Black Forest Cake

This deliciously moist Black Forest Cake is a cut above the rest with homemade whipped cream, rich chocolate ganache, and sweet spiked cherries.

Black Forest Cake

This post is sponsored by KitchenAid.

Today’s blog post is one of the most special you’ll ever read here on SBA. I am both honored and excited to partner with KitchenAid for its 100 Year Celebration. This once-in-a-century celebration commemorates 100 years of KitchenAid inspiring culinary passion and creating new possibilities in the kitchen. The same core value launching KitchenAid back in 1919 is continuously instilled in the products created today: an inspiration by those who love to make…and I am certainly one of those people.

Limited Edition KitchenAid Stand Mixer in Misty Blue

Limited Edition KitchenAid Stand Mixer in Misty Blue

Super moist black forest cake with chocolate chip, whipped cream, and dark sweet cherries. Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

My story begins around 25 years ago. I was about age 8 and sitting at the kitchen table with my grandmother. We were pitting cherries that we had just picked from her sprawling backyard garden. My fingers were stained, my teeth a glaring magenta– an obvious giveaway that I’d been sneaking the fruits of our labor. Garden Grandma, as my sisters and I called her, was teaching me how to can cherries. Her 1.5- acre garden was a passion project. She often worked from sun up to sun down; “lazy” wasn’t in her vocabulary. She preserved everything– green beans, peaches, pears, corn, pickles, tomatoes, and, of course, cherries. She grew raspberries and blackberries to make homemade jam and most definitely holds the prize for best pie crust on the planet. Her love for making didn’t stop there; her white KitchenAid stand mixer held a permanent spot on the counter. Garden Grandma’s kitchen was a playground for possibility. And although she left this world 7 years ago this very month, her legacy lives on as I build a career in my own kitchen.

Cherries were her favorite and when asked to build a recipe inspired by my memories in the kitchen, cherry cake came to mind first. Grandma and I share a love for the chocolate and cherry combination, so I made a black forest cake. If only we could sit down together at her kitchen table and share a slice!

What is Black Forest Cake?

This is my rendition of the traditional German black forest cake aka Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. Today’s towering beauty has 4 parts:

  1. My go-to chocolate layer cake
  2. Dark sweet cherries
  3. Fluffy vanilla whipped cream
  4. Dark chocolate ganache

How to make Black Forest Cake cake batter

How to make black forest cake

Cherries for Black Forest Cake

Chocolate Cake

The cake recipe comes from this tuxedo cake, which was adapted from my favorite chocolate cake. It has a cake crumb so moist and chocolate-y, it sticks to your fork and melts on your tongue. Curious about the ingredients used? Hop on over to that recipe for detail. One thing I’ll mention because it’s worth repeating: hot liquid is a must in this cake batter. Why? The hot liquid encourages the cocoa powder to bloom and dissolve instead of just sitting there. For the hot liquid, I recommend coffee which will deepen the chocolate flavor. The cake will not taste like coffee, I promise! Or you can use hot water.

Cherries & Whipped Cream

Grab a couple cans of dark sweet cherries that are soaked in heavy syrup (the can is sold as such). Reduce the syrup down on the stove as the cakes bake. Have any cherry liquor around? Add a splash and brush the mixture all over the cakes while they’re still warm. This cherry soaking syrup guarantees the moistest, most flavorful chocolate cake you will EVER taste. Think of the best chocolate cake you’ve ever eaten. This one’s better and we have the cherry- soaking syrup to thank.

Those cherries from the can? They’ll be layered right into the cake, seeping their magenta juices into the vanilla whipped cream. Swirled pink, the whipped cream is light, billowy, and doesn’t weigh down the cake. While this black forest cake is certainly decadent, it’s not overly heavy. A breath of fresh air considering most chocolate cakes are dense as bricks!

Most of vanilla whipped cream is layered inside the cake, but be sure to reserve some to lightly spread on top and around the cake. This seals in the cake’s moisture. Have I mentioned this cake is moist?

Homemade Whipped Cream

How to Make Chocolate Ganache

Black forest cake is traditionally finished with chocolate shavings, but I took it a step further and opted for chocolate ganache. The crowning glory is a layer of dazzling chocolate ganache that gently drapes over the sides for mega drama. (Because when it comes to chocolate cake, there’s gotta be drama!) Made from heavy cream and pure chocolate, there’s no garnish more appropriate for this cake masterpiece.

I’m so excited for you to try this black forest cake, a recipe that came to life from the one who inspired me to get in the kitchen.

How to decorate Black Forest Cake

Super-moist chocolate cake, whipped cream, and dark sweet cherries are Black Forest Cake! Homemade chocolate cake on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Slice of black forest cake

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Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 45 minutes
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This deliciously moist Black Forest Cake is a cut above the rest with homemade whipped cream, rich chocolate ganache, and sweet spiked cherries.


Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (220g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 cup (65g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder*
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder (optional)*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (180g) full fat sour cream, at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) hot water or coffee*
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup*
  • 2 Tablespoons cherry liquor (sold as kirsch or kirschwasser)*

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • two 4-ounce semi-sweet chocolate bars (226g), finely chopped
  • optional: 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup*

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups (480ml) cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the chocolate cake: Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder (if using) together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with a flat beater, beat the oil, eggs, sour cream, buttermilk, and vanilla together until combined. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, add the hot water or coffee, and beat it all until the batter is completely combined.
  3. Divide batter evenly between 3 pans. Bake for 21-25 minutes. Baking times vary, so keep an eye on yours. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the pans, then remove cakes from pans and set on a cooling rack. Be careful and use two hands when handling the cakes.
  4. Drain the cherries, reserving 3/4 cup (180ml) of the heavy syrup. Set cherries aside. Simmer syrup and cherry liquor in a small saucepan over low heat until reduced down to 1/4 cup (60ml). Brush reduced syrup all over the cakes, reserving any leftover syrup. The cakes can be slightly warm when you do this.
  5. Slice the cherries in half, leaving a few whole cherries for garnish. Set aside.
  6. Make the ganache: Place chopped chocolate and corn syrup, if using, in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil– that’s too hot!) Pour over chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. Slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes as you prepare the whipped cream.
  7. Make the whipped cream: Using a KitchenAid stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
  8. Assemble the cake: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Spread 1 heaping cup of whipped cream evenly on top. Dot with half of the halved cherries and drizzle with a spoonful of reduced syrup. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with 1 heaping cup whipped cream, the remaining halved cherries, and another drizzle of reduced syrup. Top with the 3rd cake layer. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top and all around the sides in a thin layer using an icing spatula. Use a bench scraper to smooth out the whipped cream on the sides of the cake.
  9. Pour chocolate ganache on top of the cake. Spread to the edges of cake allowing it to gently drip down the sides. Top with whole cherries. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
  10. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. The whipped cream can be prepared, covered tightly, and refrigerated overnight. Chocolate ganache can be prepared, covered tightly, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before using. Let ganache sit at room temperature to soften or microwave for 5-10 seconds before using. The assembled cake can be refrigerated for up to 1 day before slicing and serving. The frosted cake can also be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.
  2. Why Room Temperature Ingredients? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information. Instead of sour cream, try using plain yogurt. The cake won’t taste as rich, but it’s a fine substitution. If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  3. Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa in the cake, not dutch-process. Here’s the difference between natural cocoa powder and dutch-process cocoa powder.
  4. Espresso Powder: Espresso powder and coffee will not make the chocolate taste like coffee. Rather, they deepen the chocolate flavor. I highly recommend them both. If coffee isn’t your thing, you can leave out the espresso powder and use boiling hot water instead of the hot coffee.
  5. Cherries: Canned dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup (they are sold as such) are imperative to the recipe. The syrup will be reduced down. Do not use fresh dark sweet cherries, sour cherries, or maraschino cherries.
  6. Cherry Liquor: The cherry liquor is optional, but really gives the soaking syrup (step 4) that over-the-top delicious flavor setting this black forest cake apart from others. You can also add a splash to the whipped cream!
  7. Corn Syrup: I like to add a touch of light corn syrup to the ganache to give it some glistening shine. This is an optional ingredient.

Black Forest Cake

Slice of black forest cake

198 Comments

  1. Hi Sally! Love your blog! Every recipe always turns out great and I’m sure this one is no different!
    Would it be possible to make this with cherry juice instead of kirsch?
    Thanks!

    1. Hands down, the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made! It was for Christmas Eve and I forgot to buy kirsch, so I subbed with Amaretto since almonds and cherries go well together. It was a light, moist, not to sweet cake that was devoured in one night! Since it was so good, I used the cake and ganache recipe as a base for a chocolate orange cake and made it with cream cheese instead of whipped cream for a birthday cake. Again, gone in an afternoon. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing recipes, you’ve given me great successes!

    1. Yes! Perhaps cut a hole in the baked chocolate cupcakes and fill with the cherries and then top with frosting drizzled with chocolate. Be as creative as you wish!

  2. Dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup…can’t seem to find this in Canada. What can be used as a replacement? At European specialty stores I have seen cherries in light syrup in glass jars, but I’m not sure if this would work.

  3. I need to make a gluten free black forest cake for my german grandmother. As a german, she has super high standards for black forest cake, so I really need to impress! Do you think if I replaced the flour with bob’s red mill AP flour, it would be that noticeable, taste and texture wise? Or should I look for a recipe somewhere else that was meant to be gluten free from the start?

  4. Oh my goodness….this looks AMAZING. Funny thing, I’ve actually been to the Black Forest. It is SO WILD how DARK the trees really are – I can see why they call it the Black Forest! I rented a Mercedes convertible in Frankfurt and drove to Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and back up to Frankfurt in TWO DAYS. It was magical (and fast – LOVE the Autobahn).
    Thanks for the recipe – I’m going to make this on Valentine’s Day because it’s my husband’s FAVE!

  5. Was going to half the recipe so I decided to go by the weights of the ingredients, but I first checked to see if the weights matched the measurements in cups…they don’t. Did you sift the flour and the cocoa powder first? Because I tried multiple times to get close to the grams you got but it was always more than that.

    1. Hi Cj, no I’m not sifting. Make sure you are spooning and leveling each, not scooping. That could be where the discrepancy lies.

    2. 3 layered cake will be too much for my little family. I was hoping if i can get some tips from you to half this recipe. Any advice will be helpful! 🙂 Did you just make all the ingredients half?

      1. Hi May! Yes, I would halve all of the ingredients for a smaller cake. Two thin round layers or even use a 9-inch square baking pan.

  6. Black Forest cake was always my favorite growing up, and I always requested it for my birthday. My mom would use a boxed mix, cherry pie filling and Cool Whip, which I loved as a child. I made your Black Forest cake today (for my birthday tomorrow), and it turned out amazing! So so good!! I had 2 oz of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate left from something else I made, and I poured the hot coffee over it to melt it and then added it to the cake. I didn’t think a little extra chocolate could hurt Thanks so much for another great recipe, and it was fun making my favorite childhood cake from scratch!

  7. I made this cake for my mom’s birthday. It was delicious and beautiful! I was surprised by how long the whipped cream held up – still going strong on day three. I loved the ganache topping also! I think you could get away with only 6oz of chocolate and 3/4 cup of heavy cream though – I had some leftover. I didn’t think this cake had strong cherry flavor, and I wasn’t a big fan of the chunks of cherry in the layers of the cake. Honestly, this would be delightful as just a chocolate cake with whipped cream and ganache if you omitted the cherries altogether! 🙂

  8. Hi Sally!
    Wanted to say huge thanks for the wonderful recipe. The cake was gorgeous and it is my husband’s favorite cake so I made it for our 1st anniversary. We loved it )))
    Thank you very much

  9. Hi Sally, Thank you for the recipe, The cake looks amazing. I would like to bake it in the next couple of days and wanted to know which brand of dark sweet cherries you have used. I didn’t find the canned cherries in syrup in Canada. I found frozen sweetened pitted cherries or tart filling canned cherries. Please let me know, which brand and where can I find it. Thank you very much

    1. Hi Karima! I used “Oregon” brand. It’s in a black can. They’re called “Oregon Fruit Dark Sweet Cherries In Syrup”
      You can try using frozen cherries. Thaw them, then cook down the juices they released. I have not tried this and there will be a slight loss of flavor without the heavy syrup, but I can’t see why it wouldn’t work.

  10. hi planning to make a 2 tiered cake using chocolate cake. would this recipe possibleby making 2 or 3 batches? or you can you suggest other recipes?

  11. I have never baked a cake from scratch before, but am determined to make this for my boyfriend’s birthday! How difficult would this be for a beginner? I found this recipe online, and after carefully reading it (and slowly dying inside on how I’m going to pull this off haha), I CAN’T NOT DO THIS–all the other recipes and cakes don’t compare to this. I wish there was a video for this so I can see it visually, but other than that it looks beautiful and I am amped up for this challenge!

    1. Hi Mary, I’m excited for you to try this cake! My best advice is to read the directions all the way through before beginning. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Hi Sally! I made this cake last Friday for my boyfriend’s birthday and it came out amazing! Super delicious! The only issue I cam upon was whipping the whipped cream, but I finally got it down and it turned out fantastic! Not too bad for a first timer baking a cake! Thank you for the recipe!

  12. I have a jar of amarena cherries I’ve been dying to use in something. Could you use those in this? You mention not to use maraschino cherries – I’m not sure if the amarena cherries are closer to maraschino or the ones you’re using. Thanks!

  13. Hi Sally. Can I male this BFC using cake and pastry flour. If so, do I use the same amount of flour, 1 3/4 cups? I know different flours weigh different amounts so just wondering. Also, the cherries can be found in Canada at Sav-On foods, I just bought 2 cans there this afternoon! (Just an fyi for one of your comments I read from a fellow baker)
    Thanks Sally

    1. Hi Brenda! I do not recommend using cake flour. The cake crumb is already so light and it won’t hold up properly with cake flour. All-purpose really is best here!

  14. Hi Sally. Can I use the paddle attachment to mix the wet ingredients, I don’t have a flat beater with my machine? How long do I mix for with the paddle attachment, if I can use it? Also, I can only bake 2 cakes in the oven at one time. What should i do with the third cake until i bake it? Leave on cupbaord or put in fridge until bake time, or put it on bottom rack of oven?! Please help . Thank you. I am baking this gorgeous looking cake for my brother’s 61st birthday and I want it to turn out perfectly

    1. The paddle attachment is the same thing as the flat beater so you are all set! You can leave the third layer on the counter while you bake the first two. I hope your brother has a great birthday!

  15. Hi,
    I want to try this good looking cake but I want to ask you if I can use frozen cherries, in Romania I can’t seem to find cans dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup.

    Thanks 🙂

  16. Hi Sally,
    We celebrated my brother’s birthday tonight with your delicious, awesome and amazing BFC!!! Everyone just loved it and commented on how the chocolate ganache was such a luscious add-on and change from all the other traditional BFC’s. I totally agree!! I had to make the cake twice because I forgot the sugar the first time (oops) but it was so, so, so worth the effort!!
    God Bless,
    Brenda

  17. Hi Sally,

    I made this cake for my birthday last weekend and everybody loved it, so this recipe is definitely a keeper! I had a slice of the leftovers yesterday and I think it tasted even better than the day before.
    However, I had to alter the recipe a bit, as I had only 2 pans (9.5 inch) so I reduced the amount of ingredients by a third. I also used canned cherry pie filling and cover the pie with left over cherries and grated chocolate instead of the ganache.
    I do think that maybe the chocolate cake was a bit dense? This may have been the result of the slightly lager pans, but I’m not sure. I was wondering if maybe, by seperating the eggs and beating the whites until they stand stiff and fold that into the batter (like you do in your Red Velvet Cake recipe), you’d get a fluffier cake? Do you think this would work?

    Thanks Sally and greeting from the Netherlands!

    1. Hi Mirthe! The cake crumb should be on the softer side, so I wonder if the reduction in batter that you made altered the texture. Would you be open to trying the full written recipe as instructed? It’s a very soft, spongey chocolate cake! That being said, beating the egg whites into peaks before folding into the batter always fluffs up the baked cake’s crumb. Let me know what you try next!

  18. Hi! In really excited to make this cake for my boyfriends birthday, as black forest cake is his favorite!
    I was wondering if I could bake it in two pans, instead of three. And then halve each cake to make it four layers. Do you think that would work? I’m assuming they would need to bake for longer since they would be thicker, and I’d probably need more whipped cream for the frosting. Thoughts?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Arielle! That should be just fine. You’re right, the bake time will be longer since the cakes are thicker. A little more whipped cream frosting would certainly be helpful for assembling. Make sure the cakes are completely cool before slicing/layering them.

  19. Hi Sally, I would love to try this cake too, since your recipes turns out to be amazing always.
    Just wondering if there are any alternatives to cherry liquor.
    Thanks

  20. Hi! I want to try this amazing recipe for my wedding cake!! but I want to know if I can cover it with fondant, my decoration is very particular…

  21. I made this for my birthday celebration at work. More than one person at work and in my family said some version of this: This is the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. The whipped cream is the perfect offset to the chocolate, and the cherries add that something extra that puts this cake over the top.
    My birthday was on a Tuesday so I made the cakes, whipped cream, and chocolate ganache on Sunday night. When I started the assembly on Monday night and took the ganache out of the fridge, it went through many rounds of 5-10 seconds in the microwave. I miscalculated when it seemed the right consistency to run down the sides of the cake without being too runny, and it just sat around the edges of the cake in heavy blobs without dripping… My husband and I knew heat thins the ganache so we decided to try a hair dryer. Bad move. It started melting off at a frightening rate! I let it cool in the fridge just a bit and then started to gently paste the ganache back onto the sides of the cake until it was all covered. Back into the fridge to get that to firm up. The next morning before work, I used a big metal spoon with a heatproof handle over the stovetop flames and used that heated spoon to smooth out the sides for a really beautiful cake. Crazy how we got there but there’s always a way!

  22. Hi Sally, I love to bake your recipes. Can I please know if I can halve this recipe and use two six inch pans. Thanks!

  23. I made this cake for my German grandma’s 90th birthday and everyone absolutely loved it! We were at a restaurant and had left overs and shared it with the wait staff who loved it too! Thank you for another amazing recipe.

  24. Sally, this cake is amazing! The chocolate cake layers baked up perfectly flat-topped and moist, and the flavor was wonderful. It had a slight reddish hue, even though I used an alkalized cocoa powder (Rodelle brand dutch-processed). I was very pleased the different cocoa didn’t alter the results, but I wonder how it got such a similar result with the alkalized cocoa? Anyways, it was my first time doing a chocolate ganache drip and I love it! It sets slightly in the fridge so it can just be peeled of the cake, but is still soft and delicious. I used dark chocokate in the ganache and also made some dark chocolate decorations by piping cherry shapes onto a piece of parchment paper. Also, I made a cherry filling out of fresh cherries, a bit of cornstarch, sugar, and water, which I cooked over the stove until thickened. Overall, a really delicious cake that I will definitely make again!

    1. So glad to read this! Thank you so much for sharing how you made/decorated the cake. I do recommend a natural cocoa powder, but I’m actually unfamiliar with the Rodelle alkalized dutched cocoa. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in stores, but I’ll have to check it out!

  25. Help! I have to start baking Black Forest Cake tomorrow morning. I didn’t find dark sweet cherries in syrup anywhere. I have can of cherries- pie filling and topping the one use for pies or cheesecakes. Dear Sally for rescue- do you think it will work?

    1. Hi Kasia! You can layer the cake with the cherry pie filling. Skip the reducing the syrup/brushing the syrup on the cakes steps.

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