This recipe is from Felicity Cloake’s ‘perfect’ column. Black Forest Gateau reminds me of childhood birthdays, when my parents used to buy a frozen one every year from the local Cash & Carry. This one tastes a lot better, believe me.
For the pastry layer (if using)
60g plain flour
5g cocoa powder
25g caster sugar
40g butter, softened
2 tsp kirsch
For the sponge
6 large eggs
140g soft light brown sugar
60g cocoa powder
For the filling
700g morello cherries in syrup
3 tbsp kirsch
500ml double cream
50g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
300g morello cherry jam
25g dark chocolate, to decorate
This recipe is supposed to make three layers of sponge. Mine was only big enough for two. I’m not sure if this is down to my technique or because I used a 26cm tin instead of 20cm. I wouldn’t think that would make so much difference but I guess it did!
The pastry layer is there to add a little texture, as this can end up being a bit sloppy due to all the wet ingredients. It helped me too as it added an extra layer as I was already one short from the not so well risen sponge.
If you’re making the pastry layer, sift the flour and cocoa powder into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt. Whisk together, then mix in the remaining ingredients to make a dough. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and grease the base of a 20cm loose-bottomed or springform cake tin. Roll out the pastry to 5mm thick and use to line the base of the tin. Prick all over with a fork, then bake for 15 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the tin and set aside on a wire rack to cool. Grease and line the tin.
Meanwhile, make the sponge. Separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl until they begin to thicken. Sieve over the cocoa powder and a pinch of salt and fold in.
Whisk the whites in a separate clean bowl, until stiff but not dry. Fold a little of these into the yolk mixture to loosen it, then fold in the rest very gently, so you knock as little air out as possible. Carefully spoon into the tin, smooth the top and bake for 35-40 minutes, until puffed up and set on top. Leave to cool in the tin; it will sink slightly, but don’t worry.
Drain the cherries, retaining the syrup. Mix 100ml of it with the kirsch (the rest is pretty good for trifles and cocktails). Cut the cooled cake into three horizontal slices and put on separate plates. Spoon half the syrup over the slices and leave to sink in; you can add more if it is all absorbed, but don’t overload it.
Whip the cream until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla extract. Whisk until voluminous, but not too stiff to spread.
When you’re ready to assemble the cake, set aside 12 cherries, then put the pastry layer on a cake stand or board. Spread with a quarter of the jam, a fifth of the cream and a quarter of the remaining cherries. Put a sponge layer on top (be gentle as you lift it) and repeat the jam, cherry and cream layer. Repeat again with the other two layers, and press down gently.
Use a palette knife to spread the remaining cream on top in big, puffy waves. Grate chocolate curls generously over them, and arrange the remaining cherries around the edge. Chill for an hour before serving.
This may seem like a lot of effort but it’s worth it in the end. If you’re struggling to find morello cherries, you can find jars of them in Lidl. It may look very rich but actually it is light as the sponge is flourless. I was a bit worried about losing air when folding the egg whites in, so there were a few white blobs in my sponge.
I couldn’t find kirsch so used cherry brandy but I wouldn’t recommend it as it was savagely sweet. I did use a little in the base layer but used whisky instead of kirsch in the filling. This worked fine.