Earlier this month I received a request from one of my oldest friends – could I make a black forest gateau as a joint belated-birthday cake for her and her husband. Now my memories of black forest gateau from childhood days are of a slightly soggy, whipped cream laden affair topped with glace cherries and I obviously wanted to make a more modern version so I thought to myself ‘Challenge accepted!’ a la Barney Stinson.
Following my usual research for a new recipe, I had shortlisted three recipes for further scrutiny – recipes by Felicity Cloake from the Guardian, the Brown Eyed Baker and from the Joy of Baking website. In the end the ‘Perfect black forest gateau’ recipe by Felicity Cloake won out, mainly due to the non-traditional addition of a chocolate pastry layer – I’m a sucker for anything pastry related.
The main challenge I found with this recipe was finding the ingredients I required. I went on a mission to hunt down morello cherries in syrup. I tried Sainsbury’s, Tescos and Waitrose to no avail – although I did manage to find some black cherries in Kirsch-laced syrup in my local Waitrose. A quick internet search showed me that others had encountered the same problem, and it turns out that Lidl was the answer so I made a slightly frantic trip to Lidl the day before I needed to make the cake.
Armed with my jars of cherries, I was now ready to tackle my first black forest gateau. The recipe is easy enough to follow and the resulting cake was light and moreish, with not a single glace cherry in sight. The pastry layer added a very pleasant crispy texture to the cake. The main things I would do differently for next time are drain the cherries more thoroughly and being careful not to over-whip the cream. My friends seemed happy enough with the cake so I would deem this recipe a success.
The perfect black forest gateau - adapted from Felicity Cloake (The Guardian) For the pastry layer 60g plain flour 5g cocoa powder 25g caster sugar 40g butter, softened 2 teaspoons kirsch (I used 2 teaspoons of kirsch-laced syrup) For the sponge 6 large eggs 140g soft light brown sugar 60g cocoa powder For the filling 500g morello cherries in syrup 200g black cherries in kirsch-laced syrup 3 tablespoons kirsh (again I used kirsch-laced syrup) 500ml double cream 50g icing sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 300g morello cherry jam/preserve Plus 25g dark chocolate, to decorate
- For the pastry layer, sift the flour and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whisk together, then mix in the remaining ingredients to make a dough – you may need to use your hands to fully combined the ingredients. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (reduce to 170°C for fan-assisted ovens) and grease the base of a 20cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Roll out the pastry to 5m thick and use to line the base of the tin. Prick all over with a fork, then bake for 15 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the tin and set aside on a wire rack to cool. Grease and line the tin for the cake.
- Meanwhile, make the sponge. Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until they begin to thicken. 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. Fold a little of the whisked whites into the yolk mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest very gently, so you knock as little air out as possible. Carefully spoon into the prepared tin, smooth the top and bake for 35-40 minutes, until puffed up and set on top. Leave to cool in the tin; it will sink slightly, but don’t worry.
- Drain the cherries, retaining the syrup. Mix 100ml of it with the kirsh, or use kirsh-laced syrup. Cut the cooled cake into three horizontal slices (although if you’re struggling with this two layers is sufficient), and put each layer onto separate plates. Spoon 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 as you don’t want to end up with a soggy mess that will be difficult to handle.
- 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 12-14 cherries, then put the pastry layer on a cake stand or board. Spread with a quarter of the jam, a fifth of the cream and a quarter of the remaining cherries. If you only have three layers, including the pastry layer then spread with a third of the jam, a quarter of the cream and a third of the cherries. Put a sponge layer on top (be gentle as you lift it) and repeat the jam, cream and cherry later. Repeat again until all the cake slices have been used, and press down gently.
- Use a palette knife to spread the remaining cream on top in big, puffy waves. Grate chocolate curls generously over them, and arrange the saved cherries around the edge. Chill for an hour before serving.