisticated, cosmopolitan foods out there have become that way by virtue of their simplicity. Because when something is done right and comes together just so, you don’t need any extras –- you just need a reason. And taking the time to celebrate the people you love is always a good one to me.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tbsp espresso powder
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 4 tsp vanilla extract (divided)
- 3 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 cup kirsch (optional)
- 1 lb fresh cherries (or 1 can cherries)
- 2 oz dark chocolate
FOR THE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare two 8" round cake pans by greasing them with butter and lining the bottoms with parchment paper. Dust each pan with cocoa powder and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Slowly add the eggs one at a time, making sure each are incorporated fully. Finally, mix in 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
In a measuring cup or mug, combine the hot water and the espresso powder. Slow mix in the butter milk and whisk to combine.
With the mixer on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture until the batter is fully incorporated.
Evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool.
FOR THE TOPPING: In a chilled bowl, add the heavy whipping cream. As the cream thickens, add 10x sugar and vanilla. Continue whipping until stiff peaks form.
TO ASSEMBLE: Slice each of the cooled cakes in half horizontally, so that you have 4 even layers. (a serrated knife works best).
Top the first layer of cake with about 1/2 an inch of the whipped cream. Smooth and dot with cherries. Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat this process until all 4 layers are assembled.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave strips and curls of dark chocolate. Top the final layer of cream with chocolate shavings and the last of the cherries.