It was my brother’s birthday today and, as he’s attempting to go gluten-free (I can’t say he’s always successful!), I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake. In searching for recipes, I came across this lovely retro classic – Black Forest Cake – and as I had a jar of morello cherries in the pantry, I thought ‘why the heck not?’.
A newbie to flourless chocolate cake, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d read that it puffs up beautifully in the oven, but then sinks as soon as you take it out. And indeed that’s what happened, so I tried not to take it personally (though, if anybody has any tips they can give me on that score, I’d be eternally grateful!). The cake itself was absolutely beautiful – light, tender and super chocolatey. The texture, of course, is quite different given it basically includes only eggs and sugar, but actually I preferred it to a standard cake.
Thanks to Felicity Cloake from The Guardian.com for this recipe, which I ended up adapting somewhat. Felicity made a pastry base for her cake, but as I wanted to stay with a gluten-free version, I omitted this (refer to her recipe if you choose to make it). She also managed to slice her cake into three horizontal slices, but I went with two as I wasn’t convinced that, with the surface of the cake somewhat unlevel, I could do the job very elegantly (though I’ve left her original instructions for three slices as is).
Should you decide to go with two horizontal slices, here’s how I did it: I cut the cake in two and flipped the top sponge over, so both pieces were cut side up. I then brushed on the cherry juice/liqueur onto both sponges as per the recipe and let it soak in. When it came to assembling I spread the jam on the bottom sponge, layered the cherries on top and slathered on the cream. I then spread jam on the other sponge and flipped it back over, right way up, over top of the bottom sponge – I got slightly jammy hands (Lol), but it worked well. Finally, I spread the remaining cream over top of the cake (effectively filling in the unlevel bit) and decorated with more cherries. As for the amount of filling ingredients, given I didn’t include the pastry layer, nor the third sponge layer, I ended up using less of them.
At the end of the day, whether or not you end up sticking to the recipe exactly, or making a few changes here or there, I can assure you you’ll end up with a dang fine cake that everyone’s going to love.
BLACK FOREST CAKE
For the sponge
- 6 large eggs
- 140 g soft light brown sugar
- 60 g high quality cocoa powder (I used Dutch processed)
- Pinch of salt
For the filling
- 700 g pitted morello cherries in syrup (always check for pits though, as I always find some)
- 3 tbsp Kirsch or cherry brandy liqueur
- 500 ml double cream
- 50 g icing sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 300 g morello cherry jam
- 25 g chocolate, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and grease and line with grease-proof paper the base of a 20cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin.
- For the sponge: Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until moussey, pale and thick – a good couple of minutes. Sieve over the cocoa powder and a pinch of salt and fold in.
- Whisk the whites in a separate clean bowl, until stiff but not dry. Robustly stir in a little of the whites into the yolk mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest very gently until just combined, so you knock as little air out as possible. Carefully spoon into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 35-40 minutes, until puffed up and set on top. Leave to cool completely in the tin; it will sink slightly, but that’s normal.
- For the filling: Drain the cherries, retaining the syrup. Mix 100ml of it with the kirsch and put aside.
- Cut the cooled cake into three horizontal slices and put on separate plates. Spoon or brush half the syrup over the slices and leave to sink in; you can add more if it is all absorbed, but don’t overload it.
- Whip the cream until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla extract. Whisk until voluminous, but not too stiff to spread.
- When you’re ready to assemble the cake, set aside about 12 cherries for decorating the top of the cake. Put the bottom sponge layer onto a serving platter (be gentle as you lift it) and slather on half of the jam, half of the remaining cherries and a third of the cream. Put the second layer of sponge over top; add the rest of the jam, the rest of the remaining cherries, and the second third of cream. Put on the final layer of sponge; use a palette knife to spread the remaining cream on top. Grate chocolate curls generously over them, and arrange the remaining cherries around the edge.
- Chill for an hour before serving.