Recipe from Coffee and Cake by Rick Rodgers (William Morrow Cookbooks, 2010)Makes 8 servings
There used to be countless German cafés and bakeries in New York City's Yorkville district of the Upper East Side. Black Forest cake, a rococo chocolate and whipped cream extravaganza featuring cherries and a heady dose of kirsch, was proudly served at every one of these places. As the European immigrant population has dwindled, so has the frequency of Black Forest cake sightings. Here it is, restored to glory. It is a long recipe, not particularly difficult, and worth every bit of effort. If you can find them, use sour cherries instead of sweet for the true European flavor. I recommend canned cherries here, as I have never had a Black Forest cake made with fresh cherries, and fresh sour cherries have a limited availability during their short season.Chocolate Génoise
- Softened unsalted butter for the pan
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for the pan
- ¼ cup Dutch-processed or natural cocoa powder
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons whole milk
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- One 14.5-ounce can tart, sour, or sweet
- cherries in juice, well drained, juices reserved
- 2½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Kirsch Syrup
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup kirsch (see Note)
One 4- to 5-ounce chunk of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
- 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
- 2½ cups heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Lightly butter the inside of an 8 x 3-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a round of wax paper. Dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess.
2. To make the génoise, bring a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water to a brisk simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer. Whisk the sugar and eggs together in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing mixer. Place over the simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water) and whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the egg mixture is hot (dip in your finger), about 2 minutes. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until the mixture has tripled in volume and is very pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. (You can use a large heatproof bowl and a hand mixer to prepare the egg mixture, but allow at least 5 minutes of beating.)
3. Meanwhile, sift the flour, cocoa, and salt together and set aside. Heat the milk and oil together in a small saucepan or in a microwave oven until steaming. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the vanilla, and set aside.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer. In thirds, sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in with a large balloon whisk or a rubber spatula. Transfer about one-fourth of the batter to the milk mixture in the bowl and whisk together to combine. Return this mixture to the batter and fold it in. Pour into the pan and smooth the top.
5. Bake until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center with your fingers 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire cake rack for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake. Invert the cake onto the rack and remove the pan bottom and wax paper. Turn right side up and let cool completely.
6. To make the filling, set aside 8 of the drained cherries for garnish. You should have about 1 1/3 cups cherries. Measure the juice; you should have 2/3 cup; add water if needed. Pour the juice into a small saucepan. Add the cornstarch and stir to dissolve. Stir in the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the cherries. Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
7. To make the kirsch syrup, combine the sugar and ½ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. Stir in the kirsch.
8. To make the whipped cream, sprinkle the gelatin over 3 tablespoons cold water in a ramekin or custard cup. Let stand until the gelatin soaks up the water, about 5 minutes. Bring about
¼ inch of water to a simmer in a skillet over medium heat. Place the ramekin in the skillet and turn off the heat. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove the ramekin from the water. Add 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream to the dissolved gelatin and stir. (The gelatin will stabilize the whipped cream and keep it from weeping before serving.)
9. Combine the remaining cream, the cream-gelatin mixture, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla in a chilled medium bowl. Whip the cream with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff.
10. Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake horizontally into three equal layers. Place the top layer (with the "skin"), cut side up, on an 8-inch cardboard cake round. Brush about 1/3 cup of the kirsch syrup over the cake layer. Spread with about ¾ cup of the whipped cream, making a 1-inch-wide border around the perimeter of the layer that is slightly higher than the cream in the center. Spread half of the cherry filling in the center of the cream layer, letting the cream border contain the filling. Repeat with another cake layer, syrup, cream, and the remaining filling. Top with the final cake layer and brush with the remaining syrup.
11. Spread the top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of the whipped cream, just enough to mask the cake and its crumbs. Refrigerate the cake (but not the bowl of cream) until the cream is set, about 10 minutes.
12. Transfer 1 cup of the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch star tip, such as Ateco #825, and set aside. Spread the top and then the sides of the cake with the remaining cream. Pipe 8 equally spaced rosettes around the top perimeter of the cake and insert one ofthe reserved cherries in each rosette.
13. Heat the chocolate in a microwave oven on medium power for 20 seconds. The exterior of the chocolate should be very slightly softened-it will be hardly perceivable. Working over a piece of wax or parchment paper, using a vegetable peeler and firm pressure, shave chocolate curls from the flat side of the chocolate chunk. You will only need about half of the chocolate. Scatter the chocolate curls from the wax paper over the top of the cake. (Do not touch the curls with your fingers or the curls will melt.)
14. Refrigerate the remaining chocolate to firm it, about 15 minutes. Grate the chocolate on the large holes of a box grater into a small bowl. With one hand, hold the cake over a baking sheet, tilting the cake slightly. With a large metal spoon in your other hand, scoop up the grated chocolate and scatter it over the sides of the cake. (Do not touch the chocolate with your fingers or it will melt.) Save any grated chocolate that doesn't adhere for another use.
15. Refrigerate until the cream is set, at least 1 hour or overnight. Slice with a sharp, thin-bladed knife and serve chilled.
Note: Kirsch (also called kirschwasser) is a clear cherry eau-de-vie with a bracing, if not very cherrylike, flavor. It was originally made from morello cherries, a type of sour cherry grown in the Black Forest region of Germany, but now other varieties are also used. (And now you know how Black Forest cake got its name!) Top-notch kirsch is always expensive because almost 30 pounds of cherries are distilled to make each liter of liquor, before a long aging period. Pass over inexpensive, artificially flavored kirsch and get a bottle of the real thing, as it keeps for years