Black Forest Cake: Shortcuts Optional

Black Forest Cake is a classic dessert that’s actually far simpler to make than you might think. Essentially it’s a cake that’s assembled from three major components: chocolate cake, whipped cream and cherry sauce. And while I chose to make mine from scratch, there are some hacks you can do to make it even easier to put together.

Making a cake doesn’t have to be an act of perfection. While I appreciate a precisely engineered and beautifully decorated cake, to be honest, that kind of baking isn’t really all that appealing to me.

The Rustic Charm Approach to a Black Forest Cake

I’m the person often baking a cake later than I had hoped, and never seeming to have enough time to decorate it to the standard of my magazine-inspired aspirations. But I’m okay with that. What I really like to make — and write about — is the kind of food that my family and readers can look at and feel they have a reasonable chance of making too. It’s food that conveys the message that presentation isn’t everything. Rustic charm is the effect I’m usually aiming for.

Start with a Good Recipe

Although I’m a recipe developer, I don’t always want to come up with my own recipe for everything I make. What can I say, it’s a lot of work, people, and it’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel.

I used this Black Forest Cake recipe from Ricardo. (If you’re Canadian you’ll know he needs to use only his first name because he’s a giant on the Canadian food scene, both English and French). I liked that this is a so-called naked cake, because I find it challenging to frost a cake evenly sometimes. And I do like the look of the filling oozing out. I made very few modifications, and here’s what they were:

  • Instead of two 8-inch layers, I made three 6-inch layers, using 1-1/2 layers for this small cake, and reserving the rest for another purpose (see Note)
  • I couldn’t find Morello cherries, so I bought a jar of European sour cherries at the market
  • My jar of sour cherries in light syrup was 720 mL instead of 540 mL so I just turned it all into sauce (using the same amount of cornstarch, it turned out quite thick enough)
  • I didn’t have kirsch, so simply left it out of the cherry sauce (why buy a bottle of spirits for a mere two tablespoons?)
  • I used a two-cup carton of whipping cream instead of three cups, and had more than enough for the cake you see pictured here
  • Fresh cherries were not to be found for the top, so I used some of the sauced cherries instead
  • I made far fewer chocolate curls than the recipe would indicate, shaved off a small bar of delicious dark chocolate with a carrot peeler

Note: Okay, the other purpose for the rest of the cake was to sit on the kitchen floor with a gaggle of little girls eating chocolate cake slathered with leftover whipped cream and, in my case, a good dollop of cherry sauce — the ultimate kitchen picnic! I’ll put the rest of the leftover cherry sauce to similar classy good use.

Alternate Cake Recipe

Had I not found Ricardo’s recipe, I would have used the recipe for my Manly Chocolate Cupcakes, which makes three 6-inch cakes of the perfect thickness (in other words, about half as much cake as Ricardo’s recipe). This is a heavier and more intense chocolate cake than Ricardo’s chocolate genoise. But I absolutely loved making the genoise — there’s something magical about the way six eggs and sugar expand into a cloud of fluff, resulting in a light and airy cake that’s also a delight to eat. I’ll definitely return to that genoise recipe for other purposes!

Black Forest Cake Hacks

I chose to make all three cake components from scratch. If you want to make a quicker and easier version, here are a few suggestions to help you make your own cake instead of picking one up at the bakery. You could use any one of these hacks alone, or in combination, to create your own Black Forest Cake.

  • You could make the cake using a packaged cake mix. Yes, I really just said that. It’s not something that I choose to do, but if that’s what you’d like to do, why not? You’ll still have the wonderful aroma of a cake baking in your oven.
  • Instead of whipping your own cream, you could use cream from an aeresol can. Yes, I’ve used that before. And, it may help you add more decorative flair.
  • I’ve seen Black Forest Cake recipes that call for a canned cherry pie filling. I say if you can find a good quality one that’s not overly sweet, why not give it a try if you’re rushed for time or can’t find jars of sour cherries in light syrup?

It’s the Message that Counts

Remember, baking is about more than performance art and showing off your skills. It’s about making food that pleases the people you care about, and taking a few shortcuts doesn’t detract from that caring message. Frankly, buying a cake at the bakery also shows someone you care.

In the end, what really counts is the message, not the medium (to play on a phrase by another famous Canadian). So, be proud of your Black Forest Cake, no matter how it comes to be on your plate!

A classic Black Forest Cake is easier to make from scratch than you might think! But I share some hacks so you can assemble yours even more easily.

2 comments

  1. Rustic maybe but delicious for sure. Your recipe is much simpler than the one I’ve made which has a layer of chocolate ganache. I’m leaning for rustic next time. 😊

    • While it’s fun to get all fancy sometimes, more and more I’m leaning toward the rustic. I’m also finding the word ‘charming’ glosses over a multitude of imperfections, lol. And let’s face it … food doesn’t have to be perfect, just taste good!

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