Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Cake Kind-Of-Sort-Of Like Old


When mom was a kid (like, say, my age?), Granma (her mom) would make her a Schwarzwalden kuchen for her birthday. So, when I asked mom what kind of cake she would like for her birthday, that was the reply.
It took me almost a week to remember the word, but I still had no idea what it was. Mom kept saying "schwarzwalden kuchen" over and over and that it was a six layers topped with whipped cream and cherries. At least I had an idea.

When I saw Granma for Christmas, I asked her about it. "Oh, a Black Forest Cake." Why couldn't Mom have just said that? Not that it helped much. I've never seen or had one. Granma explained it to me and walked me through it.

I didn't take notes, and I wasn't about to run out and get a box of chocolate cake mix (again-oh never mind, I never wrote about the first time). So I found a recipe for chocolate cake, looked at some pictures of black forest cakes, and thawed out some almost cherry jam my aunt and dad made over the summer from the freezer.
I had two hiccups while making it: one was that when I did inventory, I failed to check oil and had to use every last drop of mixture and almost resorted to the extra-virgin olive oil; the other was that I overfilled the pan in an attempt to only use three. I needed to use four. I also made far too much cake. Splitting the recipe in half and using three cake pans would have worked better because my freezer has two cake layers in it.

But all that really mattered in the end, was that Mom liked it. And I don't think she was just trying to not hurt my feelings.

Possibly a Schwarzwalden kuchen (Black Forest Cake)

For cake layers (adapted from Gourmet via Smitten Kitchen)
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
11⁄2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
21⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
11⁄2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
11⁄4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
11⁄2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3⁄4 teaspoon vanilla


1 1/2 lbs pie cherries (or in my case, sour cherries cooked with sugar), drained (about 3 cups)
2 cups whipped cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon kirsch (optional-I can't legally buy it, but I did consider whipping it into the cream at the end)

Cake pans (either two 10" or three to four 8")
Parchment or wax paper
Butter to grease pans (I save butter wrappers from softened butter for times like these)
Pastry bag fitted with number 21 star tip

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper. (original called for two 10” round pans, I made it in 4 8” pans)

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (For 8” pans about 45 minutes.)

Cool layers 30 minutes in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

To assemble cake:
Whip cream in a stand mixer at medium-high about 1 minute. Sift in powdered sugar and whip for an additional ten seconds. Continue in ten second intervals until the whipped cream has stiff peaks.

If layers are thick, cut each one in half with a serrated knife. Otherwise, leave them as they are, unless the tops are domed, in which case level off.

On a cake plate, place one layer top up and spread with about 1/2 cup of whipped cream. Scatter 1/2 cup of cherries over the top. Place another cake layer and repeat. Repeat with third layer. (If you want to make a really tall cake, use all layers if following recipe as written and whip 4 cups whipped cream with 2/3 cup sugar and use more cherries too).

Reserving 1 cup of whipped cream, cover sides of cake evenly with whipped cream. Wipe clean any messes on the cake plate. Spoon reserved whipped cream into a pastry bag or a sandwich bag with a corner cut off and pipe around bottom and top edge of cake.

Serve immediately or refrigerate.

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