A Black Forest (Birthday) Cake

Not too long ago, Royce and I were talking with my mum about food (no kidding eh?) and mum “casually” mentioned that for a time she had really liked black forest cake.
With her birthday only a couple of weeks away, we knew a hint when we heard one (or at least, we figured we did). This year for my mum’s birthday, we made her a black forest cake. I know mum loves anything chocolate, so she’d like this. And I have really fond memories of the grocery store version of this cake that my grandma used to buy for us…So why not?!

Our version of this black forest cake is a little bit different from the grocery store variety I grew up with (good thing or bad thing?), and I’m also quite sure it’s not authentic, but it was delicious. Our approach to this cake was very improvised. We basically listed the flavours/components we associated with a black forest cake, picked some recipes and ingredients based on experience and availability (respectively), and put it all together into something that resembled a birthday cake. In between, we also managed to lose a garnish and get into a small kerfuffle about a slightly misshapen chocolate sponge. (The short version goes something like: me: “Hey, what happened? …Did your students make that??” him: “No…” me: “Oh…umm..” You can fill in the blanks on your own, heh.)
In the end we worked with 3 instead of the 4 layers of cake yielded by the recipe. That worked out fine in the end, and next time we’d scale down 75%. The height seemed just right at 3 layers, and 4 might have been a bit of a stretch for the other components, though we did have some “leftover” bits (perfect for snacking really).

The result: a chocolate cake (based on a German chocolate cake recipe), layered with Bonne Maman cherry jam (found in fridge), dark chocolate ganache, bing cherries, and vanilla chantilly.

Chocolate Sponge:

1/2 cup of boiling water
115g dark chocolate
270g all purpose flour
31g cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
400g sugar
226g unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1. Scale out all ingredients
2. Lightly coat 4 6″ cake pans with softened butter and dust with flour
3. Heat water, pour over chocolate
4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt
5. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat sugar and butter
6. Add egg yolks, one egg at a time, scraping the bowl with a spatula each time
7. Add chocolate mixture
8. Fold in flour mixture and buttermilk in thirds alternating each one
9. Fold in egg whites
10. Divide batter evenly between the pans
11. Bake at 350F for approximiately 30 minutes
12. Cool on wire rack
13. Use a knife to loosen cake from side of pan and invert cake onto wire rack
14. Cool

Vanilla Chantilly:
600g heavy cream
10g vanilla extract
50g icing sugar

1) In a stand mixer, whisk heavy cream and vanilla, gradually adding sifted icing sugar.
2) Whisk until stiff peaks.
Note: this worked OK for us, but if you are worried about the cream (say you know that the cake will be sitting at room temp for a while, or you’re planning something a little more elaborate for the application), you can give it more structure/staying power by adding gelatin.

Dark chocolate ganache:
50g dark chocolate callets (we use Guayaquil from Cacao Barry)
50g heavy cream

1) In a sauce pan, bring heavy cream to a boil, then pour over dark chocolate.
2) Stir until combined (If there are still chunks, microwave mixture for 5 seconds at a time until smooth).

For each of the two bottom layers, we brushed the sponge with a bing cherry syrup (leftover from the cherries, plus sugar to taste) with kirsch, then piped the chantilly around the edge of the cake to serve as a border before spooning in the jam, followed by the ganache. We then piped the chantilly to cover the entire layer before distributing some bing cherries throughout.
Sidenote: Royce and I both agreed that if we were to make this again we would definitely add some more cherries between the layers, so don’t be shy here!

The whole cake was then masked with the chantilly, and in lieu of chocolate shavings (forgotten at a friend’s place after eating way too much hotpot) we finished the sides with a chocolate-drip effect using leftover ganache (slightly diluted with kirsch), and garnished with maraschino cherries.

Et voilà! A Black Forest Birthday Cake!

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