My version of Black Forest cake is quite different, compared to many gluten free adaptations of this popular German cake. Chocolate sponge in this cake is soft, moist and has a deep dark chocolate taste, but is it made from unusual list of ingredients, without chocolate, butter or any other added fats. Sour cherries layer is made from frozen sour cherries, cooked with only half quantity of sugar, usually used for cherry jams. For the cream layers I used my rich vanilla cream, made as a mixture of thick pastry cream and whipped cream with the addition of leaf gelatine. I bake chocolate sponge layers in my new, unusual in shape, spingform pan, but sponge layers can be baked in regular round pans, as well. And finally, for cake decoration I used fresh cherries, ground sponge crumbs, and new for me chocrocks, instead of chocolate shavings.
I made this cake for our Christmas lunch this year. For every chocoholic this cake is the answer to their cravings. Intense dark and bitter chocolate taste is balanced with silky vanilla cream gentle sweetness with Calvados flavour, complimented with tart and juicy whole sour cherries. It was perfect for my husband, who adores dark chocolate. For my taste it was a touch too bitter, and needed some extra whipped cream to be served with.
With vanilla cream, soft, but dense enough to keep its texture, the cake was very easy to cut. The cream was not squeezed out from the cake, as it often happens with whipped cream in sponge layered cakes.
Ingredients are given for one individual layer, each layer is baked separately. It is possible to prepare the batter for 3 layers and bake them in a thin layer on a large flat cookie tray and then cut the sponge in 3 pieces. I had 4 sponge layers in my cake, just because I wanted to be sure that I will have enough off-cuts from the sponge to make crumbs for cake sides decoration.
- 1 large egg
- 100g pure apple puree (I used blended commercial apple pie filling)
- 50g sugar
- 20g cocoa powder
- 60g almond meal
- 3g baking powder (1/2 tea spoon)
When using raw cocoa powder you can use either baking soda or baking powder, with Dutch cocoa powder, darker in colour, only baking powder will work as a raising agent.
- 500g frozen sour cherries (I got them from our greengrocer), alternatively you can use canned Morello Cherries in liquid with 14% sugar, not in syrup
- 200g sugar for frozen cherries
- for canned Morello cherries use 100ml liquid and 50g sugar
Tart cherries from frozen sour cherries.
Canned Morello cherries cooked until practically no liquid is left.
Quantities of ingredients below are for a cake with 3 sponge layers, I made double portion, which was used to make 4 layers cake and to fill vanilla cream horns.
- 2 egg yolks
- 100ml milk
- 50g sugar
- 50ml milk extra for corn starch
- 20g corn starch
- 5ml alcohol of your choice, I used French apple brandy Calvados
- 300g whipping cream 35% fat
- 15-20g icing sugar
- 5g vanilla sugar
- tea spoon of vanilla paste
- 2 leaves of gold grade gelatine
- I used my own apricot jam, with low sugar content, any tart and smooth jam will do
- double baked chocolate sponge cut-offs, ground into crumbs
- fresh cherries
- dark chocolate chocrocks
Sour cherries can be prepared well in advance, vanilla cream have to be prepared the day before cake assembly.
- place frozen sour cherries in a sauce pan
- add sugar
- the sugar will dissolve while cherries defrost
- cook on medium heat until boiling point and 10 minutes after that
- let the cherries cool
- repeat the process and cook cherries until very little thick syrup is left (I was left with 50 ml of sour cherry syrup)
- to prepare sour cherries layer I cut baking paper to the size of the cake and placed cherries to make this layer, covered it with baking paper and kept refrigerated for several days
- prepare vanilla cream as described here
- refrigerate cream overnight
- chocolate sponge preparation with step by step photos can be found here
- bake 3 individual chocolate sponge layers
- let them cool on baking paper
- carefully turn them over to another sheet of baking paper
- bake one layer on a flat tray, larger in size, after cooling down cut to the size of the cake
- place cut-offs on a tray and bake 15 minutes in 150C oven, they have to be completely dry
- blend or grind dried cut-offs into medium size crumbs
Examples of round chocolate sponge layers bake for other cakes are shown below.
- prepare working surface, line it baking paper
- apply apricot jam in a thin layer to the base sponge layer
- spread the jam evenly with a brush
- transfer sour cherry layer, alternatively apply thick layer of sour cherry paste or jam
- loosen set vanilla cream with a whisk
- apply thin layer of the cream over sour cherries
- assemble the rest of sponge layers, use vanilla cream generously between chocolate sponge layers
- make sure vanilla cream is spread nicely on the top of the cake
- use crumbs for cake edges
- use chocolate shavings or chopped chocolate to decorate the top of the cake
- I used chocrocks and left the space in the middle uncovered for fresh cherries
- refrigerate the cake for several hours, or better overnight
- I inserted fresh cherries before the cake was taken to the table
Vanilla cream performed even better than I expected. Christmas day was hot and the cake stood for 4-5 hours at 26C temperature with high humidity, but the cream kept its shape and texture and did not melt. Chocrocks also did not melt into the cream, and even with the high moisture in the house, kept their shape and gloss. The cake kept its taste and texture well when stored refrigerated under the dome of aluminium foil, cake slices in the photos were done with the last pieces of the cake on the New Year eve.
You can make this cake in a more simple way by using thick tart cherry jam and whipped cream, I can only say, that apple puree and cocoa powder sponge, made with almond meal as dry ingredient, is the most essential component in this delicious light cake, made without butter. It is my way of getting an intense and memorable flavour without cake being rich and heavy. The taste and texture only win with these unusual, but simple ingredients.