I Went on a Days-Long Journey to Recreate the “Crunchy Cake”
Do you ever go down a rabbit hole that takes you down an even deeper rabbit hole? It’s a dark place to be in, but sometimes, it leads to cake.
Unsurprisingly, this story begins with a scroll through TikTok. I usually only watch the first few seconds of every video, but when I heard TikTok user lili.mercado say the words “crunchy cake,” I immediately stopped to learn more. Apparently, I’m not alone. The video has racked up more than 5 million views!
In her video, Lili describes a cake she ate 10 years ago as being “crunchy” and “like a cracker.” Although many viewers thought she had accidentally eaten a display cake made of styrofoam, Lili ultimately reveals that it was a black forest cake from the Swiss Pastry Shop in Fort Worth, Texas.
Here’s where rabbit hole number two begins. When I hear black forest cake, I think of moist chocolate cake soaked in cherry syrup — aka the opposite of crunchy. But after visiting many food blogs — including the Swedish blog Baked by Ammna — I learned that in Sweden, a black forest cake consists of nutty meringue bases layered with whipped cream and topped with chocolate shavings.
Meringue desserts are also popular in Switzerland, according to Swiss Pastry Shop’s owner, Hans Peter Muller. Muller’s recipe comes from his father, who brought it to America from Switzerland in the 1960s. Similar to Ammna’s cake, the “Uncake,” as the bakery refers to it, consists of two crisp almond meringue layers (known as almond dacquoise) sandwiched together with fluffy whipped cream, then covered in chocolate sprinkles and shavings. When sliced, the crisp meringue creates a crunching sound.
All of this research was making me hungry, but unfortunately I don’t live in Texas. My only option? Re-create the “crunchy” cake at home. Here’s how it all went down.
How to Make Swiss Pastry Shop’s Black Forest Cake
The bakery, of course, keeps their recipe under wraps, so I decided to start with this copycat version from Taste of Home. But after baking my cake layers and letting them cool, I immediately knew they weren’t right. What was supposed to be a crisp and airy meringue was instead a soft cake. I finished assembling it just for fun, and while it looked and tasted great, it simply wasn’t crunchy.
I knew part of the problem was that I underbaked the meringue, but I also felt confident that it needed to bake longer at a lower temperature, similar to a pavlova. So when I came across a recipe that called for baking the dacquoise at 250°F for 1 1/2 hours, then letting it sit in the oven for another 1 1/2 hours (or up to overnight), I felt much more confident it would work. Liz, the blogger, also grew up eating the real-deal from the Swiss Pastry Shop and said she tested her recipe six times, so I knew I was in good hands.
Once my meringues were in the oven, I crossed my fingers and willed myself not to peek (opening the oven door can cause meringues to crack). When the time was up, I turned off the oven and let them sit in there overnight. And it worked! The baked meringues were super lightweight and felt dry to the touch, and when I went to trim the layers, I knew I had struck gold: Every slice made the much-anticipated “crunch” noise.
The next step was fun: layer and frost with whipped cream, then decorate. Although Hans made quick work of coating the sides in sprinkles (in fact, this whole video is worth a watch), I went a little more slowly, trying hard not to mess up the whipped cream as I worked. I then sliced thin shavings off of a bittersweet chocolate bar and arranged them on the cake, and dusted the top with powdered sugar. Back to the fridge it went before I could dive in.
My Honest Review of Swiss Pastry Shop’s Black Forest Cake
I totally get the appeal of this cake. It’s light and not too sweet, with contrasting crunchy-creamy-chewy textures. Visually, it’s perfect for winter: the light dusting of powdered sugar is reminiscent of snow. The chocolate shards are also a nice change of pace from curls or shavings, and nothing beats the combo of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Plus, it’s naturally gluten-free.
Unfortunately, I was so focused on the meringue that I messed up the whipped cream. I prefer barely-sweetened whipped cream, so I added just a touch of powdered sugar — completely forgetting that the sugar also helps stabilize the cream. Whereas my sugary whipped cream stayed firm and fluffy in my first attempt of this cake, it oozed everywhere in my second go-round. It didn’t help that the cake was crunchy, so I was applying significantly more pressure when slicing.
If I were to give this cake a third go, I know I could get it right — but I’m just not sure I have it in me. If you live in Fort Worth, you should absolutely go grab a slice. But making it at home is not for the faint of heart.
If You Make Swiss Pastry Shop’s Black Forest Cake, a Few Tips
- Set aside plenty of time. The meringue takes a significant amount of time to bake and cool, so this isn’t a cake you can whip up just before serving.
- Pay close attention when making the meringue. A dirty mixing bowl or a smidge of egg yolk can ruin the meringue. Read Liz’s tips carefully before you get started.
- Stabilize your whipped cream. For the best chance of cutting clean slices of cake, go ahead and stabilize your whipped cream using one of these tips.
Have you tried the Swiss Pastry Shop’s Black Forest Cake? Let me know in the comments!