How to Make an Intensely Chocolatey Black Forest Cake at Home

updated Jun 30, 2020
Easy German Black Forest Cake

A step-by-step recipe for making the best German Black Forest cake.

Serves10 to 12

Prep1 hour

Cook28 minutes to 30 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Finished German Black Forest Cake on cake stand
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

A slice of homemade Black Forest cake is an immensely satisfying dessert — especially for chocolate-lovers. Rich layers of homemade chocolate cake are soaked in a tart cherry syrup that keeps them moist and fudge-like, then covered in whipped cream frosting and finished with a literal cherry on top.

Black Forest cake is also wildly impressive. The vibrant red cherries pop against the bright white frosting, and the decorative dark chocolate shards add dramatic flair. Here, we’re breaking down each step so that you can create the very best Black Forest cake at home.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Why Is It Called Black Forest Cake?

Although the origins of Black Forest cake are a bit fuzzy, many historians believe it originated in the Black Forest region of Germany, a large mountain range on the southwest side of the country. The area is known for producing a cherry brandy called kirschwasser (or simply kirsch), a clear, colorless spirit used in many Black Forest cake recipes.

Some historians also believe that the cake — with its chocolate cake layers, white frosting, and red cherries — was inspired by a costume worn in the Black Forest region comprised of a black dress, a white shirt, and bright red pompoms.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

The Best Cherries for Black Forest Cake

Because you’ll use both the cherries and the syrup they’re packed in, canned cherries, not fresh, are best for Black Forest cake. After the cake layers have cooled, they get soaked in the thickened syrup from the cooked canned cherry filling, which keeps them moist and gives them a pleasantly tart cherry flavor. The cooked cherries themselves are sandwiched between the layers. And although our version doesn’t call for any alcohol in the filling, a splash of cherry liqueur, such as Luxardo, is always welcome.

Opt for any canned cherry packed in light or heavy syrup — dark, tart, or Morello will all work. (Oregon brand is our personal favorite.) Just be sure to avoid using maraschino cherries or pie filling. These varieties of cherries are usually packed in a thick, sugary syrup and will make the cake cloyingly sweet.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell

Making a Black Forest Cake That Keeps for Several Days

Black forest cake is traditionally frosted with whipped cream, which means you have to eat it right away to prevent the frosting from deflating and sliding off. Our recipe stabilizes the whipped cream with cornstarch, which ensures the cake can last for up to three days in the fridge without getting soggy.

To make stabilized whipped cream, combine cornstarch, powdered sugar, and a little bit of the heavy cream in a small pot and cook it until it turns into a thick paste. Remove it from the heat and let it cool. Then, whip the rest of the heavy cream, then whip the cooled mixture into it. Be sure to cool the cakes completely before spreading it on.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Styling: Cyd McDowell
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Here is how to make the best German Black Forest cake.

Easy German Black Forest Cake

A step-by-step recipe for making the best German Black Forest cake.

Prep time 1 hour

Cook time 28 minutes to 30 minutes

Serves 10 to 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 cup

    whole milk

  • 3

    large eggs

  • 1/2 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 3/4 cup

    unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    instant coffee granules

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the filling:

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can or jar

    cherries in heavy or light syrup, stems removed if needed

  • 1/2 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 2 tablespoons

    cornstarch

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

For the chocolate shards:

  • 8 ounces

    semisweet chocolate chips

  • 1 tablespoon

    vegetable oil

For the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup

    powdered sugar

  • 1 tablespoon

    cornstarch

  • 3 cups

    cold heavy cream, divided

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Parchment paper

  • 2

    (9-inch) round cake pans

  • Small saucepan

  • Stand mixer or electric hand mixer

  • Cooling rack

  • Offset spatula

  • Plastic wrap

  • Strainer

  • Rubber Spatula

  • Mixing bowls

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven and prepare the cake pans. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

  2. Make the cake batter. Place 1 cup whole milk, 3 large eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Place 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

  3. Bake the cakes. Evenly divide the batter between the prepared baking pans (about 2 generous cups per pan). Bake until the cakes are slightly domed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached and the edges start to pull away from the pan, 28 to 30 minutes. Place the pans on a wire rack and let cool completely in the pans. Meanwhile, make the filling and chocolate shards.

  4. Make the filling. Drain 1 can cherries through a strainer set over a bowl. Set aside 8 of the cherries for garnish. Place the remaining cherries in a small saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved cherry liquid (discard the remaining liquid but keep the bowl and strainer), 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and gently so as not to break up the cherries, until it comes to a simmer and thickens (light syrup will thicken slightly), 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  5. Strain the filling. Pour the mixture through the reserved strainer into the reserved bowl. Set the cherries and syrup aside to cool to room temperature.

  6. Make a chocolate sheet. Cut an 18 by 13-inch piece of parchment paper. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring between each burst, until melted, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes total. Pour onto the parchment and smooth with an offset spatula into an even, thin layer to the edges of the parchment paper. Starting at a short end, roll the parchment into a tight cylinder. Place on a baking sheet seam-side down and freeze until solid, 10 to 15 minutes. Keep in the freezer until ready to assemble the cake.

  7. Make the stabilizer for the frosting. When the cake is cooled, place 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 3/4 cup of the heavy cream, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it comes to a simmer and is thickened and smooth, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface so that it doesn’t form a skin, and place in the refrigerator until completely cooled, at least 15 minutes.

  8. Make the frosting. Place the remaining 2 1/4 cups cold heavy cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl.) Beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the mixer and add the cooled cornstarch mixture. Beat on medium speed until smooth and stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes more.

  9. Prepare the cakes and start assembling. Run a knife around the edges of the cooled cakes. Remove from cakes from the pans and discard the parchment. Using a serrated knife, trim the rounded tops off of each cake. Drizzle the top of each trimmed cake with 1/4 cup of the cooked cherry syrup and spread it into an even layer with an offset or rubber spatula. Place one cake layer, cut-side down, onto a serving platter or cake stand. Dollop 1 cup of the frosting onto the cake and smooth into a thin, even layer with an offset spatula, going all the way to the edges.

  10. Fill and frost the cake. Evenly distribute the cooked cherries and any of their remaining syrup over the frosting. Top with the remaining cake layer, cut-side down. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

  11. Make the chocolate shards. Remove the rolled-up sheet of chocolate from the freezer and unroll, letting the chocolate break into irregular shards.

  12. Cover the cake with chocolate shards. Cover the sides of the cake with the chocolate shards by taking a handful of the broken chocolate pieces and gently pressing them against the side of the cake (start at the bottom and work your way up) so they stick to the frosting. Any pieces that don’t stick and fall off can be pressed back into the frosting until the sides are completely covered. Garnish the top with the reserved cherries.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The baked cake layers be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated 1 day in advance, or frozen up to 1 month. To thaw, unwrap cakes and let sit out at room temperature until completely thawed in the center, 2 to 3 hours.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers loosely covered in plastic wrap for up to 3 days.