Black Forest Cake

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The other day, I decided to make a cake.

I had just purchased a bag of cherries, darkly red and seductive, and as I didn’t want to make a pie, cake seemed like the solution.

Black Forest Cake is a sweet salute to summer.

Cake doesn’t happen in our house often, because frankly, I don’t want to eat the cake.

No, that’s wrong. I do want to eat the cake. That’s where the problem lies. Or rather, where the other problems hide themselves. Between layers of frosting. Creamed into the sugar.

I like making layer cakes because it is methodical, more than other forms of cooking. Add, mix, stir, fold, pour, bake. Cool, level, fill, frost. Moving through these tasks, I can think about only the cake if I want. How I envision the final product. Where to take the photos. Or I can lose myself as I watch the mixer whirr.

Before I had a food blog, I had a LiveJournal where I would tip the contents of my brain every day, for better or worse. It was group therapy.

On a food blog one typically doesn’t engage in group therapy. You’re here for the cake (and I don’t blame you if you skip down). The stories that make me who I am, that I find myself sinking into as I whisk together flour and baking powder, are also the stories I can’t tell here. While they are mine, they’re also the stories of the rest of my family, and they didn’t sign up for my public musings.

And so, sometimes I make cakes. I bake them and let the layers cool in their pans, and I slice off the tops to eat while no one else is home. I whip frosting and think about the constant push-and-pull emotions I put out, which shut me in as much as I want to get out. I work out my frustration by smashing cherries as they simmer with sugar.

Black Forest Cake is made with whole sweet cherries and black cocoa.

Once the layers are placed on top of each other and frosting is smoothed on, I think about being an introvert and pretending not to be. Fake it ‘till ya make it. Always, always smile. Because ladies are supposed to smile, right? We’re bitches if we don’t.

I squat down to get on level with the cake and eye it for finishing touches while thinking about my sons, wondering if I yell too much (maybe) or snipe at my husband too much (yes) or not listen to their concerns enough (probably). Wondering if I didn’t learn from past mistakes.

After the cake is finished, I dig through the remaining cherries for the most photogenic ones, so I can take photos for you. Snap. Snap. Move the tripod, adjust the reflector. Snap. Cut a slice, take more photos.

Black Forest Cake - Making black forest cake in the face of anxiety.

I eat that piece, thinking about the future. If all I can do sometimes is make cake.

After dinner, I set the cake in front of the shining, happy eyes of my family. They eat it happily, though of course my older son questions the cherries and my younger doesn’t quite understand what he’s eating. To them, I hope it is always just cake. The product of my love, not my fears.

A few notes about this cake:

  • The recipe calls for whole sweet cherries. If you prefer to not use fresh cherries, you can swap in cherry pie filling; you’ll need about 16 ounces/2 cups.
  • I like to use Clear Jel rather than cornstarch for the thickening agent in the cherry sauce as I feel it whisks in better, but use what you have on hand.
  • You can use kirsch rather than amaretto for the filling, or even a dark rum if you like. If you prefer to not use alcohol, just use 1 teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.
  • Instead of black cocoa mixed with regular cocoa, you can use bittersweet cocoa for the whole thing (such as Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa).
  • Use parchment rounds on the bottom of your cake pans so they release without sticking.
  • After removing from cake pans, wrap them tightly in foil and pop them into the freezer until ready to fill and frost. This will help keep the cake moist, as well as prevent crumbs from getting into the frosting.
  • Whipped cream frosting is the bomb, and I might start doing all my cakes with it.
Black Forest Cake with whipped frosting.

More cake recipes you might like:

Black Forest Cake pic on Stetted

Black Forest Cake

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Chocolate and cherries are the perfect pair in this Black Forest Cake, featuring a whipped cream frosting.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening or 8 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or chocolate extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons black cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk

For the cherries

  • 2 cups pitted cherries
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Clear Jel or cornstarch

For the frosting

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment rounds, if you have them.
  2. In a large bowl, beat shortening/butter and sugar until fluffy, then mix in eggs and extract.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powders, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. Mix dry ingredients into the sugar mixture in batches, alternating with the milk.
  5. Pour into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, until cake pulls away from the edges of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes before removing to a rack or wrapping tightly in plastic wrap and freezing.
  6. While the cakes are baking, make the filling. Mix together cherries, amaretto, sugar, and Clear Jel/cornstarch in a saucepan set over medium heat. Stir and cook until the sugar has dissolved and the cherries are breaking down (help them along with your spatula), and it resembles pie filling or jam, about 10 minutes. Cool in the refrigerator.
  7. When ready to assemble the cake, whip the cream and slowly add the powdered sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form.
  8. To assemble, place the bottom layer on a stand/plate and spread on about 3/4 of the cherry filling. Top with enough of the whipped cream frosting to cover, using a spatula to spread it to the edges.
  9. Add the second layer of cake, and spread the remaining frosting over the cake. Pour the remaining cherry filling on the top of the cake, and garnish as desired.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 573Total Fat: 33gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 119mgSodium: 197mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 2gSugar: 47gProtein: 6g

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25 Comments

  1. First, I have to say (because this is a food blog!) that these photos are stunning. Especially the cake sliced and laying down 🙂
    Second, I’m not so sure about faking it until you make it. Do you want to make it somewhere that you had to be fake to get there? How are you going to maintain it if you faked it up until then? Anyway, you know I love your guts and want the best for you. And I also want cake. Fine, I’m just here for the cake 😉

    xo
    Tina

    1. @DessertForTwo, It is a funny phrase isn’t it? Maybe the point is that by the time you’ve “made” it, you’re now comfortable in that scenario that it has become who you are. Though I do think if I stopped faking it and wrote about my depression/anxiety more often, my blog would shed readers like a dog in summertime. 😉

  2. I absolutely positively appreciate the realness in this post. We can’t all be shiny happy people all the time, and I think part of the appeal of reading blogs versus “other websites” is that they are written by real people with real souls and real personalities. Cherry smashing therapy is something I can get behind! Thank you for a refreshingly human post.

    1. @Carole, Thank you so much! I always worry about posting things like this (I even sent it to a friend for assurances beforehand) but I ultimately always feel good after doing so. Fruit smashing therapy is why I make jam so often!

  3. You know, because we’ve talked about it, how much I’m *not* cooking lately, and I think it directly relates to my stress level. I need to go knead some bread into submission, I think I’d feel a lot better about life. I totally agree with Carole. The realness, the honesty, the humanity of this post – makes it beautiful.

    1. @Amber, I think forcing myself back into the kitchen really helped with “recovering” from having the baby. Granted, I’m a ball of stress and anxiety no matter what, but keeping creating things helps tamp it down.

  4. This is a beautiful post, and I hope it felt cathartic to write. Personally, many of my favorite food blogs are the ones that are about more than just the cake, so I would love if you shared the realness of your life more often. Anxiety and depression is a constant struggle for me as well, and it can be so refreshing to read that others are struggling with the same stuff instead of seeing post after post of perfect props/food/clothes/etc. So please, share more like this if you feel up to it, but if not, I’ll settle for just the cake because it looks damn good.

    1. @Nicole, Thanks! I always struggle with deciding how much “realness” to share, but ultimately I feel sharing that personal stuff is why I got into blogging in the first place. One can only talk about how great cake is so many times, right?

  5. My take on this is creating food is therapy, and therapy is an act of self-love, so smash away your cares… even if just for the moment. Remember that this moment is the only one you’ve got, so give it your all!
    Please pass the cake now, because as we both know… life’s too short not to have a slice 😉

    1. @Becca, You know it! And I must say, I have felt so good since putting this post out. My only regret is not having any cake left!

  6. I’m visiting from Creative Clementine and I’m so glad I’m here. A beautiful post, not because of the cake, but because of the sentiment. I hope sharing even just a little helps.

    1. @Marybeth, Thank you so much. I do think it helped just to post it, and everyone’s kind words helped even more.

  7. I have been making a Black Forest Cake with whipped cream icing for nearly 40 years! My recipe for the chocolate cake came out of a newspaper that long ago – it is positively the simplest from “scratch” chocolate cake recipe ever – and it is eggless. My family loves and prefers REAL home whipped cream icing (NO cool whip or canned whipped cream) – it’s not so heavy & sickeningly sweet as other icings. After I frost my cake I pop the whole thing in the freezer for approx half hr so frosting sets.

    1. @Mary, I haven’t tried making layer cake without eggs, but now I’m interested in trying it! I love the simplicity and lightness of the whipped cream frosting. I didn’t put mine in the freezer (I have a drawer freezer) but it was perfect after being in the refrigerator for a bit. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Nice story.. you’ve been blessed for having a takented cooking/baking ability.. i wish i also had too! im starting loving baking when i first try to baked chocolate brownies cake, my friends, family especial my kids loved my first time baked cake, so i decided to bake more.. now i can say its addiction! this coming sunday, july 27 is my bday.. i just want to try this black forest chocolate cake of yours, my no.1 fave cake! i really love chocolates! i wish i can find all the ingredients.. wish me luck! thanks fir sharing this recipe..

  9. Hi!
    I completely relate to your sentiments..
    Women are women’s best friend..
    So bring it on.. We r all with u to share n cheer each other.

    Want to try your cake.but couldn’t understand..
    Wanted to know what’s 8T unsalted butter in the ingredients list?

    Thanks

  10. I just made this for my son’s German class party and it was a huge hit! Delicious and easy to make from scratch. I used frozen cherries and followed the same instructions and it was awesome.

    Thank you for posting!!

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