Thursday, June 28, 2012

Black Forest Cake

Our German friend, Anke, was among those who came to dinner last Saturday.  To honor her....and the German soccer team (but let's not tell her)...I made my favorite cake - Black Forest Cake.   Anke was so delighted, she joked that she would wear her dirndl.  I love to hear her speak German.  Every word sounds like 'schlag' or 'schtein'.   Anke is quite the flower power child of the 60s - she even has a country place in Woodstock - that you could imagine her strumming her guitar with flowers in her blonde hair.  Then again, I would play Sergio Mendes and she would recognize it as her type of music (Anke music), totally imagine her groovying away in tie-dye and flared jeans, not dirndl.

Black Forest Cake summed up my primary school birthdays.  Cold Storage sold a pretty mean one which my sister Maggie would sponsor for my celebrations at school.   It had globs of blueberry on the surface and whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles on the sides.  My classmates used to ooh and aah, peep into the cakebox, until one incident when an elbow landed on the top of the cake.  It pummeled and made a dent.  I cried.

My mother learnt to make the fluffiest cake from Mrs. Laycock who taught private lessons in the comfort of her Telok Kurau home.  Mrs. Laycock had married into a prominent lawyer family but fashioned her cake-making hobby into something more productive.  Last night, I read through the copy of her recipe.  It was descriptive enough to conjure up flashbacks of that large, heavenly slice of Black Forest cake my mother brought back to the car when my dad and I picked her up from class one evening.  

The recipe had required a can of blueberry preserves.  These days, we are lucky enough to concoct our own from fresh blueberries.  Here is my recipe, created out of cake-making classes I've taken....though not with Mrs. Laycock.  

Black Forest Cake

[To save time: Instead of preparing fresh blueberry filling, you can buy a can of blueberries.  Drain the blueberries but reserve the syrup.  Use the blueberry syrup in place of the sugar syrup noted below. With this alternative, you save time preparing the blueberry filling and the sugar syrup.]

The day before, make the chocolate genoise sponge cake. 

Chocolate Genoise

1/3 cup cake flour (Softasilk)
1/3 cup cornflour
¼ cup cocoa powder (semi-sweet)
pinch of baking soda
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
pinch of salt


Butter a 9-inch round cake tin and line the base with parchment paper. 

Set the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Combine the cake flour, cornflour, cocoa powder and baking soda.  Sift into a bowl. 

Fill a third of a small saucepan with water.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer.  

Whisk the eggs and egg yolks in the bowl of an electric egg beater.  Stream in the sugar, followed by the pinch of salt.  Place the bowl over the pan of simmering water and hand-whisk  continuously to ensure that the sugar dissolves.  Bring the bowl back to the electric beater and continue to whisk until the egg mixture cools down and increases in volume. 

Fold in the sifted dry ingredients in 3 additions.  At each addition, fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, scooping from bottom up and turning a quarter round to repeat the folding action. 

Pour the batter into the round cake tin and bake for 30 minutes.  To check for doneness, insert a stick or a paring knife into them middle of the cake. It should come out clean. 

Let the cake cool.  Then run a paring knife around the cake to separate it from the sides of the round tin.   Invert the tin over a rack.  To keep the cake overnight, you could store it in a container or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate. 

Meanwhile, you could prepare the moistening syrup and the blueberry filling.  These can be refrigerated the day before assembling.  

Moistening Syrup

1/3 cup water
¼ cup sugar

Bring the sugar and water to a boil and then leave to cool.  Store in a container.

Blueberry Filling

2 pints blueberries, rinsed.  Discard softened berries.
3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Set aside a third of the blueberries. Combine the rest of the blueberries and sugar in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and then quickly turn down to a simmer.  Stir occasionally until all the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. 
Combine the cornflour and water to make a slurry paste.  Add to the simmering blueberries and stir to thicken.   Turn off the heat.  Add the 3 cups of blueberries that had been set aside, along with the lemon zest.  Leave to cool.  Then store away. 

To assemble the Black Forest Cake.

Crème Chantilly (Icing)


2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla


Combine the ingredients and beat by hand or machine until the cream holds to a firm peak.  Do not overbeat.  Use immediately or refrigerate until needed. 

Additional Ingredients
3 tablespoons Kirsch or Cassis
2 cups cherries in syrup (S&W brand)
1 cup shaved, grated or finely chopped chocolate

To assemble and decorate

Using a cake knife, score around the circumference of the genoise, at the middle level.  Then gently slice through, following around the scored line, going deeper and deeper until you reach the center of the cake.  [To ensure that you obtain two even layers, you may have to slice around repeatedly until you reach the center.] 

Place the bottom layer on a cardboard disk and use a brush to ‘dust off’ the crumbs from the sliced surface.  Using a different brush, moisten the surface with some moistening syrup followed by the cassis.  Spread the layer with ¼ of the crème chantilly, followed by the blueberry filling. [Carefully spread the blueberry filling from the center outwards, in order to avoid spillage onto the sides.]   

With the other layer of the genoise, flip it upside down first and brush off the crumbs from the sliced surface.   Moisten with syrup and spread with ¼ of the crème chantilly.  Then flip the layer over again and place it over the other genoise layer such that the cut surface faces down to meet the blueberry filling. 

Spread the top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream.  Use a small offset spatula to spread evenly. 

Sprinkle chocolate shavings around the side of the cake, using a cold teaspoon and not the hands to avoid melting the shavings.   

Spread the cherries on the middle of the cake surface.

Pipe rosettes of the remaining crème Chantilly around the top border of the cake.


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