To say that it has been an eventful fortnight would be an understatement. In the last two weeks I’ve:
Gone river rafting.
Hiked some beautiful trails.
Tried to climb up an old, hollow tree. From the inside.
Battled with an extremely bad bout of migraine.
Battled with a minor bout of food poisoning.
Had a crazy work week.
Watched Andy Murray beat Roger Federer at the Rogers Cup Final.
Got drenched in the rain. Thrice. On the same day.
Eaten half a dozen tomato sandwiches for lunch. Not on the same day.
Baked a cake, made a heirloom tomato pizza with naan dough and some delicious lamb kebabs with mint chutney.
Drunk way too much coffee.
So I have a lot to share. Let me begin with the cake.
To tell you the truth, I’ve always had a minor aversion to Black Forest Cake. I could attribute it to sub-par store-bought versions with cream that doesn’t taste too fresh, cakes that are too spongy and drenched with syrup and those awful maraschino cherries. (To fans of these, I’m sorry, but I absolutely detest them.) While all this is true, I’m sure they don’t matter to a 10 year old kid who picked this cake for her birthday attracted by those very same red, garish cherries. However, a cake that dares to go bad (all that fresh cream) on that most important day – let’s just say, hell hath no fury like a 10 year old birthday girl with no cake.
But recently, loving how my Swiss Roll turned out, I decided to make a proper Black Forest cake. I needed to bring something gluten-free to a barbecue I’d been invited to (did I forget to add that to my list?) and so I turned again to my favorite chocolate cake. In case you missed this post, let me tell you again that this particular recipe is brilliant. Using ingredients that are normally in the pantry, no flour and some hard work in terms of whipping all those eggs, it turns out a cake that is both light and rich. It needs no embellishment and I sometimes eat it straight out of the freezer while watching late night movies. But it also makes a fantastic base for layer cakes.
This time, I used three layers sandwiched with whipped cream and mascarpone and fresh cherries. (I’ve discovered that cream whipped with mascarpone is so much more stable and this has become my favorite new trick.) I frosted the entire cake with clouds of this heavenly mixture. Grated flakes of dark chocolate floated on the whipped cream and dark, almost black cherries crowned the finished cake. A few hours to let all the flavors meld together and the cake was ready to serve. Anything that looks so beautiful has to taste nothing short of divine. One bite and I knew I wanted this cake for my next birthday – it’s a pity that it falls in January. Anybody has a birthday coming up soon?
Black Forest Cake
(Chocolate Cake recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
For cake layers:
12 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
6 tablespoons water
12 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
For filling and frosting:
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup mascarpone
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons Amaretto liqueur (optional)
1 pound ripe sweet cherries, pitted and roughly chopped (reserve 8-12 cherries whole for the garnish)
1 oz (30 gm) bittersweet chocolate
Make the cake layers:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
2. Lightly grease 3 9-inch circular cake pans and line them with parchment paper.
3. Melt the chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat. Stir at regular intervals. Alternatively, do this in a microwave using short 20 second bursts, stirring between turns. Cool to lukewarm.
4. Beat egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes in a standing mixer or about 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer.
Fold in the melted chocolate.
5. Clean the beaters and beat egg whites until they just hold soft peaks. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until the whites just hold stiff peaks.
6. Mix in one third of whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
7. Spread batter evenly between the pans and bake until the top is dry to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating cakes between racks so they bake evenly.
8. Transfer the pans to cooling racks. Once cooled, gently run a knife around the edge of the cake pans and remove the cakes. Wrap the cakes in a double layer of plastic wrap or cling film and freeze the cakes for at least an hour or until ready to use. (This makes the delicate cakes much easier to handle.)
Do Ahead: The cakes can also be made 1-2 days in advance and frozen.
Make the filling:
1. Beat the cream with mascarpone, sugar and Amaretto until it just holds stiff peaks.
Assemble the cake:
1. Remove the cake layers from the freezer.
2. Take a square piece of parchment paper a little bigger than the size of your serving plate and cut it into four quarters. Place the quarters on the serving plate. (Any frosting will fall on these and you can pull them out later for a clean plate.)
3. Place a cake layer, flat side on the bottom, on the parchment paper and layer with about 4-5 tablespoons of the whipped cream mixture leaving a 1/2 inch border. Layer half the chopped cherries over the cream.
4. Repeat with the next cake layer, cream and cherries. Place the last cake layer, flat side on the top.
5. Frost the cake with the whipped cream mixture. Start at the top. Spread a generous amount of frosting beginning from the center and working your way to the edges and then frost the sides. Use two coats of frosting with the first thinner layer capturing any cake crumbs for a neater finish. Use a spoon to create swirls in the second layer.
6. Grate the chocolate over the cream and finish with the whole cherries.
7. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the cake to defrost and the flavors to meld together.