Black Forest Cake yields 1 nine-inch cake
INGREDIENTS: CHERRY FILLING
4 C pitted sweet cherries
1 1/2 C Kirschwasser (cherry brandy/Schnaps)
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean
1 T cornstarch
1 T cold water
INGREDIENTS: CHERRY CREAM
1/4 C Kirschwasser
1 qt heavy cream
1 (1/4-ounce) packet granulated gelatin
1/2 C confectioners’ sugar
INGREDIENTS: CHOCOLATE SPONGE CAKE
3/4 C cake flour
4 T cornstarch
4 T cocoa powder
8 large eggs
1 C granulated sugar
1 T vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
4 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
About 3/4 C Kirschwasser
1 C heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks with 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar as needed semisweet chocolate curls (see Chef’s Note)
• To make the cherry filling, begin at least one day before assembling and serving the cake. Stir together the cherries and Kirschwasser in a medium bowl. Add the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean, cover, and set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator to macerate for 24 hours.
• The next day, strain the macerating liquid into a small saucepan and reserve the cherries. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, reduce the heat to medium low, and maintain at a simmer. Stir together the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and drizzle into the simmering liquid, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove the cherry filling from the heat and set aside to cool.
• Preheat the oven to 375°F. and butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans.
• To make the cake, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa powder three times into a large bowl and set aside momentarily.
• Prepare a double boiler and maintain at a simmer. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest in a large bowl until just combined. Pour the egg mixture into the top of the double boiler and heat to 200°F, whisking constantly. Transfer the whipped eggs to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on medium-high speed until light yellow in color and tripled in volume.
• Using a spatula, gently and gradually fold the sifted flour into the whipped eggs. When nearly all of the flour has been incorporated into the eggs, fold in the melted butter, adding it in a slow, steady stream. Do not overmix the batter, or the cakes will be too firm and dense.
• Divide the cake batter between the two prepared pans, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.
• To make the cherry cream, pour the Kirschwasser and 1/4 cup of the cream into a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin overtop, and set aside until the gelatin is soaked (bloomed), about 3 minutes. Melt the bloomed gelatin by setting the bowl in a larger bowl of warm water no warmer than 86°F., and stirring until the gelatin is melted and dissolved.
• Pour the remaining 3 3/4 cups of cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin whipping on medium speed. Gradually incorporate the confectioners’ sugar, and continue whipping to form soft peaks. Add the gelatin mixture, raise the mixing speed to high, and continue whipping to stiff peaks. (Watch the cream carefully, as overwhipping will turn it to butter very quickly.)
• To assemble the cake, slice each cake round horizontally into thirds. Set one of the rounds on a cake plate, drizzle with Kirschwasser, and spread a thin layer of cherry cream over the surface. Spread a heaping tablespoon of thickened cherry filling over the cream, spreading it thinly, and arrange some macerated cherries on top. Continue assembling the cake in this manner, leaving the top layer plain. Frost the cake with whipped cream, being especially generous on the top. Fit a pastry bag with a star tip if desired, fill with some of the whipped cream, and pipe rosettes around the edges of the cake. Carefully press chocolate curls into the sides of the cake, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours before serving.
• To make successful chocolate curls, bring a block of chocolate to room temperature and, using a vegetable peeler, slowly move the peeler across one of the flat sides of the chocolate. Keep the curls in the refrigerator so they remain firm until you are ready to use them.