This Black Forest Cake combines rich chocolate cake layers with fresh cherries, cherry liqueur, and a simple whipped cream frosting.
Black Forest Cake was a staple when I was growing up (much to my dismay…read on).
You know, the grocery store kind with the nuclear red maraschino cherries? My mom loooooved that cake and always got it for her birthday, and often at other times throughout the year as well. This was epically disappointing to me.
Why on earth would you ruin a perfectly delicious cake with those sickly sweet, sticky, artificial tasting cherries? Whyyyyy? Needless to say, I ate around them, but they totally tainted the cake and frosting. Sad times.
Now that I think about it, it’s probably been a good 20-25 years since I’ve had that cake.
I’ve talked about my disdain for maraschino cherries before, and that feeling still holds true to this day. I have caved and used them as a garnish because I will admit, they look pretty and just go with certain desserts, but they get plucked right off before eating the cake.
Thing is, I actually love cherries. Real cherries. Fresh cherries. They are one of my favourite summer seasonal fruits. So, I set off to re-create the decades-old Black Forest Cake my way.
I promise you, this is one of the easiest cakes you will make.
It looks fancier than it is, and the chocolate bark was actually dead easy to make. The trickiest part of this cake is making sure you don’t have any lingering cherry pits in your cherries, which totally happened due to a less-than-stellar cherry pitter that broke after about 10 cherries.
Needless to say, it got returned.
So, super easy chocolate cake, a simple whipped cream for frosting, and fresh cherries. That’s really all you need.
In order to keep it traditional, I also made a cherry syrup (using kirsch – cherry liqueur) to brush onto the cake layers.
You can leave this out if you’d like to keep it kid-friendly or use a non-alcoholic cherry syrup.
How to Make Chocolate Bark
The chocolate bark on the side of the cake is much easier to make than it looks. I first saw this on my friend Janette’s Irish Chocolate Cake. She has a video tutorial to show you how to make it, and I basically followed her steps: melt chocolate, spread on parchment, chill, unroll.
The only difference is that I popped mine into the freezer for 20mins instead of the fridge for 30mins because I’m mega impatient.
I actually didn’t think it would work out, to be honest, since it was my first time trying it and all, but it worked great!
I actually thought my pieces were too big/thick and was thisclose to re-melting it and trying it again, but after I placed them on the cake they looked perfect.
You will have to work quickly with this chocolate bark — since the chocolate isn’t tempered, it will melt on contact.
I recommend using food safe latex gloves so that you’re not touching the chocolate directly. It will help a ton. I also popped the chocolate shards back in the fridge/freezer here and there to cool them off — it was a hot day too, so that didn’t help my plight.
At one point I actually had the cake and bark in the fridge and was placing the shards on the cake with the fridge door open (lol).
Desperate times. Is it Fall yet??
I used a vegetable peeler on a block of chocolate to create the chocolate shavings on top, and then used a 1M tip to pipe rosettes out of the whipped cream on top.
Really though, you could skip all the bells and whistles and just do a rustic frosting job with the whipped cream.
If you’re a Black Forest Cake fan, I hope you try this version! And if you’re not, maybe this recipe will convert you.
It is much better than the ones you can get at the grocery store, I promise!
Tips for this Black Forest Cake:
- You can leave the cherry liqueur out (though it is traditional) or use a non-alcoholic version.
- You can use maraschino cherries or use cherry pie filling instead of fresh cherries.
- When making the whipped cream frosting, make sure everything is chilled, as the cream will whip up better. I stick my mixer bowl and whisk in the freezer beforehand to chill them before starting.
- I used this technique from my friend Janette to create the chocolate bark. I recommend wearing food safe latex gloves when handling the bark, as the heat from your hands will melt the chocolate. Work quickly regardless!
- This cake will not keep incredibly long due to the whipped cream. I recommend eating within 1-2 days and storing in the fridge. I do not recommend freezing.
- To help ensure your cake layers bake up nice and flat, see my Flat Top Cakes post.
Black Forest Cake
- 2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder sifted
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 cup hot water or hot coffee
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
Cherry Liqueur Syrup:
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup cherry liqueur
Whipped Cream Frosting:
- 3 cup whipping cream cold
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar sifted
- 250 g good quality dark chocolate chopped
- 2 1/2 cups cherries pitted and cut in half
- 1 bar dark chocolate for shavings (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350F, grease two 8" round baking pans and dust with cocoa powder. Line bottoms with parchment.
- Place all dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir to combine.
- In a medium bowl whisk all wet ingredients (pour hot water in slowly as not to cook the eggs).
- Add wet ingredients to dry and mix on medium for 2-3 mins. Batter will be very thin.
- Pour evenly into prepared pans. I used a kitchen scale to ensure the batter is evenly distributed.
- Bake for 45 mins or until a cake tester comes out mostly clean.
- Cool 10 minutes in the pans then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Cherry Liqueur Syrup:
- Place sugar and water into a small pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 min then remove from heat. Stir in cherry liqueur and allow to cool completely.
Whipped Cream Frosting:
- Whip cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks. Ideally in a cold bowl with a cold whisk.
- Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in 20 second bursts in the microwave.
- Using a large offset spatula, spread melted chocolate in a thin layer on a large sheet of parchment.
- Roll up from the short side of the parchment. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate or freeze until firm.
- Unroll to create chocolate bark.
- Cut each cake layer in half horizontally.
- Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Brush generously with cherry syrup.
- Top with approximately 1 cup whipped cream and spread evenly. Top with approximately 1 cup of cherries and gently press them into the whipped cream. Repeat with remaining layers and frost the outside of the cake.
- Decorate with chocolate bark, chocolate shavings, rosettes, and cherries if desired.
Hi, as I was making the cake portion, I noticed your recipe says to mix it for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Wouldn’t that overmix the batter? I’ve wondered this in other cake recipes I’ve tried (specifically this discrepancy comes up only for chocolate cakes), where they sometimes say to mix for what seems to be too long or caution not to overmix. Is there a particular reason for this? Thanks.
Hi H! That is a great question. 2-3 mins of mixing would be too long for most cakes, but since the batter is so thin with this one there is little risk of developing too much gluten by the longer mixing time. Since it’s so thin you want to mix to make sure everything gets incorporated properly.
I know this blog post is several years old but I just wanted to express my profound gratitude for your highly detailed and easy to understand instructions that are supported by links to other instructional info. I would consider myself a well informed experienced cook, but I am not an experienced baker. So when I decided to undertake the challenge of making a Black Forest cake for my husbands birthday, I started very early. I researched and planned and shopped appropriate equipment that would assist my success for WEEKS. I thought your recipe looked like the best juxtaposition between authenticity, simplicity, and most importantly, yumminess. It didn’t disappoint. The base cake recipe was delicious and moist and everyone loved the fact that the whole thing was not too sweet. I did not use all of the syrup, so that could be partly why. That wasn’t on purpose, I just unintentionally didn’t use enough and ended up with leftover. I followed all of your advice though, right down to how to get a flat top cake, and the chocolate bark. I wish I could upload a photo to my review. My cake did not turn out nearly as beautiful as yours but I am so pleased with it and proud of it nonetheless. I will definitely be looking to you for future baking advice!
I forgot to add that despite my careful planning, I forgot to purchase buttermilk for the base cake. So I subbed a mixture of what I had on hand, 3/4 c. sour cream + 1/4 cup milk, and it worked great.
Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for the wonderful comment! You totally made my week. I’m so happy you love this one as much as I do and found the instructions easy to follow. That’s so important to me. I don’t use all of the syrup either, only to soak the layers a bit – I should probably clarify that in the recipe! So glad you tried the cake strips for baking and the bark too! I would love to see a photo. You can email me at email@example.com. Please let me know what you try baking next! 🙂
So excited to try this! I did wonder, does the cake have to be refrigerated after it’s made due to the whipped frosting or does it do well being room temperature?
Hi Tyra! Yes, definitely refrigerate it. It will probably be fine at room temp for an hour or two though.
I am so excited to make this cake for my boss’s birthday next week! By any chance, would you be opposed to sharing which cherry liqueur you used for the syrup? I’m scared of buying something that is too sweet! I would love to know the brand you used. Thank you so much!
Hi Alessandra! There was only one brand of kirsch (cherry liqueur) in my liquor store. I can’t remember the exact brand but any brand of this you find will work well. Let me know how you like it!
Amanda R says
I want to make this in a loaf pan. Do you know how long it should cook for?
Hi Amanda! I’m not sure, I’ve never made it in a loaf pan myself. Most banana bread type loaves take anywhere from 50-70mins depending on loaf pan size. This is a lighter cake though. You’ll just have to check on it while it’s baking. Start checking at 40-45mins or so. Make sure not to fill the pan more than half full as the batter doubles in size.