“Put ‘eat chocolate’ at the top of your list of things to do today.That way, at least you will get one thing done.” – Anon.
To My Brother, with Love…
Brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet. – Vietnamese Proverb
I so agree with the saying. As we grew up, we were arch rivals, always pitting with each other and telling on each other, wanting to get the better of each other all the time. But things have changed over time and we now share a strong bond, and we’re very close – the result of the many things that age does to you. It was the kid bro’s B’day on Friday last, and what with having a really big foodie for a bro, I knew I had to make him something really nice. I didn’t reveal anything to him till the D-day, and while he kept pressing me to learn what was brewing, I quietly whipped up the cake 2 days ahead of his B’day, soaked it up in the syrup the day before the d-day, and saved the final icing/decorating for the d-day. When I finally revealed the surprise, it was loved and well-received by the Birthday Boy, and whoever else got to try it.
Black Forest Gateau, the Southern German dessert Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, literally means “Black Forest Cherry Torte”. The cake is named after the mountain range in south-western Germany. The local specialty liquor distilled from tart cherries called Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser, or Schwarzwälder Kirsch, is what gives the cake a special kick, due to the distinctive cherry pit flavor and the alcoholic content. In my case, I used the syrup that came with the tinned cherries, sweetened it a wee bit, and soaked up my cake in it, and we were tipsy alright, just from the food coma, and didn’t need any added liquor in this one!
For the Fat-less Chocolate Sponge:
- All purpose flour/Maida – 1 cup + 1 tbsp (120 gms)
- Cocoa powder – 1/2 cup (30 gms)
- Sugar – 3/4 cup (150 gms)
- Eggs – 5 nos
- Baking powder – 1/2 tsp (2.5 gms)
- Warm water – 1 tbsp (15 ml)
- Vanilla extract – 1 tsp (I used 1 tsp of crushed Vanilla bean)
For the Filling & Frosting:
- Whipping Cream – 2 cups (I used Merry Whip, and since it was slightly sweetened, I didn’t any additional icing sugar to my whipped cream. It made 4 cups whipped cream)
- Canned Cherries – 1 tin (OR) Fresh Maraschino cherries – 2-3 cups
- Cherry Syrup – from 1 tin canned cherries (OR) Home-made sugar syrup by mixing 1 cup powdered sugar in 2 cups water, and chilled.
- Powdered Sugar – 3-4 tbsps (to add to the cherry syrup, since the syrup will be very tart by itself)
- Rum (optional) – 1 tbsp, to be added to the cherry syrup (I didn’t use any, but feel free to dunk some in your syrup, and get all tipsy…hic!)
- Dark Chocolate Bar – 120 gms
Fat-less Chocolate Sponge:
- Preheat oven to 200C/390F. Line and grease a 9 inch round cake tin.
- Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl, and beat together till it forms soft peaks, about 10 minutes.
- Sieve the flour, cocoa and baking powder thrice.
- Fold in the flour mixture little by little into the egg mixture with a rubber spatula, taking care not to lose any volume, at the same time ensuring there are no lumps in the batter.
- Add the 1 tbsp of warm water, and mix lightly.
- Gently pour the batter into the readied tin.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. It took exactly 32 minutes in my oven.
- Remove from oven, and let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before you turn onto the wire-rack. Once you remove the cake from the tin, remove the lining as well, and allow to cool completely.
Assembling, Filling & Frosting:
- Chill the whipping cream for at least 10-12 hours in the refrigerator. Also chill the beater blades and bowl in which you plan to whip the cream, about 2 hours atleast. Stainless steel bowls work best for this. Also make sure you have enough ice in your freezer, to help you survive this mission. If not, go set some ice…NOW!
- While the cream, beater blades and bowl are doing their bit and chilling in the refrigerator, pit and chop half the cherries to make 1 cup of chopped cherries. Set aside.
- Reserve the cherry syrup and rest of the cherries.
- Let the dark chocolate come to room temperature and then grate it. Keep the grated chocolate in the refrigerator till when you need it.
- Once you’re good to go, start by whipping the cream on an ice-bath. Set the chilled bowl over a bigger bowl (which has ice in it) and whip until thick and starts holding peaks, about 5-7 minutes. Once done, set half aside in the refrigerator (for the frosting).
- Next, get down to assembling the gateau. Here’s a trick to get a smooth finished gateau – use the bottom of the cake (that was in contact with the lining) for the top. So this means, the actual top of the cake goes to the bottom of the gateau. If the cake has risen too much in the centre, gently level it with a long, serrated knife and then turn upside down. (That way, you also have some cake crumbs to munch on while you work on the cake 😉 ).
- Now, this is a very important step to get a flat surface on top of the frosted cake. Using some food colour (I chose yellow), dip a toothpick in the food colour and draw a line anywhere on the side of the cake, from top to bottom. This line will act as a reference when you have to assemble the slices, and the cake will sit perfectly in place, and give you a wonderful flat surface on top. Miss this step and you’ve got to be content with a shapeless, wobbly cake once done!
- Gently cut the cake into 3-4 slices horizontally (I cut mine into 3 slices).
- Place the bottom-most slice on a turn-table if you have one. I used a thick piece of cardboard covered with glossy silver paper (like they use in bakeries) for the base. I set this base on a high vessel/pan (whose mouth was narrower than the base was wide) that would rotate easily, and that became my cost-effective turn-table! Much as I would love to own one, who says you have to own an expensive turn-table to decorate your cakes? Make the most of whatever you have at home. Adapt! At the end of the day, it is survival of the fittest!
- Drizzle the cherry syrup (to which you have added 3-4 tbsps of powdered sugar) over the bottom most layer of the cake. Ensure you cover all of the surface area (I feel like a Geometry Teacher now!).
- Now, using a palette knife/offset spatula spread some whipped cream generously over the bottom cake layer (don’t spread the cream too much to the edge since the next layer coming over it will push the cream to sides anyway). The more whipped cream you fill your layers with, the taller your gateau will get. But don’t overdo it, else, you’ll taste only cream in the end. Cream layers about 3/4th-inch thick should work just fine.
- Next, spread half the chopped cherries generously over the cream.
- Now place the second slice of cake over it (remember to match the slices by the yellow line you drew with the food colour), and repeat the syrup>whipped cream>chopped cherries ritual.
- Place the last and final layer of the cake (remember again to match the slices by the yellow line you drew with the food colour), repeat with syrup and a thin layer of whipped cream on top, and finish the sides with a thin layer as well.
- Now sit the cake in the refrigerator for atleast 2-3 hours. Mine was sitting inside for almost a day, and boy did it work wonders for the flavours! Sitting the cake in the refrigerator for as long as you can manage really helps the flavours to mature well (And if you’re worried about your whipped cream going flat by this time, don’t worry, good whipping cream if whipped properly, should stay intact for atleast 3 days. If my word still doesn’t instill the confidence it should in you, then whip 1.5 cups cream for the filling, and whip another 0.5 cup just before you want to complete the frosting).
- Once the cake has sat in the refrigerator for a good amount of time, get it out, finish the top and sides of the cake with more whipped cream. Work with your palette knife/offset spatula and dip the knife/spatula in cold water every 3-4 strokes, to get a smooth finish on top of the cake.
- It’s now time to bring out the grated chocolate from the refrigerator as well. Using your palette knife (or a knife with a wide blade), scoop some grated chocolate onto it, and turn it gently to touch the sides of the cake. Since the second layer of cream is still fresh, the grated chocolate will immediately move from knife to cake. Work gently, else you’ll find that cream moves from cake to knife too!
- Next, use a cake comb if you have one, and make fancy patterns on top of the cake, if you fancy it that is. Else, move onto the next step.
- Finish by decorating the cake with more maraschino cherries and other toppings of choice. I piped swirls with a star nozzle at equal distances, and sat a plump cherry in the centre of each swirl. And then I piped smaller stars in the centre of the cake, and stood some chocolate wafer cigars and a cherry in the centre. Lastly, since I had some more grated chocolate after doing up the sides, I quickly put some in between each plump cherry-seat, and THAT was the icing on the cake (pun intended), and Voila! What you see is what it turned out to be.
Happy Birthday KK! I’m glad I could make you this, and even more glad you loved it. Cheers *glass raised* to the bestest Brother in the World!
All you readers please don’t let the long and detailed procedure scare or deter you from making a Black Forest Gateau at home…the effort is totally worth every bit(e), and when you watch your family widen their eyes from the first signs of food coma, and appreciate you more than they would the famous local baker, remember me!