There are two desserts I could eat every single day: tiramisu and black forest cherry torte. Whenever I find them on a menu, I just can’t resist…and I lick the plate. Every time.
Both are equally intimidating to make at home with ingredients that take some work to seek out (ladyfingers for the former; morello cherries and kirschwasser for the latter).
I spent a semester in college studying in Germany, and that’s where I first discovered both desserts. Every little café throughout Bavaria had Schwarzwaldkirsch Torte (i.e. black forest cherry torte) on the menu. After class, we’d head over to the nearest café and indulge in a cappuccino and a thick slice of this decedent torte. On the weekends, we’d head south with our Eurail passes to explore Italy, stuffing ourselves with pizza and tiramisu along the way. I don’t know how we didn’t gain a bazillion pounds back then…but adapting to the European mode of walking everywhere coupled with frequent hiking in the mountains helped offset all our indulgences.
By the way, the reward for hiking up a mountain in Germany is typically a quaint little chalet perched atop the peak, serving, you guessed it…schwarzwaldkirsch torte.
Back in my college days, I had just begun to take interest in baking, as well as cooking in general. During my semester in Germany, I spent numerous hours in my German host mother’s kitchen learning her recipes and techniques for preparing classic Bavarian dishes, while at the same time introducing her to some of my favorite American picnic recipes, like shrimp pasta salad and layered taco dip.
When I wrapped up my semester in Germany, my German host mother gave me a German cookbook and a glass measuring cup as a parting gift, and we made one last recipe together – black forest cherry torte.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to see that black forest cherry torte was one of the four options to pick from for our July cake club selection. At the same time, I was apprehensive, as this cake is no small task. It consists of many steps – providing ample opportunity for things to go wrong.
The first obstacle was locating morello cherries – a tart, almost sour cherry that’s packed in juice and goes well with the chocolate cake and whipped cream in this recipe. Fortunately, I was able to find them available at Trader Joe’s, which is a German-owned grocery store. Trader Joe’s imports these from Germany, so they are the real deal. If you can’t find morellos, the next best alternative would be canned bing cherries.
Kirschwasser can also be a challenge to find in the U.S. It’s often quite expensive. I used a bottle that I had brought back from my last trip to Germany, and a few tablespoons are all that’s required.
The cake portion of this torte is a chocolate gateau recipe that’s heavy on eggs with less than a cup of flour. The eggs are beaten in a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. Then the flour, cocoa powder, and other ingredients are folded into the batter. I have to admit, this was a clunky, time-consuming process that I would not repeat. In the future, I’d just make a simple chocolate sponge cake and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
The cherry filling for the torte was easy to make and will be something I’ll definitely incorporate into other future dessert recipes. To make the filling, cherry juice is mixed with cornstarch and is brought to a slow boil until it thickens. Then the cherries are carefully folded in to the glossy, thick syrup.
The whipped cream recipe is the standard heavy cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar mixture.
To finish the torte, I poked holes in the two layers and drizzled a few tablespoons of kirschwasser on them which was quickly absorbed. Then, I piped a wide ring of whipped cream around the edge of the first layer and filled the middle with cherries. Next, I added the second layer, frosted the edges, piped a ring of whipped cream on the top and filled the middle with the remaining cherries. I used the remaining whipped cream to decorate the cake, finishing with a sprinkle of chocolate shavings and some stemmed maraschino cherries.
Whew…just writing this all up took a lot of work. So, you can imagine how time-consuming it can be to make the whole torte.
So, how did it taste? Well, I have to say, I thought it was tasty for a first attempt at this highly intimidating recipe, but there are definitely things I would change. Swapping out the gateau for a chocolate sponge would cut down on the time it takes to make this and would most likely make it more comparable to the tortes I recall from my days in Germany. Perhaps it’s just my lack of gateau skills.
My boys were on the fence with this cake. My cherry loving boy is more in the sweet cherry camp. He could eat a jar of maraschino cherries in a flash. My other boy doesn’t care for cherries, but he still tried the cake and seemed to like it. All in all, they’d be fine if their mom just stuck to making good old fashioned chocolate cake with chocolate frosting! But for me, it brought back memories of young and carefree times experiencing the world and proved that I’m ready for my next cake challenge….maybe tiramisu???
If you’d like to see what the other bakers in our cake club made for July, check out their links here.