I’ve adopted a new personal hero by the name of John Hopkins. No, this is not the much acclaimed abolitionist and entrepreneur John Hopkins of Johns Hopkins University , this John Hopkins creates food holidays which he then posts on his site Foodimentary simply because he feels like these foods need to be honored. I’ve fully embraced his word and whim for daily nominated food goods, especially if they’re sugar based, all of which brings me to March 28th.
March 28 is National Black Forest Cake Day, now that you know please plan accordingly for next year. I myself have never had Black Forest Cake, and certainly have never gotten to try authentic German Black Forest cake, “Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte”, however this didn’t stop me from wanting to mimic some of the methods used to make a true Black Forest Cake into something of my own creation.
A little history on the origins of Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, (which literally translates to “Black Forrest cherry torte”); The Black Forrest moniker actually stems from the cherry liqueur named Kirschwasser made in the Black Forest mountain range of Germany. By German law Kirschwasser HAS to be used in order for the cake to be labeled Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, no substitutes allowed! The liqueur is used to soak the chocolate genoise cake used for the traditional recipe, and sometimes the liqueur is incorporated into the cherry filling found in-between the cake layers. And yah, by the way, it’s not really a cake like the typical butter cake often seen in American bakeries but a genoise cake. Genoise cakes are less dense and a bit more light and spongey, making it the PERFECT vessel to absorb cherry liqueur goodness. True Black Forest cake is most commonly layered with the tart cooked cherries and whip cream, and then topped with whip cream and black cherries for decoration. Yum.
So based on the strict requirements dictated by german law to make this cake, I was sort of out of luck. I didn’t have Kirschwasser, sour cherries weren’t in season, I didn’t want to make a Genoise cake, and furthermore I wanted to practice my cake frosting and knew whip cream wasn’t going to play nicely. So what did I do? I made this German cake a little bit Southern. With Bourbon.
The first problem to tackle was the cherries. Luckily I had just listened to the Spilled Milk podcast on sour cherries which tipped me on to Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries. Those babies are FROM Germany and were probably the closest thing to making my cake even a little bit authentic. Next came the liqueur for the cake, or in my case, liquor. While you can get Kirschwasser at your local liquor store, I sprung for the open bottle of Bourbon I had in the kitchen. Bourbon is so smooth and sweet due the caramelization of sugar that occurs in barrel I thought it’d be perfect to soak the cherries in for a filling to my cake.
After soaking the cherries for an hour in the bourbon I decimated around 3 tablespoons to put in a buttercream. I used the remaining cherries for a filling to my layer cake and used the syrup that formulated to lightly soak the chocolate cake I had made.
The cake turned out really delicious, soaking the cake with the with the bourbon cherry syrup gave a little oomph of moisture and the tartness of the cherries with the sweet buttercream frosting paired seamlessly with the subtle chocolaty-ness of the cake.
So, if you’re in a pinch and don’t want to get in trouble with German law by incorrectly labeling your cake “Black Forest” when you don’t have Kirschwasser, then I encourage everyone out there to make their own take on the Black Forrest cake. After all, you really can’t go wrong if chocolate, cherries, and liqueur is involved.