Monday, January 6, 2014

Black Forest Cake (With Kirsch)



The Black Forest cake originated in Germany. Typically, a Black Forest cake consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with sweetened whipped cream and cherries between each layer. The cake is then decorated with additional whipped cream, cherries, and chocolate shavings. Traditionally, Kirschwasser or Kirsh (a clear cherry-flavored brandy) is added to the cake, although other liquors can also used (such as rum, which is common in Austrian recipes). German statutory interpretation states Kirschwasser as a mandatory ingredient, otherwise the cake is legally not allowed to be marketed as a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Cake). The recipe I'm about to share utilizes the traditional method of making this cake. Be forewarned that this particular recipe I have used is not recommended for consumption by children as it contains alcohol. 

I had my first experience with this cake at the window of a bakery in Nairobi, Kenya. I remember being spellbound by the sight of this perfectly shaped mound of moistness and deliciousness. My love affair with chocolate began at a very early age so it was easy for me to identify immediately that what I was staring at was a chocolate cake. That cake made it home that day, but did not see the light of the next day. And so it was that that was the only cake I'd request every year after that for my birthday. It was moist, had intense chocolate flavor that was only broken up by the occasional sweetness of the cherries in every bite. The whipped cream made the cake so moist, it was like biting into a cloud sprinkled with chocolate fairy dust (at least these are the images that popped up in my head with each bite). And that was the kid-friendly version (sans alcohol). So years later, I encountered the adult version of this cake (the one whose recipe I'm about to share). I never thought I'd say this, but this version tastes even better!!! Here's how you make it...

Serving Size: Feeds 8-10 adults sufficiently.

Ingredients For The Cake:
-2 cups cake flour (see my previous post on how to make cake flour at home if you can't find it at a store near you).
-1 3/4 cups granulated sugar,
-1 1/4 cups milk at room temperature.
-3/4 cup unsweetened, natural cocoa (not Dutch processed).
-3/4 cup melted, browned butter, still warm (not hot). See instructions below on how to make brown butter.
-3 large eggs at room temperature.
-1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
-1 teaspoon salt.
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.
-1 heaped teaspoon of instant espresso powder.
How to make brown butter:

-Turn your stove on medium-low heat and place the butter in a small pan. After some minutes, the butter will start making crackling sounds in the pan and white foam will form over the butter. It will only take a minute or two for the color of the butter to change to a light amber brown. You will smell a sweet nutty smell from the butter and you will notice little dark particles at the bottom of your pan (do not go anywhere when doing this as these changes happens so quickly, your butter could burn!). Remove the butter from the eye of the stove and turn that eye of the stove to "warm". Run the browned butter through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the dark brown particles that will form at the bottom of the pan and return the strained butter to the small pan. Once the temperature of that eye has reduced, place the browned butter back on the eye of the stove and turn the setting to warm (you want the butter to stay warm as it blends easier into the cake batter this way).
Ingredients For The Whipped Cream & Cherry Filling:
-Dark, sweet cherries (You can use about 2 lbs of fresh cherries, pitted (seeds removed) OR 2 12 Oz. Packs of frozen, pitted, dark, sweet cherries OR 2 16 Oz. Cans of  pitted dark cherries).
-About 1/2 cup of Kirsch (cherry-flavored brandy). If you do not want to use alcohol for this recipe, use 1/2 cup of pure cherry juice flavored with 1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract.
-2 cups of heavy whipping cream (double cream), chilled.
-1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar).
-1/3 cup granulated sugar.
-1 12 Oz. bar of good quality semi-sweet chocolate, grated.
-10-12 maraschino cherries, well drained.
-2 squares (2 ounces) of semi-sweet chocolate made into chocolate curls.
-1 tablespoon instant vanilla pudding (to stabilize the whipped cream).
-2 tablespoons of kirsch (for flavoring the whipped cream).

Instructions For Making The Cake:
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celcius).
-Grease and flour 3, 9-inch baking pans. Set aside.
-Into a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (cake flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and espresso powder).
-In a seperate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (milk, melted brown butter, eggs and vanilla).
-With your mixer on low speed, gradually add the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients into the batter. Do not overbeat or that will result in a dry cake.
-Evenly distribute the batter among the three prepared pans (2 measuring cups of batter per pan).. Tap each pan several times on the kitchen counter to release any air bubbles before baking.
-Arrange the three baking pans in a staggered pattern on 2 oven racks so that no pan is directly above another.
-Bake the layers for  18-20 minutes until a toothpick, dry spaghetti stick or cake tester inserted in the center of each cakes comes out with a moist crumb (if the crumb comes out wet and sticky, your cake is not done. Cook it for a few more minutes. If the toothpick comes out bone dry, chances are your cake is overdone. You want a cooked, but moist cake).
-Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes (while still in the pans).
-Use a knife to detach the cakes from the sides of the pans, invert the cakes from the pans and set them on the cooling racks (top side up) to cool completely (about 2 hours. If you assemble the cake while the layers are still warm, the whipped cream filling will melt and turn into a gooey mess).

Instructions For Making The Cake Filling:
-In a medium saucepan, place the cherries, 1/2 cup of kirsch and 1/3 cup of sugar. Simmer for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat.
-Place the cherries on a fine mesh sifter set over a small bowl to collect the juices (natural cheery juices + kirsch). Set aside.
-In a seperate bowl with mixer on medium speed, beat the heavy whipping cream, confectioner's sugar, 2 tablespoons of kirsch and the instant vanilla pudding until stiff peaks form. Keep covered in the refrigerator until ready to use.
-With a fork, prick the tops of each cooled cake; then generously brush the cherry/kirsch liquid that you collected from the drained cherries on the cake layers using a pastry brush, or sprinkle the liquid with a spoon.
-Place one cake layer on a cake platter. Spread one-fourth of the whipped cream mixture over the cake layer. Spread the whipped cream into an even layer using a spatula. Top this layer of whipped cream with half of the drained dark cherries.
-Repeat the above step with the second layer and then top with the third cake layer.
-Frost the sides of the cake with half of the remaining whipped-cream mixture.
-With a spoon or your clean hands, gently press the grated semi-sweet chocolate onto the whipped cream on the sides of the cake (you can put as much as you like).
-Using a piping bag (I fitted my disposable piping bag with a 1M cake decorating tip) or a zip-loc bag with the tip of one corner snipped off, garnish the top of the third cake layer with dollops of remaining the whipped cream mixture; top each dollop with a drained maraschino cherry.
-Using a spoon, pile the chocolate curls in the center of the top layer of cake. Refrigerate this cake until ready to serve.
Tip: This cake is best served the next day as the flavors really get a chance to mingle, resulting in a moist, refreshing, pillowy, delightful slice of goodness! Your taste buds will rejoice. Enjoy!