Recipe: Black Forest Gâteau

Birthday cravings a while back. A boozy fruit cake, my favorite. Three layers of chocolate génoise cake, drenched with brandied cherries, enclosed in whipped cream and topped with chocolate curls. What is there not to like?

Black Forest Gâteau

Chocolate génoise recipe by Alice Medrich, Bitter Sweet. I echo her warning here: Do not take any short cuts! 


1 lb fresh cherries (pitted) or frozen cherries (thawed)

1/2 cup kirsch*


12 tbsp unsalted European butter

3 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup sifted (before measuring) all-purpose flour (I love White Lily flour)

1 cup sifted (before measuring) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder 

12 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar


3 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract


Chilled chocolate curls and/or sprinkles


A. Put the cherries and the kirsch in a covered container and refrigerate overnight or for several days. Drain the cherries, reserving the liquor. 

B. Position a rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven at 350F. 

Line the bottoms of three 8″ round cake pans with parchment paper. 

In a small saucepan, clarify the butter by heating it, without stirring, until melted and foaming. Spoon off and discard the foam. Spoon 9 tbsps of the clear yellow oil into a separate bowl, avoiding the watery layer of milk solids at the bottom. Add the vanilla to the clarified butter. 

Sift the flour and cocoa together three times and set aside. 

In the bowl of your electric stand mixer, whisk the eggs and sugar together until combined thoroughly. Remove the bowl and place it on top of a wide saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisking constantly with a hand whisk, heat the egg mixture until lukewarm (approximately 105F – I use a thermometer). Remove and return to the stand mixer. Whisk the lukewarm mixture at high speed until it has cooled, tripled in volume, and resembles softly whipped cream (approximately 5 minutes).

Meanwhile, set the bowl of butter and vanilla on top of the vacated saucepan of water, with the heat off, to keep it warm. 

Sift (again) one-third of the sifted flour and cocoa over the whipped eggs. Fold into the mixture quickly but gently until incorporated. Repeat twice more until all the flour and cocoa has been incorporated into the batter. 

Fold 1 cup of batter into the warm clarified butter until blended. Then scrape the buttery batter over the remaining batter and fold until just blended. 

Divide the batter between the three cake pans. Turn and tilt the pans to level the batter. Bake until the cake springs back when you press it with your finger, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and cool in the pan on a rack. 

To unmold, run a small knife around the inner edge of the pan to release the cake and invert onto a rack. Remove the parchment liner. 

C. In a large chilled bowl (I put it in the freezer for 15 minutes), beat the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until it forms stiff peaks. 

To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer (B), bottom side up, on a cake stand. It is useful to line the cake stand with strips of parchment paper first to keep it clean whilst frosting and decorating the cake.

Spoon 3 tbsp of the reserved liqueur (A) over the top of the cake to moisten. Cover with 2/3 cup of whipped cream (C), spreading it to the edges. Arrange half the soaked and drained cherries (A) on top of the cream. Cover the cherries with another 2/3 cups of whipped cream. Repeat with the second layer. 

Put the third cake layer on top and moisten it with the remaining reserved liqueur. Frost the entire cake – top and sides – with the remaining whipped cream. 

D. To decorate, scoop the chocolate sprinkles / curls and press them gently into the sides of the frosted cake, covering them completely with chocolate sprinkles / curls.

If desired, decorate the top with rosettes of whipped cream, some extra cherries and chocolate curls / sprinkles. 

Refrigerate the cake for several hours before serving. I’ve been known to put out the bottle of kirsch out with the cake, just in case anyone wants to enrich their slice of cake. 😄🍷
*Depending where you are, cherry liqueur like Heering is easier to find than kirsch, which is a cherry brandy. Heering is more saccharine and has less alcohol, but still works for this recipe. 


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