Sunday, May 15, 2011


I'm not much of a baker, mainly because I like to eat the stuff that I bake and that's not good for me. But every once in a while comes an occasion that really needs a celebratory cake. My mother recently turned 85 and she is still game enough to travel, so when she came to visit me here in Holland a couple of weeks after her birthday I organized a little get-together for her. And the cake I made is an old family favourite—Black Forest Cake.

Black Forest Cake

It's a family recipe that uses port instead of kirsch, which is the authentic ingredient. Actually, I never like the combination of cake and alcohol (I hate trifle, for example) so as far as I'm concerned you can skip the kirsch too.

The basis is a very moist, rich chocolate cake made with red beets (!) that tastes even better the next day. With layers of cherries, chocolate mouse, coffee nut cream, and whipped cream to top it all off, it is a towering indulgence. Make the cake layers the day before you assemble and serve the cake. It can also be helpful to make the cherry filling and the chocolate mousse the day before so that they have time to firm up.

Red Beet Chocolate Cake

1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup cooking oil
1 1/2 cups sieved cooked beets
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and eggs together until light and frothy.
  2. Add the oil, beets, and chocolate, beating until completely combined.
  3. Stir in the flour and baking soda, salt, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the batter into two 8 or 9-inch cake pans and bake in a 350 F. oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Cherry Filling

1 cup pitted cherries
1/2 cup port (or kirsch)
1 tablespoon cornstarch

  1. In a saucepan, heat the pitted cherries and the port. If you are using canned cherries, you can use the juice of the cherries instead of the alcohol.
  2. Combine the cornstach and a tablespoon or two of liquid, and then add it to the cherries and port. The liquid will go cloudy at first.
  3. Stir constantly until the liquid has thickened and has clarified.
  4. Take off the heat and set aside to cool and stiffen.

Chocolate Mousse Filling

5 ounces semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons sherry
2 tablespoons cherry juice
1 egg
3/4 cup whipping cream
  1. Melt the chocolate, sherry, and cherry juice in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave. 
  2. When melted, gradually add the egg, then let cool. 
  3. When cool, add the whipping cream and whip until stiff. 
  4. Let set, preferably overnight.

Coffee-nut Cream Filling

3/4 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Whip the whipping cream, gradually adding the sugar, instant coffee, and nuts.

Whipped Cream Topping

1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
8-16 cherries
2 tablespoons chocolate curls

Whip the whipping cream and sugar until it forms stiff peaks.

Assembling the Cake

Using a thread held taut, or a sharp bread knife, cut the two 8-inch cakes into horizontal layers.
Take the top layer of one cake and tun it upside down on a plate.
Put the cherry filling on top of this layer, and then place the other half of the cake on top of it.

Put in the fridge for half an hour to set.
Repeat for the chocolate mousse and coffee-nut cream fillings.
Frost with whipping cream, cherries, and shaved chocolate.

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