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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. Instead of covering the entire cake like we do with chocolate peanut butter cake, we will let the chocolate ganache gently drape 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 sallysbakingaddiction.com

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!

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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 1x
  • 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

Scale

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

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. 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.

Notes

  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.

Keywords: black forest cake

Black Forest Cake on a wood slice cake stand with a KitchenAid stand mixer in the background

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Would this recipe work without sour cream? I would love to make a dairy-free version so my whole family can eat it as a bday cake. Do you think I could just add more of the buttermilk substitute?

    1. Hi Aleks, Sour cream adds moisture and structure to the cake. Instead of sour cream, you can try using plain yogurt (or a non-dairy yogurt). The cake won’t taste as rich, but it’s a fine substitution. Let us know if you give anything a try!

  2. This is an excellent recipe, thank you so much. I’ve made it a couple of times now and it always comes out perfect, the cake is moist and rich. Making it today for my brother’s birthday tomorrow, it is his favorite now. I couldn’t find the kirsch so I am substituting Chambord raspberry liquour, I figured it would be close enough. Thanks again, I’ve tried many of your recipes and they are always delicious.

  3. Hi Sally, thank you so much for your wonderful recipes. So excited to try this one. Can I replace corn syrup with rice syrup in the ganache? TIA.

  4. As much as I love your site and use many recipes this is not a Black Forest Cake. I went to Chef School in Baden-Württemberg (where the Black Forest is) and my teacher would be rolling in his grave if he read this.
    Call it something else, just not Black Forest aka Schwarzwälder Kirsch Torte

  5. I’m not sure where you found this recipe, but it’s not for SCHWARZWALD KIRSCH KUCHEN, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, or Black Forest Cake. An authentic Black Forest Cake is made w/ a Chocolate Genoise, the first cake you learn to make in Pastry School. It’s filled w/ Kirsch macerated Dark Cherries & frosted w/ Kirsch-infused whipped cream. I’ve seen some knock-off recipes that use Hershey’s Chocolate Cake and Cherry Pie Filling. That doesn’t work either, for a Black Forest Cake – that’s just a Chocolate Cake w/ Cherry Pie Filling.

    When I was the Pastry Chef at Ramada Inn, in the 80’s, I was also the Instructor for the Baking Classes and International Cuisine Classes at the local Culinary College. The GM came to me one day and said he’d like for me to put a Black Forest Cake on the Dessert Cart, in the dining room. I told him it wouldn’t be a good choice for a cake that would sit out at room temp for several hours, because whipped cream wouldn’t hold up well out of refrigeration. (I didn’t know then about using Agar-Agar Powder to stabilize meringues, whipped cream, frostings, etc.) Also – a true Black Forest Cake does not have ganache, or whipped cream between the layers, as in your photos.

    Before I left Ramada Inn, I entered a Black Forest Cake in a Culinary Salon, on behalf of Ramada Inn. I stabilized the Kirsch-infused Whipped Cream Frosting with Agar-Agar Powder, so it held up fine being on display for several hours. It won a Gold Medal and the ‘Best of Show Trophy’, along with a write-up and photo in the local newspaper. I have the Gold Medal but the trophy remains in the trophy case at the hotel.

    I left Ramada Inn a few years later to take a position at the Thousand Islands Resort, on Wellesley Island, as their Sous Chef and Patissier. My Black Forest Cake was one of their signature desserts.

    1. In the article above Sally states “This is my rendition of the traditional German black forest cake aka Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.” It is her variation of the cake. If you want, you can create a blog and share your version of the cake! Sounds like you have a lot to share.

    2. Wow! I hope you feel better now .
      Lol
      Sally shares her knowledge to make the baking experience more enjoyable and less fearful for the home baker. If you have all of this knowledge and experience why are you here. Surely , this site must be beneath you.

  6. I’ve been a fan of your blog for years and your recipes are my first choice whenever I’m baking. This one is yet another winner for me! I love black forest cake and there’s only one version I’ve had so far that hit all the right notes. When I read your description, I was already sold plus I have 100% trust in your baking expertise!
    First of all, this chocolate cake is without a doubt the best I’ve ever had, baked or store bought. It’s amazing and exactly like you described. I followed your recipe as it is (just substituted sour cream with yoghurt like you instructed) and it came out perfectly. The other components were easy and I’ve already made them with other recipes on your blog so they were great as usual. I ended up using maraschino cherries unfortunately because I was short on time and there was no other option available in the store and like you already said, they are just not right for this – too sweet and not tart enough and the color is too bright a red. It’s still heavenly so I can’t wait to make this again with the right cherries. Thank you so much for the recipe! Wish you lots of success and health and happiness!

  7. You mentioned that the cake sticks to the fork so is this cake sticky to the touch before adding the syrup or it feels sticky in your mouth, because I don’t like those types of cakes?
    Thanks!

  8. Hi Sally, in terms of taste and texture , what’s the difference between this chocolate cake recipe vs the chocolate cupcake one ?
    ★★★★★

    1. Hi Chris, both have a similar sponge-like texture. I would say this cake is more chocolatey though.

  9. Hi! I’m trying to make a chocolate raspberry cake. Do you think I could substitute the cherries here for canned raspberries?

    1. Hi Serena, you’ll still want to cook down the cherry syrup in step 5, even without the addition of the kirsch.

  10. I was wondering if I am going to prepare the components the day before, should I brush the layers with the reduced syrup the day that I make them, or wait and do that step before assembling the cake the next day? Thank you! Love all of your recipes.

    1. Hi Ashlyn! We would brush with the reduced syrup before assembling the cake. Enjoy!

  11. I’ve made this cake three times now and it’s been a massive crowd-pleaser! My wife said she only wants this cake for her birthday, so I am making it again for her this week.
    My question is, can I use cake flour instead of all-purpose, and if so do I need to adjust anything?

    1. Hi Bill, We are so happy this cake has been such a hit! We do not recommend using cake flour. The cake crumb is already so light and it won’t hold up properly with cake flour. The combination of cake flour and cocoa powder usually results in a flimsy cake. All-purpose really is best here!

    1. Absolutely! The leftover cake can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving.

  12. Hi Sally! A friend has asked me to make her a black forest cake for her child’s birthday. Could I put vanilla buttercream on the outside of the cake to do kid-friendly decorations? Would it be too sweet or not go with the rest of the cake flavour-wise? As always your blog is just the best!

    1. Hi Sheryce! Yes, you can absolutely coat this cake in vanilla buttercream for decorations. Happy baking!

  13. I just made this cake for my 60th birthday. First time ever making a Black Forest Cake. It was delicious! Each step of the recipe was extremely easy to follow. It came out perfect. Thanks Sally for another great recipe.

    1. Hi Rocky, 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).

  14. I have made this cake twice now and it is AMAZING!! I might make one for myself for my birthday. I made extra cherry reduction extra whipped cream and extra ganache because I was being over the top.

  15. Your website is my usual go to when I want to bake something I’ve never made before. So, when I wanted to make a sober Black Forest cake I stopped here. I made yours and two other baking blogs recipes’. I had my neighbors over to taste test and yours was the favorite by a landslide.

  16. hi sally you recie is very easy but I only have maraschino cherries what can I use to make them a little tart and I do not have cherry liqour can I use cherry brandy instead?

    1. Hi Cheryll, Unfortunately we do not recommend maraschino cherries. See recipe notes for details. Your cherry brandy should be just fine.

  17. Hi, what is semi-sweet chocolate? i cant seem to find it, I live in the UK if that makes a difference

    1. Hi Elise, a chocolate with 45-65% cocoa will work when a recipe calls for semi sweet. Happy baking!

  18. I would like to make this cake for my son’s birthday but my oven can only accommodate two round pans at a time. One of my round pans is a spring pan. Could I bake double layer in the spring pan and then cut in half? If so, how should the baking time be adjusted? Thank you!

    1. Hi Baiba, we recommend baking the first two layers, letting the last third of batter sit covered at room temperature, and then baking the last layer when one of the pans is available.

  19. Hi Sally. I can’t find the specific cherry liquor listed in the ingredients. Will any cherry liquor do?

      1. Thank you! Does the alcohol from the liquor bake out of it when reduced? Asking for children, etc 🙂

  20. 12 year old baker here! This black forest cake is really good! It turned out really pretty and fancy-looking. I piped some extra whipped cream on top and put a cherry on each dollop, which looked even better (I would say) than just having a pile of cherries on top of the cake. But, my whole family and I agree that there needs to be a bit more sugar in the whipped cream, so maybe next time I’ll increase the sugar from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup.

  21. Hi Sally, do you think this would bake well in cupcake form? How long do you think they would need in the oven?

    1. Hi Michelle, we’re unsure exactly how many cupcakes this batter will make (at least 2 dozen), fill them halfway with batter. About 20-22 minutes bake time at 350F. Would love to hear how they go!

      1. I just made a cupcake version for my husband’s birthday this weekend! We were going on a picnic so I wanted something that we could transport more easily. Mine were done in 15 minutes, but my oven does tend to run a little hot. It made about 2.5 dozen. I just brushed the simple syrup on top, hollowed out each, and then filled with the cherries. The only bigger change I needed to make was increasing the amount of whipped cream, as the standard cupcake frosting swirl requires more than a filled cake would. 1.5 times the given recipe was perfect! They were absolutely delicious and I think the chocolate cake beat my go to recipe! Normally, I always sub in for the cake part but I’ve had lots of success with Sally’s other recipes so I decided to make it as is. I’m so glad I did!

  22. Hi sally I do not have a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, only a hand mixer or a stand mixer with regular beaters on it. Will that be okay? Or should I alter something?

    1. Hi Rya, you can use your hand mixer to mix on a low-medium speed until the ingredients are combined. Be careful not to over mix, which could lead to a dense cake. Happy baking!

  23. Made this recipe yesterday, and the result was amazing. Moist, tasty and actually quite quick. Only the chocolate decorations took me some time to finish, but was well worth it. Slightly cut the sugar amount to 200g, and was still sweet enough for us. Thank you Sally for the recipe!

  24. I was asked to make a Black Forrest cake by someone who has actually eaten that cake in the Black Forrest. I made yours and she was over the top amazed at how delicious it was. Once again, your site was my go-to and once again I was thrilled. Thank you so much !! You make me look good.

  25. Good recipe. First try and came put great. The cakes were slightly crumbly but i see it needs all purpose flour and we only have cake flour. The chocolate ganache was initially runny as there was no cornflour syrup so thickened with cornflour in a bit of water. Next time will assemble after refrigerating reduction and ganache so consistency is better. Thank you .

  26. Followed recipe exactly and came out perfect! Everyone enjoyed.

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