Layers of cream, poached cherries and rich dark chocolate make this traditional German Black Forest cake an utterly delicious, indulgent and show-stopping creation. This decadent cake tastes every bit as incredible as it looks and is guaranteed to impress even the toughest of critics. This knock-out classic may look complex, but you can learn to make it with this straightforward recipe.

Black Forest cake on a cake stand.

Thalia Ho

  • 2.8 ounces / 80 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup superfine (caster) sugar
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 pound / 450 grams fresh or frozen pitted cherries, plus extra for decorating
  • 6 tablespoons Kirsch liqueur, optional
  • 10.2 fluid ounces / 300 milliliters heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered (icing) sugar, plus extra for decorating
  • 3.5 ounces / 100 grams dark chocolate, chopped, plus extra for decorating
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Baking is a science, so carefully measure out all of your ingredients beforehand for the best results.

Several bowls, each containing a pre-measured item from the ingredient list.

Thalia Ho

Heat the oven to 335 F / 170 C. Grease and line two 7-inch / 18-centimeter round cake tins and set aside.

Tips

  • Alternatively, you can use a 2-by-7-inch / 18-centimeter cake tin and slice the cake in half before assembly.

Cake pan greased and lined with parchment paper.

Thalia Ho

In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt together the butter and vanilla extract. Set this mixture aside to cool.

Hand stirring butter and vanilla mixture in a hot saucepan.

Thalia Ho

Place the sugar and eggs in a large bowl. With an electric hand mixer, whisk them together on a low speed to just combine.

Electric beaters mixing eggs and sugar in a glass bowl.

Thalia Ho

Set the egg mixture over a pan half-filled with boiling water. Continue to whisk on low speed for 3 minutes, and then increase the speed to medium and whisk the mixture until it is pale and tripled in volume.

Electric beaters mixing ingredients in a glass bowl.

Thalia Ho

Remove the bowl from above the hot water, and continue to whisk until the mixture has cooled to room temperature — about 3 to 4 minutes. The mixture will be thick and leave a ribbon trail when the beaters are lifted out of the bowl.

Spatula testing batter thickness over a glass mixing bowl.

Thalia Ho

Pour the melted butter down the sides of the bowl, and gently fold it in. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and gently fold the batter again until the flour is just incorporated.

Wooden spoon mixing cocoa powder into batter mixture in a glass bowl.

Thalia Ho

Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins, and bake in the oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until the cake rises and springs back when gently pressed in the center. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins before inverting onto a wire rack.

Two cake pans cooling on a rack.

Thalia Ho

While the cakes are cooling, make the poached cherries. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan set over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the Kirsch liqueur and cherries, and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cherries have absorbed some of the syrup and are puffed and tender. Strain the cherries and the syrup into two separate bowls, and set both aside to cool.

A large bowl of cooked cherries next to a small bowl of cherry-liqueur syrup.

Thalia Ho

To make the chocolate ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, bring the cream to a gentle simmer. Pour the hot cream into the bowl with the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute before gently stirring to combine.

Pouring hot cream over chocolate pieces in a glass bowl.

Thalia Ho

For the cream filling, add the cream and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk until the cream begins to just hold its shape.

Electric  beater whisking cream and sugar in a metal mixing bowl.

Thalia Ho

To assemble the cake, place the first cake layer on a plate or stand and brush it generously with cherry syrup.

Single cake layer on stand next to a bowl of cherry syrup and a brush for spreading.

Thalia Ho

Generously spoon 3 tablespoons of the cream on top the first cake layer, leaving a slight border around the edge. Arrange the poached cherries on top of the cream.

Hand placing some extra cherries on top of the cream and cake layer.

Thalia Ho

Add the second cake layer. Brush again with cherry syrup, and then pile on the cream and extra cherries.

Hand placing the second cake layer over the cream and cherry filling.

Thalia Ho

Finish the cake by pouring on the chocolate ganache, adding a generous dusting of powdered sugar and sprinkling with extra shaved chocolate.

Spoon drizzling chocolate ganache over the top of the Black Forest cake.

Thalia Ho

Hand-held strainer shaking powdered sugar over the chocolate ganache on the cake.

Thalia Ho

Hand sprinkling chocolate shavings over the decorated cake.

Thalia Ho

Chill the cake for 1 hour to make it easier to slice, taking it out of the refrigerator 20 minutes before you plan on serving it.

A Black Forest Cake on a cake stand, ready to serve.

Thalia Ho