Gluten Free Black Forest Cake

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.



chocolate sponge

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.

sour cherries

  • 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.



vanilla cream

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


tart jam

  • 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.

sour cherries

  • 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

vanilla cream

  • prepare vanilla cream as described here
  • refrigerate cream overnight

chocolate sponge

  • 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.



cake preparation

  • 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.

10 thoughts on “Gluten Free Black Forest Cake

  1. That really looks like a work of art. Beautiful! You’ve really done so many amazing things with a simple thing like apple purée. Which, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have even thought of using outside of tart fillings. I appreciate all your hard work.

    1. Thank you all fruit and vegetable puree recipes were born out of simple idea from almond and orange cake. From orange puree I jumped to apple puree, and from apple puree to fresh apple. Did not even know all the qualities of apples in baking. Now I use apples, cauliflower, beetroot in baking and cooking every day. This chocolate sponge in so light and moist, and is so easy to make, that I will never go back to anything else.

  2. I highly recommend this recipe for a chocolate sponge layer. I made it yesterday so we could have it today and it passed the « made ahead test » successfully. It was moist, chocolatey, not too sweet, perfect. Thank you Irena 😊

    1. Thank you Joelle,
      Staying moist and practically maintaining the original texture is the surprising quality of baking products based on apple and other fruit puree and almond meal. I remember once, when we had layered cake with this sponge for Christmas, the last serving of the cake we had on New Year Day. I stored it refrigerated, not even completely sealed, but the cake had the same texture with more developed flavour. The sponge can be used with variety of creams or spreads which I have now. It will go nicely with avocado chocolate cream, tahini spread, mango pastry cream, lemon coconut curd. I hope one day to try it with cream based on Swiss meringue. I also use this sponge in desserts with yogurt, fruit sauces and purees.

  3. This is beautiful and will make this cake. Can you tell me where you purchased the oblong springform pan? I would love to bake it into the oblong shape.

    Thanks you.

    1. I purchased this Kaiser oblong springform baking pan in Melbourne, in Lets Cook shop, the one in the city, which is now closed and moved to another location. In my opinion Kaiser (German made) baking pans are the best among springforms. They are the only ones that give absolutely flat bottom without any elevated perimeter. The similar ones can still be bought online in Australia, and probably elsewhere in the world. I am not sure about the oblong shape, haven’t seen it lately. I like it, the cakes make from this shape are easy to cut in convenient slices.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s