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 on a wood slice cake stand

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 with chocolate cake batter

slice of black forest cake on a white plate, the rest of the cake on a wood slice cake stand, and a blue stand mixer

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

black forest cake batter in a glass bowl

2 images of pouring chocolate cake batter into cake pans and brushing cherry soaking syrup onto cake layers

2 images of cherries in a glass bowl and adding cherries to 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 in a glass stand mixer bowl

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.

Sally decorating a black forest cake with flowers

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

Slice of black forest cake on a plate

Now let’s talk about the gorgeous stand mixer you see in all these photos! The 100 Year Limited Edition Stand Mixer comes in a custom and classic color, Misty Blue– a soft blue with a hint of green that is reminiscent of one of the first KitchenAid stand mixer colors ever introduced. It displays a heritage-inspired KitchenAid® logo, a white-coated stainless steel bowl and a custom Power Hub cover celebrating 100 years of KitchenAid. 10 speeds, tilt head, 5 quart, a testament to the past 100 years!

While it may be KitchenAid brand’s 100 year anniversary, it’s a celebration for all of us. I invite you to post a photo on Instagram of your favorite memory of making in the kitchen and tag it with #MakingHistory100 and #SweepstakesUS for the chance to win a KitchenAid® 100 Year Limited Edition Stand Mixer. No Purchase Necessary. US/DC 18+. Ends 11/24/18 11:59 PM ET. Click here for sweepstakes rules.

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Black Forest Cake on a wood slice cake stand

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


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


Chocolate Cake

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (219g) 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


  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. After the cakes have cooled, use a large serrated knife or cake leveler to slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!).
  5. Prepare the syrup: 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.
  6. Slice the cherries in half, leaving a few whole cherries for garnish. Set aside.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Assemble the cake: 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. For the cherry syrup, cool then cover and refrigerate 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.
  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. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1/2 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cake won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!
  8. 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 on a wood slice cake stand with a KitchenAid stand mixer in the background


  1. Hi Thanks for your recipe! I would like to ask if it is fine to pour the batter onto one cake pan and then cut it into 3 layers after it is baked? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chloe, we don’t recommend baking this chocolate cake batter in 1 pan. If you only have 1 pan, simply bake 1 layer at a time. Cover the chocolate batter tightly and keep on the counter until it is all baked. Enjoy!

  2. I made this cake for my father’s birthday. It was absolutely perfect. Thank you so much for this recipe. I followed the directions step by step, using all the options ingredients (kirsch, espresso powder, hot coffee), except that I used 8″ pans instead of 9″. I had to go hunting for the cherries in heavy syrup, but was able to find that at a local natural/speciality supermarket. It was beautiful and delicious. The only thing will change the next time I make this (and there will be a next time) is that I will use less of the ganache on top of the cake. I used all of it so it pretty much coated most of the sides instead of having a drip effect. I’ll probably use about half the amount next time.

  3. Hi Sally!!

    I finally have the opportunity to bake this cake for a friend’s birthday.
    Although I have run into a slight problem, I went to 5 didn’t stores and they either didn’t have canned dark cherries or they were sold out.

    I opted to buy frozen dark cherries and a jar of cherry jam, do you think this will work out well?
    Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tamara, You can try using frozen cherries. Thaw them, then cook down the juices they released. We have not tried this and there will be a slight loss of flavor without the heavy syrup, but we can’t see why it wouldn’t work. Let know how it turns out for you!

  4. Karolina Bach says:


  5. Love it!!!!
    Stay Well

  6. Hi Sally,
    I’m making this recipe for my dad’s birthday, but he doesnt like whipped cream. Can i omit the cream or make a vanilla frosting instead?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Brittany, you can definitely use our vanilla buttercream (or our Swiss meringue buttercream) instead of the whipped cream. Hope your dad enjoys it!

  7. Can you use flavoured coffee or just regular?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ron, we prefer to use regular coffee. We haven’t tested it with flavored coffee, so we’re unsure if the flavoring would show through. If you give it a try, let us know how it goes for you.

  8. This cake is amazing!!! I made it for my husbands birthday, he loved it. It also looks like a cake from a very expensive bakery. Thank you so much.

  9. Make ahead Question says:

    How well does this cake hold in fridge? I was planning to make it but I need to make it ahead of time. If I made and assembled the cake on Friday would it hold okay in the fridge till Sunday. I know fresh whip cream can begin to breakdown over time so wasn’t sure on the shelf life of this cake.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      This assembled cake really does best when refrigerated for up to 1 day before slicing and serving. However, you can make the individual components of the cake and then assemble it Saturday or Sunday if that’s an option (see recipe notes for details).

  10. Is ground coffee (ex. Lavazza ground coffee) the same as espresso powder? If not, is it a good substitute? I just dont understand how the powder wont create a grainy texture in the cake?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle! Ground coffee is not the same as espresso powder. Espresso powder is an instant espresso that melts into warm liquid to add espresso flavor – don’t use coffee grounds! They will be grainy and not tasty in your cake. We find espresso powder near the ground coffee in our grocery stores.

  11. I’ve made this cake multiple times! It’s a go to recipe for me. For the cherries I use a combo of Trader Joe’s cherry preserves (I melt down to thin it out) and fresh or thawed frozen cherries. I dot the cake layers with preserves and cherries like Sally instructs. This cake is delicious!!

  12. Christopher Young says:

    Hi Sally,
    This recipe looks great. I love tart sour cherries. Do you think a mix of canned sweet and sour cherries would work?
    Also, cherriesin light syrup seem to be more available, here, in vancouver;
    Would that do? Perhaps reduce the syrup a bit more?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Chris, you can use the cherries in light syrup with no other changes needed. Let us know if you try the sweet + sour cherry combo!

      1. Christopher Young says:

        Thanks for the reply. I used a combo of sweet and sour cherries. It turned out quite rich and tasty. If I could find fresh sour cherries and stew them a little, that might suit me even better. Just my personal taste, I suppose. Now I must work on a better presentation next time: I ran out of whip cream to apply to the sides of the cake, but it was still delicious, lol

    2. Traditionally, in the Schwarzwald they are using tart cherries and brush each layer of cake with Kirschwasser (clear cherry brandy) it’s a boozy cake and quite delicious!

      Source: live there and eat it quite frequently (was our wedding cake, present at most big family dinners). This recipe seems like a good take on the classic recipe and based on the other items I have made from Sally, I would expect it to be delicious!
      Guten Appetit (eh gurda)!

      1. Christopher Young says:

        Thanks for the ideas. I made my cake with a mix of sour and dark sweet cherries and clear kirsch. It turned out well, not as pretty as recipe photos but quite rich with dark chocolate (I used some black cocoa). For my particular tastes, I might go with all sour cherries next time and use more kirsch as you suggest. If I could find some fresh sour cherries and stew them a bit, that might be even better, but fresh sour cherries are very difficult to find here in vancouver.

  13. The cake came out very well.My husband and i loved it. I took my chance and baked it in one tin (8 inch round tin) for 15 more mins until the tooth pick came out clean.
    Since I couldn’t find the cherry in the tin, i bought cherry preserve with whole cherries and used sugar syrup instead of cherry syrup.

  14. I’ve been wanting to make this for a while and finally had the chance when my family came for dinner yesterday. It was delicious! My decorating technique needs a little work – I had some pink come through on the whipped cream on the outside of the cake, and my ganache drips weren’t as pretty as your, but the flavor was fantastic. The one thing I will say is that I didn’t detect the kirsch at all, even though I followed directions to a T. I’d be tempted to add more next time, but don’t want to mess it up. Anyway, thank you for another great recipe. This is going to be my new go-to basic chocolate cake recipe.

  15. I think this would have been better with 1/2 the ganache, or perhaps pour some onto each layer? There was just too much on top. I’d use the extra 1/2 cup of whipping cream not for the ganache but for more whipped topping.
    I also needed more cherries, so added frozen cherries. Way cheaper than canned cherries. Holy cow, canned cherries run nearly $5 a can at my local grocers.
    The cake was excellent, but I would make those changes next time.

  16. Hi can you swap out cream for smbc?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sarah, you can use Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead of the whipped cream between the layers, if desired.

  17. This cake was disappointing. I followed everything exactly, including cherry brandy, coffee, dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup, etc, and all it tasted like was a chocolate cake with some cream. I used all the cherries and brushed the cakes (generously) with the reduced syrup and even drizzled yet I couldn’t taste any cherry at all. The cherries themselves tasted bland. The cake itself was alright, though too soft to hold up very well. Overall I will not be making it again. I think I’ll try and find an actual cherry filling recipe for the inside so you can actually taste the cherries. I had to buy such a big bottle of cherry brandy for this too, wish I could taste it!

  18. Anaga Krishnan says:

    Hi. What size cake pans did you use and how many layers did that result in?
    Can I skip sour cream? What is the impact of skipping sour cream? Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Agana, see step 1 – we use 3 9-inch cake pans. Sour cream adds moisture and structure to the cake. Instead of sour cream, you can try using plain yogurt. The cake won’t taste as rich, but it’s a fine substitution.

  19. Anaga Krishnan says:

    Can I use three 8 inch cake pans instead with the same ingredient quantity? Do I need to adjust cooking time in that case? Thanks.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anaga, You can use 8 inch cake pans for this cake. The layers will be slightly thicker and require a slightly longer bake time (not much though).

  20. Hi Sally! I made this cake only gluten free because my friend and I were having a bake off. It WAS AMAZING. I did use a splash more buttermilk but not much maybe a little less than a 1/4 cup. Now I won’t make it any other way. I didn’t make the ganache and had a hard time finding the dark sweet cherries but I used cherry pie filling and only made two tiers because I only have 2 pans. Needless to say this is now my go to cake. My son has requested it for his two birthday parties. I am also planning to make it for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas. You were right the espresso and the coffee deepens the chocolate. This is a whole delicious level of. chocolate! Thank you so much for such an amazing recipe!

  21. Hi Sally, your recipe is wonderful! Though I faced a problem. My cakes tend to be thin on the edges and really thick in the middle. What can I do to make the surface flat? Was it the wrong cake tin or the fire?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sharlene, When a cake domes in the center it’s usually the result of the cake cooking too quickly. The edges of the cake get baked first and stops rising, while the middle of the cake is still uncooked and the leaveners are still performing. The cake continues to rise, lifting the middle of the cake higher until it is cooked. Be sure you are not using hot pans and that your oven is the correct temperature. You may find our 10 Baking Tips for Perfect Cakes helpful – and in particular you may wish to use an oven thermometer that we link to in step 7 of that post.

      1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for the tips. I will follow your advice to invest in an oven thermometer. And I probably opened the oven multiple times to check, could be the reason why it always come out like a mountain peak.

  22. Hi Sally,
    I love your recipes. I found Peninsula Premium Cocktail Cherries with syrup in a 20 ounce jar on Amazon. These cherries are picked in Michigan Upper Peninsula and has won an award. The Upper Peninsula is known for its cherries. Cherries taste better from a glass jar rather than a can which can give them an odd flavor. I hope this helps.

  23. This is the best chocolate sponge recipe I’ve ever made! I put some ganache & cherry sauce between the layers as there was a lot of it. I had smaller tins so made 3 layers
    It went down a storm, I will definitely make this again. Shame I can’t share a photo as I was so proud of the finished cake

  24. I made this cake for my wife’s birthday, as she had never had black forest cake but loves both chocolate cake and cherries. The cake is perfectly moist, soft, and light and will now be a go-to recipe. I, like many others, could not find canned dark sweet cherries so I made a simple jam of 1 part sugar to 2 parts fresh sweet cherries by weight, brought it to a boil then simmered on medium-low for half an hour. The syrup from the jam worked great to brush the layers with (though I cooked my jam a little too long–wasn’t paying attention–and had to thin it a bit). I also only had 8 inch cake pans, but they baked just fine for the same length of time outlined for 9 inch pans.

  25. Hi Sally,
    I am an ardent fan and in love with your cakes!
    A few questions, I would like to make this cake using 6″ pans (3 x), do i need to make any changes to the recipe like baking time? Also, i only have fresh sour cherries, is it possible to make the syrup without adding alcohol? This will be the first time i am adding fruit to cake and worried about bleeding. Appreciate your response.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Krithika, For the cake you can use the recipe for Super Moist Chocolate Cupcakes and follow the baking directions in the post 6 Inch Cakes. You can cut the amount of cherries, whipped cream and ganache in half for this size cake. Unfortunately, we don’t recommend fresh cherries for this recipe. Canned dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup (they are sold as such) are imperative to the recipe. Hope you’ll still give this recipe a try!

  26. I made this for my FIL’s birthday. It was a hit! My MIL said it was the best cake she’s ever eaten. I made my own cherry syrup with sugar-water reduction and cherry extract to replace the kirsch (I didn’t want to buy a huge bottle for 1 cake). It wasn’t a cherry-flavored as I wanted so I’ll try the Kirsch next time. Sally’s chocolate cake is my favorite cake recipe, and I really liked the whipped cream with it. It’s not as sweet as ABC, and the chocolate flavor stands out more. I also made chocolate bark instead of the ganache, which made for a more dramatic appearance. I highly recommend, especially with the optional ingredients (I always use decaf).

  27. Hi! My store only had Maraschino cherries and I was wondering if these were okay to use or if they would be far too sweet or what issue they would cause. I have to make this cake by tomorrow so if you could respond that would be absolutely incredible

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alma! Unfortunately we do not recommend maraschino cherries. See recipe notes for details.

    2. My whipping cream can’t stand. I tried twice still not stiff enough to stand.

  28. Bonnie Moss says:

    I would like to make this cake for my daughter’s birthday and I just want to confirm that I am drizzling the cherry juice over the whipped cream and not brushing onto the cake as the photos seem to indicate?? Thanks so much!


    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bonnie! See step 5 – brush the reduced syrup on the cakes and you can drizzle any leftover over the cherries when assembling the cake (step 9). Hope this helps!

  29. I am terrible at baking no matter how hard I try! I decided to make this for my daughter’s birthday and what an amazing cake it turned out to be! Everyone loved it although it didn’t look anything like yours…

  30. zarana sarda says:

    Hi Sally
    Can I add cabarnet sauvignon wine instead of buttermilk? Thanks

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