Black Forest Cake is a wonderfully rich German dessert made with layers of tender, moist chocolate cake, tart yet sweet cherry filling, and fresh whipped cream. This cake is a holiday showstopper or a Sunday supper dessert classic. If you love this cake, make this Cherries Jubilee, German Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Birthday Cake and Chocolate Pound Cake.
Disclosure: I partnered with Land O’Lakes for this recipe post, but all opinions expressed here are my own. I am grateful for authentic partnerships like this.
One of the things I love the most about baking is the places it takes me. I’m not talking about physical travel. I’m talking about the experiences and the rich history that come with a recipe. Recipes are often passed down through families, preserving tradition and celebrating culture.
When I’m not sharing Southern-inspired goods, I’m exploring recipes from all around the world! In doing so, I learn new techniques and discover incredible flavors. Exploration makes me a better baker!
Today, we’re traveling all the way to Germany for a slice of Black Forest Cake. This made-from-scratch German dessert is a visually stunning, mouth-watering treat the whole family is gonna love!
As you serve a slice, I encourage you to share the origin of this cake. And when it’s all said and done, stay curious! Where’s the next recipe gonna take you?
WHAT IS A BLACK FOREST CAKE?
German in origin, Black Forest Cake (or Black Forest Gateau) is a chocolate cake layered with a rich cherry filling and fresh whipped cream. The dessert is named after a specialty liquor known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch (wasser) of the Black Forest mountain range in Southwestern Germany. The liquor is used in the recipe to impart a distinct sorta-sweet-sorta-sour flavor.
BLACK FOREST CAKE INGREDIENTS
Most of the ingredients in this recipe are pantry-staple items, but there are a few fundamental details that we should discuss before baking:
LAND O LAKES® BUTTER– Made with sweet cream, Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter guarantees the sweet cream flavor we love while still giving you the flavor control you need!
I have been exclusively using this butter for years! Seriously y’all, nothing beats smooth, lush Land O Lakes® Butter. You can use the half-sticks, which I used here, or the full sticks. Either will work fine in this recipe.
ALL-PURPOSE FLOUR- In any cake, flour is the most important ingredient; it creates structure and determines texture. Investing in an unbleached, high-quality flour can make all the difference. When measuring, take your time! Use the spoon and level method, or weigh the flour to ensure that the measurement is as exact as possible. Sift the flour for an extra-tender, lump-free batter.
BUTTERMILK- The acidity in buttermilk is what makes this cake so incredibly moist. I’d recommend using a full-fat variety for the best results.
VANILLA EXTRACT- This is one ingredient I always splurge on! Pure vanilla is more concentrated and fragrant. Vanilla bean paste is also a great option.
COCOA POWDER- The key to a delicious Black Forest Cake is the cocoa powder. This cake relies on cocoa powder to create a deeply rich chocolate flavor. I would suggest using a powder that dissolves easily into liquid, as it makes for a cake darker in color and mellow in flavor. Dutch-processed cocoa works best!
INSTANT COFFEE- A lot of folks are turned off by the idea of including coffee in a cake recipe; they assume its flavor will come through. But, as someone who doesn’t love coffee, I can tell you there’s nothing to be worried about! Instant coffee enhances flavor, making chocolate even “chocolatier.”
CHERRY LIQUEUR- Sweet and rich like cherry jam, with hints of wood and almond, this liqueur is this recipe’s star ingredient. If you don’t have any on hand, pomegranate liqueur, maraschino liqueur, or brandy will work.
CHERRIES- Traditionally, Black Forest Cake is not only filled with cherries, but it’s also topped with fresh ones as well. Cherries are sweet, woody, rose-like, and lemony; their bright, rich flavor uplifts the cake and pairs with the chocolate perfectly.
HOW TO MAKE A BLACK FOREST CAKE
I won’t lie to ya, this cake is a bit labor-intensive. Patience, preparation, and concentration are essential. But, before you get overwhelmed, let’s just break things down and make it a little simpler:
STEP 1: BAKE THE CAKE LAYERS
Super moist, light, and full of chocolate flavor, these layers are the perfect contrast to the tart, indulgent cherry filling. The best part? It truly comes together super-fast and effortlessly, but it tastes like you took all day to create the batter.
STEP 2: MAKE THE CHERRY FILLING
The sugar, cornstarch, cherries, and liqueur are gently cooked over the stovetop to soften up the cherries and release their juices. The cornstarch slowly thickens the mixture, while the sugar develops a delicious syrup. Be sure to allow the mixture to completely cool before spreading it over the cream.
STEP 3: WHIP THE CREAM
Once the layers have been baked, and the cherry filling has been made, it’s time to make whipped cream. You’ll want the cream to be as stable as possible, so be sure to whip until stiff peaks form. Keep chilled until ready to use.
STEP 4: ASSEMBLE
To build the cake, put your first (room temperature) layer on a serving plate or cake stand. Spread about 1 cup of the whipped cream over the top of the layer, then spoon on ⅓ of the cherry filling. Repeat with the remaining layers, making sure to be gentle.
STEP 5: GARNISH AND SERVE
This is the fun part, so enjoy it! Frost the outside of the cake with the remaining cream, then garnish with chocolate ganache, whole cherries, and shaved chocolate. I’d recommend refrigerating the cake for about an hour before serving. Once the cake is set, slice and serve!
Black Forest cake should be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container. If properly stored, this cake will keep for up to 3 days.
Do not let this cake sit out at room temperature for longer than an hour. The whipped topping will quickly begin to melt and/or spoil.
GRANDBABY CAKES BEST LAYER CAKE RECIPES
You can’t visit Grandbaby Cakes and not delve into a few more cake recipes! Carve out some time this weekend and get to baking a layer cake, will ya?
Black Forest Cake
For the Chocolate Cake
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp instant coffee powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup Land O Lakes® Unsalted Butter melted
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
For the Cherries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 cup cherry liqueur
- 3 1/4 cups pitted and quartered cherries
For the Whipped Cream
- 3 cups Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream cold
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Ganache
- 1/2 cu Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate
For the Chocolate Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray 3, 9-inch round pans with non-stick baking spray.
- Add eggs and sugar to bowl of your stand mixer and beat on high speed for 2-3 minutes.
- While mixture beats, add cocoa powder, instant coffee powder, and salt to hot water. Add to eggs and sugar.
- Next slow down mixer and add flour, baking soda, and baking powder then add butter, oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract to the mixer and beat until just combined. Batter will be sort of thin but this is normal.
- Evenly add cake batter to all three pans and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow to rest for 10 minutes before removing from the pans to cool completely.
For the Cherries
- Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and liqueur in a medium pan over medium heat until combined. Heat until the sugar begins to melt.
- Next add cherries and coat with wet sugar. Continue cooking until the cherries begin to release juices and soften.
- Remove from heat then using a brush, take some of the warm cherry juice and brush over the tops of the cake layers as they cool, allowing it to soak in.
- After brushing, allow the rest of the cherries and juice to thicken and cool to room temperature.
For the Whipped Cream
- In a cold bowl using a cold whisk, whip heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed until medium peaks, then add powdered sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks.
For the Ganache- if desired
- Find the recipe HERE.
- Once cakes are completely cooled (must be room temperature with no warmth still), place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate.
- Top with approximately 1 cup whipped cream and spread evenly. You can now pipe a dam around the outside of the layer and then top with ⅓ of the cherries and juice and gently press them into the whipped cream.
- Repeat with remaining layers and if desired, frost the outside of the cake. If desired, garnish with whole cherries and chocolate ganache and enjoy.