This black forest devil’s food cake features buttery chocolate cake, homemade cherry liquor, and freshly whipped cream. A luscious chocolate glaze drips over the top, creating a stunning presentation and a delicious compliment to all the flavors. My version of black forest cake, uses a buttery chocolate cake instead of the traditional, light genoise sponge. It’s an homage to my childhood in Germany and my current life as a proud American.
My parents moved to Germany when I was just 4 months old. I was born in Tehran but my parents left post-revolution Iran in pursuit of a better life. The next six years of my life were spent in Stuttgart and Hamburg, Germany. What I remember most from my childhood are lovely, austere Christmas traditions and the myriad of German cakes and cookies we enjoyed.
Christmas in Germany was never about material goods. We had a tiny tree adorned simply with a few wooden ornaments and beautifully lit with real candles. The night before Christmas, my brother and I would set out our snow boots. Papa Nicholas would fill our boots with nuts, chocolates, and tiny trinkets while we dreamed. I didn’t even realize that American kids open truckloads of presents on Christmas morning. We were perfectly content with our cozy family time and European treats, which are my weakness to this day.
Black forest cake always topped my list of favorite European treats. Although it’s not a Christmas bake, per se, I make this black forest devil’s food cake for my dad’s December birthday each year. Celebrating Baba Joon the second weekend in December gives us a little taste of old fashioned Christmas, without the distraction of gifts and materialism.
For this recipe, I combined my German upbringing with my American baking knowledge. The cherry filling and lightly sweetened whipped cream are true to traditional black forest cake recipes. However, the genoise sponge (which gets its lift from whipped eggs and sugar) is replaced with a devil’s food cake. This creates a more rich chocolate cake that pairs beautifully with cream and cherries. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as we do and that your Christmas is filled with special moments with or without presents.
1 ½ sticks (12 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
10 ounces Frozen pitted cherries
¼ cup Granulated sugar
¼ cup kirsch (or brandy or bourbon)
1 pint Heavy whipping cream, keep refrigerated until ready to use
6 Tablespoons powdered sugar
4 ounces dark chocolate (I use 72% dark), chopped
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Bake the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line the bottom of one 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray or grease with softened butter, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine the coffee, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment in place.
Beat the butter and sugar together on medium high speed until fully combined and fluffy, 5 minutes.
Periodically scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Crack the eggs into a measuring cup.
With the mixer running on low, add one egg to the bowl at a time. Let the mixer run a few seconds between each addition, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary.
Once the last egg has been added, continue to mix on medium speed for a couple minutes until everything is fully combined.
Stop the mixer, add ⅓ of the flour mixture into the bowl, mix on low speed for a few seconds until starting to combine.
Slowly pour half of the buttermilk mixture into the bowl, mix on low speed for a few seconds until starting to combine.
Continue alternating between the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the addition of dry ingredients.
Continue to mix on low speed until the batter is just combined, scrape down the bowl a couple times during this process.
Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan.
Bake on the center rack until the middle of the cake springs back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Start checking the cake every 5 minutes after 30 minutes of baking since oven temperatures can vary.
Place the baked cake on a wire rack, let it cool at room temperature for an hour.
Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake to release it from the pan, turn the cake out onto a wire cooling rack and let it cool completely for at least another 30 minutes.
Prepare the cherries
While the cake is baking, prepare the cherries.
Combine the cherries, sugar, and kirsch in a small saucepan.
Bring to a bubble over medium heat then reduce the heat to low.
Simmer until the sugar has dissolved and a few of the cherries burst, 10 minutes.
Remove the cherries from the heat and pour cherries and liquid into a glass measuring cup.
Let it sit at room temperature until cooled, about one hour.
When the cake and cherries in kirsch are completely cooled, prepare the whipped cream and begin assembly.
Prepare the whipped cream:
Pour the cold heavy cream into the bowl of a stand mixer. Tip: if your kitchen is warm, place the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the heavy cream. With the whisk attachment in place, whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form, 3-5 minutes on medium high speed. Be careful not to over-whip the cream.
Assemble the cake:
Using a serrated knife, cut the cooled cake in half, creating two equal sized layers.
Place one layer on your cake stand or serving dish, cut side up. Use a pastry brush to dab some of the cherry kirsch into the sponge.
Use an offset spatula to spread ⅓ of the whipped cream over the kirsch soaked sponge. Remove the cherries from the syrup one by one and place the cherries into the whipped cream in a single layer.
Place the other layer of the cake on top of the cherries and whipped cream, cut side down.
Use a pastry brush to dab some more of the cherry kirsch into the sponge.
Spread the remaining whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake, evening the frosting out with an offset spatula.
Place the cake in the refrigerator while you prepare the chocolate glaze.
Prepare the glaze:
Place the chopped chocolate and the butter in a microwave safe bowl.
Microwave on 50% power for 2-3 minutes, stopping every 30 seconds to stir the chocolate.
When the chocolate is almost completely melted, but some unmelted chunks remain, remove from the microwave and stir until the butter and chocolate are fully melted and combined.
Let the glaze cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes so it doesn’t melt the whipped cream.
Spread the glaze, a little at first, over the top of the cake, allowing excess glaze to drip down the sides of the cake for a nice effect.
Chill the cake for at least 30 minutes after adding the glaze.
Cut into slices and enjoy!
This cake is frosted with whipped cream therefore it can only be left out for an hour before needing refrigeration. It’s also best served the day it’s baked because freshly whipped cream doesn’t keep incredibly well for long periods of time. To save time, you can bake and cool the cakes one day. Wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature. Make the filling and whipped cream and assemble the cake the next day.