This eggless easy Black Forest layer cake is sandwiched with sweetened whipped cream and cherries and topped with chocolate ganache, fresh cherries and chocolate curls. Pure indulgence!
As I am sinking my fork into the last remaining slice of my easy Black Forest layer cake, I am thinking a) I should be dieting b) reminiscing about 14 course (!) dinner at the NEFF press trip last month. So I will put thoughts of dieting aside for now and instead tell you a little more about my trip to Bretten to celebrate the 140 years of NEFF. They may have been around for 140 years, but the brand is probably best known in the UK for their iconic and highly covetable Slide&Hide® oven which caught the eye of every baking enthusiast on the Great British Bake Off. Yet the Slide&Hide® is merely one of their many great products, as I was to discover in Germany.
Needless to say, I was very excited to get an email inviting me on this trip and I was even more thrilled when I discovered that the lovely Nicky of Kitchen Sanctuary was also invited. I was also drawn in by Olia Hercules who was asked to create the 14 course dinner inspired by 14 decades of European culinary and social history.
The trip was a bit of a whirlwind – a very early start at Heathrow airport, arrival at Stuttgart and then Bretten, a bit of dazed aimless wandering around Bretten, and then a gala dinner all on the same day! The dinner took place at the NEFF Bretten factory in a room beautifully laid out for the occasion. But first, Olia took us through on a stroll through 14 decades of European history and explained how she had chosen each recipe to represent it.
There were so many dishes to go through them all one by one, but I will always remember some of the stand outs. Hutzelbrot fruit bread – packed with dried fruit, nuts and fresh pears – was representing 1877-87 and that decades trend for regional cuisine. It was also totally delicious especially served with an astounding cheese platter (I think I ate my weight in cheese that evening).
The gold leaf wrapped ‘Oxo’ cube (actually a strong beef stock frozen into a cube and then served in a bowl with hot water poured over to create a broth) sounded like an odd choice to represent Britain in 1907-17 but it was simply delicious! Britain also made an appearance in 1937-47 with Woolton pie, created by the head chef at the Savoy to honour Lord Woolton, head of the Ministry of Food. The pie consisted mostly of root vegetables to reflect the decade of rationing and ‘Dig for victory’ campaign. At our dinner it was one of the richest and most delicious dishes, served alongside Bistecca alla Fiorentina (below, left) which was representing Italy in the 50s.
The dinner concluded with an interpretation of Black Forest Gateau (above, right) which hails from the 1970s but represented the last decade of our meal with its obsession with baking. This dessert-style cake with chocolate, cream, cherries and Kirsch (clear cherry brandy) was omnipresent in the 70s but has since fallen slightly out of style. My version is quite simplified with an eggless sponge and no Kirsch since I was serving it to children as well as adults. However if you happened to have some then brush a little over the layers so that it soaks into the sponge.
The trip to Bretten concluded with a tour of the NEFF factory which was a little hard to bear early in the day following a late night… but the passion and pride of everyone involved in the brand was clear and evident throughout. We even got to applaud the millionth Slide&Hide® oven which was presented with much fanfare and celebrated with an enormous cake. A three course lunch, which we all helped to create, followed in the vast NEFF kitchen. I must admit I was too awed by the wall-to-wall products from induction hobs to steam ovens to be of much help cooking!
Anyway back to our easy Black Forest layer cake… For best results try and source Griottine cherries in Kirsch. I am afraid I was unable to find those, but I did use very good quality Morello cherries in light syrup instead. I used some of the syrup to soak the sponge layers for added moisture and sweetness. The filling is classic sweetened whipped cream (Creme Chantilly) with a tiny bit of gelatine added for stability. The cake is then glazed with dark chocolate ganache and topped with fresh cherries and chocolate curls. It is delicious and best eaten soon after you put it all together – I don’t think you will have much trouble with that!
- For the cake
- 230 g | 8oz plain all purpose flour
- 230 g | 8oz caster sugar
- 100 g | 3 1/2oz unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 320 ml | 10.8fl oz milk
- 120 ml | 4fl oz sunflower oil
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- vegetable shortening or butter and flour to grease the tins
- 400 ml | 13 1/2 fl oz cold double thickened cream
- 100 g | 3 1/2 oz icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 1 sachet powdered gelatine optional - see notes
- 1 x400g |14oz Morello cherries in light syrup
- For the chocolate curls
- 100 g | 3 1/2oz dark 70% chocolate melted
- Chocolate glaze and to decorate
- 100 g | 3 1/2oz dark 70% chocolate finely chopped
- 80 ml | 2 1/2oz double cream
- 2 tsp sunflower oil
- fresh cherries to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line 3 x15cm/6in cake tins with a little vegetable shortening or butter and line the base with greaseproof paper. Grease the paper, dust with flour, and shake out any excess.
- Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl.
- Mix the milk, oil, vinegar and vanilla together in a measuring jug then pour into the dry ingredients.
- Use a balloon whisk to mix together until you have a glossy thick batter.
- Divide the batter between the tins (or check the notes) and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cakes a springy to the touch and a tested inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. You might need to level the cakes but cutting off any domes with a serrated knife.
- Whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla until you have firm peaks. If you wish to add gelatine for extra stability, take a look at the notes.
- Drain the cherries and reserve the syrup. Brush some of the syrup over the sponges until it is absorbed.
- Add a small amount of cream to secure the bottom sponge layer onto your plate or cake stand.
- Pipe the whipped cream over the bottom cake layer and dot with the cherries. Repeat with the second layer and top with the third. Put in the fridge to cool.
- Spread the melted chocolate over the back of a smooth metal tray and leave until the chocolate loses its gloss and is almost set. It needs to be cool before you can create the curls but not entirely set or it will be too brittle.
- Use a pastry scraper to create the curls by scraping at a 45 degree angle towards you. Set aside (in the fridge if it is really hot outside!) .
- Put the rest of the chocolate and cream in a bowl and microwave for 20 second bursts until the chocolate starts to melt. Stir until completely melted and smooth and then add the oil. Stir again until the oil is fully incorporated.
- Drizzle the chocolate around the perimeter of the cake letting in drip down the sides. Fill in the middle with more chocolate. Chill until mostly set.
- Add a few fresh cherries and the chocolate curls to decorate. Serve immediately.
You can bake the cake in one deep-sided 15cm (6in) tin. It will need about 1hour and 15 minutes in the oven. Once cool you will need to level the top and cut into three equal sections using a serrated knife.
If you wish to add gelatine to the whipped cream (this helps with stability) dilute 1 sachet of powdered gelatine in hot water per packet instructions and leave to cool. Add 2-3 tablespons of the liquid gelatine in with the cream once soft peaks form and continue to whisk until you have firm peaks.