Black Forest Layer Cake

Black forest cakes are a tried and true favourite for a reason – especially when cherries are in season and at their most flavoursome. This is another cake using the Milk Bar method of cutting out rounds from a large rectangular sponge cake, ensuring you get perfectly even layers every time.

While I made this into a 2-layer cake this time as it was a gift for a couple in quarantine who didn’t need a giant cake, the recipe actually makes a 3-layer cake.

Ingredients (serves 12-14)
Equipment
9 x 13 inch “quarter sheet pan”*
A 6 inch cake ring*
6 inch wide acetate roll
Sticky tape

Chocolate Ganache
120g dark chocolate melts
90ml cream

Cake
115g butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
3 large eggs
120ml buttermilk
60ml canola oil
2 tablespoons chocolate ganache
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee
130g plain flour
15g cornflour
70g cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder

Cherry Jam
225g fresh or frozen cherries (pitted and chopped finely)
25g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour

Buttercream
115g butter, roughly chopped, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoons full-fat greek yoghurt, room temperature
½-1 tablespoon full-cream milk, room temperature

Cherry Milk Soak
40ml full-cream milk
25ml kirsch (cherry liqueur) or cherry juice

10-12 large fresh cherries, to decorate

Method

Chocolate Ganache
Add the dark chocolate and cream to a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until the chocolate is nearly melted. Remove from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Set aside (at room temperature).

Cake
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Spray the base and sides of a quarter sheet pan with cooking oil and line the base with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a stand mixer, or a large bowl if using a hand mixer, on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat on high until combined.

Add the buttermilk, oil, 2 tablespoons of your pre-prepared chocolate ganache, vanilla and coffee into a small bowl and stir until the coffee has dissolved. Add this chocolate mixture into the the butter mix and beat on high for a few minutes, scraping down the bowl as required.

Sift the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the batter. Beat on low until the mixture has just combined, and then pour the batter into the lined cake tin. Smooth out flat and tap the tray gently against the bench a few times to get out any air bubbles.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  

Cherry Jam
Place the cherries, caster sugar and cornflour into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and continue to stir until thickened.

Buttercream
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1-2 minutes until butter is pale and creamy.

Add vanilla and 1 cup of icing sugar. Beat on a low speed to combine, then turn up to medium and mix for 30 seconds. Add the remaining icing sugar along with the greek yoghurt. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. If too stiff, add milk. If too wet, add extra icing sugar. It should be fluffy and spreadable.

Cherry Milk Soak
Add milk and kirsch to a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Assembling the Cake
Place your cake on a large chopping/bread board. Using the picture below as a guide, use a 6 inch metal cake cutter to cut out 2 rounds of cake and then two half pieces.

Image courtesy of ‘What Charlotte Baked’

Place the 6 inch cake ring onto a plate or cake stand. Line the inside of the cake ring with a ‘collar’ of acetate, taping the edges together to join.

Place the two half pieces of cake at the bottom and press down firmly. If there are any gaps, use extra cake scraps to fill in the holes and press down very firmly to make one even layer. Carefully remove the cake ring (but leave the acetate).

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the milk soak over the cake layer. Allow to soak for about a minute. Spoon approximately one third of the chocolate ganache onto the cake layer, and spread evenly, ensuring the ganache gets right to the edges of the cake. Spoon half of the cherry filling on top of the ganache and spread out evenly to the edges of the cake. Add a few tablespoons of buttercream on top and smooth with a spatula to ensure the layer is (roughly) even.

Repeat this process for the second layer: cake, cherry milk soak, chocolate ganache, the remaining cherry jam and a thick layer of buttercream. If you need to, attach another round of acetate on top of your current cake collar (using tape to join the two collars) to ensure it is tall enough that all cake is supported.

Add the final layer of cake, spoon with the remaining milk soak and then top with the remaining chocolate ganache. Decorate with a ring of cherries and place in the fridge to set for a few hours. While the cake sets, add any remaining buttercream to the cake offcuts and enjoy as a snack!

Remove the cake from the fridge and gently peel away the acetate strip/s just before serving. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from What Charlotte Baked ‘Black Forest Naked Cake’. Buttercream recipe adapted from The Sweetest Menu ‘Milk Bar Birthday Cake’.

*If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan and/or round cutter, you can use two 8 inch/three 6 inch round cake pans

Black Forest Meringues

Cherry season is always too fleeting for my liking, but while it’s here, I try to make the most of it. These black forest meringues showcase the cherries in a light and delicious summer dessert.

Ingredients (makes 6)
50g dark chocolate
2 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
½ cup caster sugar
Cherry Sauce
12 cherries, pitted and quartered
1 dessertspoon white sugar
1 dessertspoon water
1 teaspoon cornflour
Whipped Cream
250ml thickened cream
1 dessertspoon icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Sauce
200g dark chocolate melts
200ml thickened cream
To serve
24 cherries, pitted and halved
6 whole cherries

Preheat oven to 120°C. Line 2 large baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Melt dark chocolate in the microwave or on the stove.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer or electric hand beaters to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar and then the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking until dissolved before adding the next spoonful (test this by rubbing a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger).

Use a dessert spoon to spoon the mixture onto the prepared trays. Shape into 6 even meringues with a slight well in the centre. Spoon melted chocolate onto each meringue and use a skewer to swirl it through the meringue mixture.

Place the meringues into the oven and reduce the temperature to 90°C. Leave the oven on for 1 hour or until the meringues are crisp and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Turn the oven off and allow the meringues to cool gradually in the oven (approximately 2 hours).

While the meringues are in the oven, make the cherry sauce by blitzing the cherries and water in a stick blender until smooth. Add to a small saucepan with the sugar and cornflour and stir constantly until thickened. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Just before you are ready to serve, make the whipped cream and chocolate sauce. To make the whipped cream, blitz the cream, sugar and vanilla with a stick blender until thickened. To make the chocolate sauce, combine the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over a low heat until melted and combined.

To serve, smear the cherry sauce on the plate and place a meringue on top. Top with whipped cream, halved cherries and then drizzle with chocolate sauce. Add a whole cherry on top and enjoy!

Meringue recipe adapted from Taste.com.au ‘Basic Meringues’ and Donna Hay’s ‘No Fail Meringue Mixture’.

Inspiration from Matt Preston’s ‘Individual chewy Black Forest meringues’ in delicious.