This deliciously moist Black Forest Cake is a cut above the rest with homemade whipped cream, rich chocolate ganache, and sweet spiked cherries.
- 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)*
- 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*
- 2 cups (480ml) cold heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
- 1/4 cup (30g) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Slice the cherries in half, leaving a few whole cherries for garnish. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cover and store leftover cake at room temperature for 1-2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cocoa Powder: Use natural cocoa in the cake, not dutch-process. Here’s the difference between natural cocoa powder and dutch-process cocoa powder.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.