There's chocolate cake and then there's Black Forest cake, a variant that takes the joy of baking the dessert to a whole new level. On the surface, it might seem like a simple chocolate cake dressed in icing and cherries but that's either because the baker took it easy on the details or it isn't a true Black Forest cake.

To elaborate, a true Black Forest cake recipe starts with a moist, layered chocolate sponge cake. This cake is then layered with a combination of whipped cream, cherries and cherry liqueur (preferably kirschwasser or "kirsch" for short), and finally garnished with chopped chocolate.

Putting it all together

Putting together every component and detail for a true Black Forest cake is an undertaking that requires a great amount of love and care. However, the recipe has come a long way and many versions are pretty easy to follow these days. Below is such a recipe.

A simpler Black Forest recipe

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot water

Syrup Ingredients:

  • 2 cans (14 oz each) pitted cherries
  • 3/4 cup canned water for cherries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp kirsch

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 3 cups whipped cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp kirsch

Garnish Ingredients:

  • Whipped cream (above) as needed
  • 1 cup chocolate, finely chopped
  • Maraschino cherries as needed

Cake Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 176°C. Pour the water into a kettle or saucepan over low heat to slowly bring it to a boil. Grease the bottoms of 2 round pans (8' each) with butter and cover with parchment discs.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl. Stir together with a fork or a whisk and mix until well incorporated. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs, vegetable oil, milk and vanilla extract together in another bowl until fully combined. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until fully combined. Do not overmix. Whisk in the hot water gradually and fully incorporate to complete the batter.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the round pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cakes.
  5. Remove the round pans from the oven and let cool for 3 minutes. to remove the cakes from the pans Run a sharp knife around the sides of each cake and carefully turn over onto a cake rack to further cool down. Do not remove the parchment from the surface of the cakes until the frosting is ready.

Syrup Directions:

  1. Drain the cherries from the cans but retain 1 cup of the water. Combine the cherries, water, sugar, cornstarch, and kirsch in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir. Keep stirring the mixture until the sugar melts and it forms a thick, juice syrup. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Pass the syrup and cherries through a sieve held over a bowl, pressing down on the cherries to collect the syrup. Seal and refrigerate.

Frosting Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine the whipped cream, powdered sugar, and kirsch with a whisk or electric mixer until it forms soft peaks. Do not over whip the frosting.
  2. Seal and refrigerate.

Assembly Directions:

  1. Remove the parchment paper from the cakes and place one fo them on a rotating cake stand. Remove the chilled syrup and frosting from the refrigerator.
  2. Brush the surface of each cake thoroughly with the syrup.
  3. Place one of the cakes on top of a rotating cake stand on its dry surface. Use a spatula to plight a heaping dollop of the frosting on one side of the syrup laced surface of the cake and rotate the stand to spread it across the rest of the surface. Smooth down the surface evenly. Repeat the entire process with the other cakes until all three cakes are sandwiched together layered and topped with syrup and frosting.
  4. Plight a dollop of frosting on the side of the top cake while keeping it fixed in position. Slowly twirl the cake stand to apply the frosting around the side and smooth evenly. Repeat this technique with the other sides.
  5. Pipe swirls of the remaining frosting around the top of the cake to form a circle. Carefully plant a maraschino cherry on top of each swirl.
  6. Sprinkle half of the chopped chocolate in the center of the swirls and place the remainder around the sides of the cake by clumping portions between your fingers and gently pressing them all over the sides.
  7. Chill the cake in a refrigerator until ready to serve.

Serve: 12 slices