Black Forest Gateau

This is the real thing!

I  first tried and tested this original recipe on the edge of the Black Forest in the south-west of Germany about 24 years ago! Black Forest Gateau is not simply chocolate cake with cherries on/in it. It should have a biscuity base and 2 or 3 layers of light fat-free sponge. The cream has a little kirsch added to it, and the cherries are “sour”.

The origins, like so many things, are not clear. Yet when you look at the traditional costume of the Black Forest region below it is at least obvious where the inspiration came from; black for the chocolate, white for the cream, and the hat speaks for itself!

Picture Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The kirsch schnapps used in the original recipe (but apparently omitted in American recipes) is also a regional speciality, distilled from sour cherries.

Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

The cake or gateau seems to have been around since the 1930s, and there are certain criteria in Germany which have to be fulfilled to permit the use of the name “Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte”:

  • the filling must contain cream or buttercream, and cherries
  • the taste of the kirsch schnapps must be discernible
  • the dark cake must contain at least 3% cocoa powder
  • it has a biscuit base
  • it is coated in cream or buttercream, and decorated with chocolate shavings

I suppose you could say “who cares?”, but I think some things deserve to be done properly!

Here is the complete recipe for a real

Black Forest Gateau

Grease and flour a 26cm springform pan and preheat oven to 170°C


  • 125g plain flour and  ½ tsp baking powder
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 50g sugar and 10g vanilla sugar
  • 75g cold butter

Sieve flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl and rub in the fat. Stir in sugar. Bring together with a little water if necessary to form a firm dough. Press into springform pan and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 15 mins at 170°C. Remove from pan and leave to cool on a rack.


  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 125g sugar and 10g vanilla sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 125g SR flour and 1 tsp baking powder and ½ tsp baking soda
  • 30g cornflour
  • 15g cocoa powder

Whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sieve and fold in all other ingredients. Whisk egg whites in a clean bowl and fold in. Put in springform pan (as soon as you have baked the base) and bake for 30 mins at 170°C.

Remove from pan and leave to cool on a rack. Slice in two horizontally.


  • 500g jar sour cherries (350g drained)
  • 40g cornflour
  • Sugar to taste

Drain cherries and measure 250ml juice. Mix 4 tbsps of juice with cornflour. Bring rest of juice to boil with sugar to taste. Remove from heat. Slowly add cornflour, stirring. Return to heat  for 1 minute. Mix in cherries.


  • 25g icing sugar
  • 10g vanilla sugar
  • 2 tbsps Kirsch
  • 800ml double cream

Whisk all ingredients together until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Decoration: grated chocolate and extra (glacé) cherries


  • Cake platter
  • Base
  • ½ cherry mixture : in 2 rings (leave 2 cms to edge)
  • 1/3 cream: pipe in middle, between rings and outside outer ring
  • 1st  cake
  • ½ cherry mixture
  • 1/3 cream
  • 2nd cake

This is the base with the first layer of filling, so you can see what I mean by “rings”(and the next layer is the same, then topped with the 2nd cake):

Smother cake with remaining cream, top with glacé cherries, and sprinkle with a little grated chocolate.

This size cake serves 12-16 and it was absolutely delicious! I made it at my Mum’s house for our Easter Sunday tea, and it went down a treat!  🙂