Week 106: Black forest cake

The other day, over dinner with some colleagues, my boss remarked that it has been a while since I brought my baked goods to the office, and hinted that his birthday is coming. Haha. So French men aren’t subtle at all.

Since he said he is a very “good French”, I decided to go back to my favourite French pâtissier, Pierre Hermé to research for a good cake recipe. I have been looking for a good black forest cake recipe for a while. And considering my past success with the recipes from the book Desserts, I decided to give his Black Forest Cake recipe a trial run.

Makes a 6-inch round cake

For the sour cherries

45ml mineral water

60g fine granulated sugar

15ml Kirsch

150g frozen sour cherries, pitted

1) Prepare the sour cherries the night before by bringing the mineral water and sugar to a boil.

2) Remove from heat, and add the Kirsch.

3) Pour the liquid onto the cherries in a bowl. Cover with cling wrap and allow to macerate overnight in the refrigerator.

For the chocolate biscuit

30g unsalted butter

12g plain flour

13g potato starch

15g cocoa powder

60g egg yolks (approximately 3 large)

50g fine granulated sugar

65g egg whites (approximately 2 large)

1) Melt the butter and set aside to cool to room temperature.

2) Preheat convection oven to 220C.

3) Sift together the flour, potato starch and cocoa powder.

4) In the stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks with 3/4 of the sugar on high for 5 minutes. The egg yolks should be pale and thick.

5) Clean the whisk and mixer bowl thoroughly, then whisk the egg whites and remaining sugar until stiff peaks.

6) Scrap the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites and fold lightly. Then add the flour mixture and fold until no streaks are visible.

7) Spoon 2 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the cooled melted butter and whisk to incorporate. Then, pour the butter back into the batter and fold to incorporate.

8) Distribute the batter evenly between 2 parchment lined 9″x13″ baking tray. Smooth the batter to get an even layer. The batter may not fill the entire tray, but make sure it is enough to cut out 3 6″ rounds. I had to cut the third rounds from 2 halves.

9) Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.

10) Remove from oven and allow to cool, then, cut out the 3 cake rounds.

For the pastry cream

1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste

65ml whole milk

15g fine granulated sugar

3g corn flour

2g plain flour

15g egg yolks (approximately 1 medium)

5g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) Add the vanilla bean paste, milk and sugar to a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a light boil.

2) In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the flours.

3) Pour a third of the boiling liquid while whisking vigorously. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and continue cooking on medium heat while whisking continuously until mixture have thicken to pastry cream consistency.

4) Allow the pastry cream to cool to 60C then whisk in the butter.

For the Kirsch syrup

15ml mineral water

17g fine granulated sugar

15ml Kirsch

1) Bring the mineral water and sugar to a boil.

2) Remove from heat and stir in the Kirsch. Set aside to cool.

For the light vanilla custard

1 gelatine sheet

120ml heavy cream, very cold

Pastry cream from above

1) Soak the gelatine sheet in cold water to bloom. Then squeeze the liquid from the sheet, and stir it into the pastry cream, making sure it is melted entirely.

2) Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks. Then fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream.

For the dark chocolate cream

40g dark chocolate couverture

70ml + 15ml heavy cream, very cold

1) Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie, removing it from the heat once the melted chocolate is smooth.

2) Add the 15ml cream into the melted chocolate and stir to incorporate.

3) Whisk the remaining cream to stiff peaks and fold into the melted chocolate mixture.

To assemble

175ml heavy cream, very cold

10g fine granulated sugar

Cocoa powder, to garnish

1) Line a 6″ cake ring with acetate and place it onto a cake board.

2) Drain the macerated cherries.

3) Place the first layer of chocolate biscuit into the cake ring. Using a pastry brush, soak the cake layer with 1/3 of the Kirsch syrup.

4) Then, spread half of the light vanilla custard onto the chocolate biscuit.

5) Arranged the drain cherries onto the custard layer. Then cover the cherries with the remaining custard.

6) Place the second chocolate biscuit layer, pressing it down slightly to even out the custard layer. Soak with another 1/3 of the Kirsch syrup.

7) Spread the dark chocolate cream onto the chocolate biscuit.

8) Place the last layer of chocolate biscuit onto the chocolate cream and press down lightly to even it out.

9) Soak the top layer of the chocolate biscuit with the remaining Kirsch syrup.

10) Allow the cake to freeze overnight.

11) On the second day, remove the cake from the freezer and remove the cake from the cake ring.

12) Whisk the heavy cream with the sugar until stiff peaks.

13) Cover the entire cake with the whipped cream, using a comb to comb the side of the cake. Fill the remaining whipped cream into a pastry bag with a small round tip. Pipe squiggles on top of the cake.

14) Just before serving, sift the cocoa powder to cover the entire top of the cake.

The original recipe was for an 8″ cake so I had to half the ingredients to make a smaller one. As it can be difficult to whip small amounts of heavy cream, I whipped the cream used for the vanilla custard and chocolate cream together, then, weigh them accordingly as I made the individual components.

The cake is surprisingly light and an absolute delight to eat. I should probably add a bit more Kirsch though, as I could hard taste the alcohol. Seems like a viable option for the boss’ birthday.

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