Christmas Eve is a special occasion for our family. We decorate the house, light candles, serve charcuterie and Christmas ale, and cook a special meal together. At the end of the night, we somehow have room for dessert — usually my aunt’s rum cake or a yule log from our local bakery.
Since I will be moving away from home soon, traditions became much more important this year. I thought it’d be really special to make a German recipe for Christmas Eve to celebrate our German heritage. Ultimately it was a toss up between Black Forest Cake and German Chocolate Cake. After much discussion, Black Forest Cake won.
Last July, my parents sailed down the Rhine on a river cruise where they ate Black Forest Cake in the Black Forest itself. My dad loves German Chocolate Cake, so if he was insisting on Black Forest Cake, I knew that it must be good. And seeing as I’d never had it before anyway, I would finally have an excuse to try it too.
Black Forest Cake is a chocolate cake with layers of whipped cream frosting, cherries, Kirsch (cherry liqueur), and cherry juice. It’s topped with more whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and cherries. There are a few steps in the recipe, but with a little time it can come out looking really beautiful. This cake is delicious, and now I keep the recipe among all my other favorites.
The cake is moist from the cherry juice and Kirsch, and the whipped cream keeps it light and fluffy. The sour cherries offset the sweetness of the chocolate cake. The Kirsch was strongest on the day that we made it, but it toned down quite a bit after a few days. The Kirsch can also be substituted with more cherry juice if you prefer to keep it alcohol free.
I made the recipe with sour cherries, but I think that next time I’d like to try maraschino cherries to satisfy my sweet tooth. I might even use sour cherries with maraschino cherry juice, or vice versa. You can also use real cherries if they’re in season. The possibilities are endless.
Black Forest Cake
- 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- ⅔ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup hot water
Cherries & Cherry Syrup
- 1 cup canned sour or maraschino cherries, drained
- ½ cup cherry juice from canned cherries
- ¼ cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur) or extra cherry juice
Whipped Cream Frosting
- 3 cups heavy cream, cold
- ½ cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1 ½ cups whipped cream frosting
- 2 bars Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate premium baking bar, or other preferred chocolate
- Fresh whole cherries or canned cherries
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans. Dust pans with cocoa powder, then tap to remove the excess.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, vanilla, buttermilk, and hot water, and whisk until smooth. Add wet mixture to dry mixture, and mix until just smooth but don’t overbeat. Pour batter evenly into cakes pans.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes or more then remove from pans. Once removed from pans, let cakes cool further on a wire rack or in the refrigerator. Once completely cooled, cut the cake layers in half with a cake cutting wire.
- Pour the cherries and cherry juice in a bowl. Add the Kirsch. Soak the cherries in this "cherry syrup" at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Drain cherries, separating the cherries from the cherry syrup.
- Make the whipped cream frosting by beating cold heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.
- To assemble, layer the following: cake layer, one third of the cherry syrup, 1 cup whipped cream frosting, one third of the cherries. Repeat twice more with the remaining layers. Top with the last cake layer, but do not soak the top with syrup. Frost the top and sides of the cake with whipped cream. You can also pipe frosting on the top of the cake using a pastry bag and flower tip. Top with fresh whole cherries or canned cherries. Shave chocolate, then cover the sides and top with chocolate shavings. Store in the fridge, covered, for up to 1 week.