In my world, and I am sure in most worlds, birthdays are a special celebration of life and love. When we celebrate a birthday, we are marking the day that someone we love, someone we share a friendship with, someone we share very brief moments with, was born. Although many people in my life would rather not celebrate their own birthdays, I am of the firm belief that birthdays are not ONLY for the honorary guest, but a wonderful excuse for those around them to celebrate, have fun and above all, indulge in completely huge, luxuriant and delicious pieces of cake!
Having said that, not just any old cake will do. Oh yes, the infamous sheet cake has graced the tables of many a birthday party, but when we're talking birthdays, the day we celebrate the very amazing day the marks the birth of our very special family and friends, cardboard-textured mud-flavored sheet cakes just don't cut it. The other day my husband and I celebrated his mother's birthday at our house and in an attempt to match such a celebratory event with an equally celebratory cake, I took on one of my most favorite cakes of all time, the German Black Forest Cake! Once you have a bottle of Kirsch in your hands, you'll be unstoppable! Trust me, if you want to provide a beautiful cake for an unforgettable birthday, this is the cake for you! Showy, chocolaty, decadent... what more can you ask for!
Here's what you'll need!
For the cake:
1 2/3 cake or all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened, dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 teaspoons Kirsch
For the Cream Filling:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kirsch
For the Cherry Filling:
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large jar pitted sour cherries in light syrup
granulated sugar to taste
1 tablespoon Kirsch
Yup, there's enough calories in here to make your head swim, but one bite of this cake and you'll forget you even know what a calorie is!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 9" round pans and then line the bottoms with parchment paper circles. Grease the parchment as well and then dust the inside of the pans with cocoa powder. Set aside.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Set this aside as well.
Using a hand or stand mixer, ha ha, hand and stand, using a hand/stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well to incorporate after each addition. Add the vanilla and 2 1/2 teaspoons Kirsch. Add the remaining ingredients starting with one third of the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well to combine. Evenly distribute the batter between the two cake pans. Set each pan on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, checking frequently for doneness once 25 minutes have elapsed. The cakes will be done when a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out nearly clean, with some crumbs clinging to it. I find that if the toothpick comes out completely clean, you've already lost and the cakes will be dry as they continue to cook a little even after removed from the oven, so pull them out a little before the clean-toothpick phase. Cool completely and then cut the cakes in half horizontally so that you will have 4 layers.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream into stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of Kirsch. Add the confectioner's sugar and a pinch of salt and beat until the mixture is nice and thick and spreadable. Set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch with enough of the cherry syrup to make a thick paste. Add the remaining syrup and heat on medium until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Once the syrup has become a nice thick consistency, and believe me, the thicker the better, remove from the heat and stir in the cherries and kirsch and allow to cool.
The last step before assembling the cake is preparing the simple ganache that will glaze the finished cake.
In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 300g of dark chocolate and 300 ml of heavy cream and melt on medium until the mixture is combined and smooth, but be careful not to boil the mixture! Remove from the heat and, yes, allow to cool.
Now lets assemble this cake!
Place the first layer of cake on a serving plate or cake pedestal and with a pastry brush, paint the layer with enough Kirsch to lightly moisten the crumb. Spread a layer of cream filing to the edges of the cake without spilling over (1/3 of the cream mixture) and top the cream layer with 1/3 of the cherry mixture and spread just about to the edges. Repeat the layering process with the remaining cake layers, Kirsch, cream and cherry fillings.
Once the ganache has cooled to room temperature it will have a lovely viscosity, perfect for pouring! Slowly pour the ganache over the top-middle of the cake, stopping every once and a while to spread the ganache evenly with an offset spatula or butter knife. Evenly coat the top of the cake and allow several drips to fall over the edges of the cake and down the tall sides. Once you have adequately enrobed the cake in chocolate ganache, place it in the fridge to set for a while before diving in! If you can wait that long...
The last step of this cake involves a little piping if you so desire, and some expert cherry placement. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with slightly sweetened whip cream. Pipe uniform stars along the entire rim of the cake and place a bejeweled maraschino cherry on every second star, voila! Beautifully decorated, tastefully arranged, scrumptiously delicious German Black Forest Cake!
I can't think of a more fitting cake for such an occasion as a birthday! The next time to want to impress your fans and surprise the birthday boy or girl with a special dessert, the German Black Forest Cake is your star!
The only thing missing is a few candles and a chorus of Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday Mary!