Black forest cake gets an upgrade with moist chocolate cake layers, homemade cherry sauce, and white chocolate mousse frosting! This showstopping cake is perfectly sweet and decadent.
What is Black Forest cake?
Based off a classic German dessert, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, black forest cake is traditionally made with chocolate sponge cake, whipped cream, and sweet cherry filling.
Why you’ll love this recipe:
This elevated version has a white chocolate mousse frosting that won’t droop or weep! Here’s why it’s divine …
- It’s beautiful & elegant
- Moist chocolate cake layers
- Light and airy mousse frosting
- Sweet cherry filling
I must admit this black forest gateau will ruin grocery store cakes forever. This towering beauty is perfectly sweet, light but decadent, and vanishes all too quickly!
This black forest cake recipe has four elements:
- Chocolate cake – Soft yet sturdy, this cake layer makes a fabulous foundation! The cake layers can be baked in advance.
- Sweet cherry filling – While store-bought cherry pie filling works in a pinch, I love homemade version better. It can also made in advance.
- White chocolate mousse frosting – Light and fluffy, this simplified mousse frosting is simply divine.
- Chocolate ganache – It’s purely for decorative purposes, but a little touch of chocolate never hurts!
- Canned cherries – We’ll use the syrup for drizzling over the chocolate cake layers.
How to make this recipe:
1. Make the chocolate cake:
I recommend making the chocolate cake layers in advance. Wrap the cake layers in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months!
I have a dedicated recipe post for the best simple chocolate cake with step by step photos and lots of tips!
Never slice or frost a warm cake! It will fall apart and cause the frosting to melt into soup.
2. Make the cherry sauce:
I also recommend making the cherry sauce at least a day in advance to throughly chill it before using in the cake.
You can also use one (21oz) can of cherry pie filling.
3. Make the mousse frosting:
Unlike the chocolate cake and cherry sauce, this white chocolate mousse frosting isn’t ideal make-ahead element.
Make it right before you’re ready to assemble the cake.
Make sure your heavy cream is chilled or it won’t whip properly!
4. Assemble the cake:
Before assembling, prepare each cake element as described below:
- Slice each cake horizontally into two even layers.
- Place the mousse filling into two large piping bags with a round tip.
- Strain the canned cherries and reserve the cherry sauce in a small bowl.
To assemble the layers:
- Place the first cake layer on a cake board and evenly brush some cherry sauce all over the cake.
- Now pipe the mousse filling on the cake layer. Use an offset spatula to spread it evenly, then pipe a border with the mousse.
- Spread 1/3 of the cherry sauce in the middle and top with a little bit more frosting.
- Top with the next layer of cake and repeat the process until all the layers are assembled.
Place a cake board on a turntable and smear a small amount of frosting in the middle. The frosting acts like “glue” so the cake doesn’t move.
To frost the cake:
- Frost the entire outside of the cake with a thin layer of frosting, referred to as a crumb coat.
- Then wrap the cake in plastic wrap and place a metal cake collar around the base of the cake if you have it. And refrigerate the cake for about an hour to stabilize. This will help the cake stay nice and straight.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the chilled cake and apply another layer of mousse frosting.
- Smooth with an offset spatula or a bench scraper.
5. Decorate the cake:
- Put the dark chocolate ganache into a squirt bottle or a small piping bag. The ganache should be flowing but not hot.
- Transfer a small amount of frosting to a piping bag with a large star tip.
- Drip the chocolate ganache around the edges of the cake, then cover the entire top of the cake with more ganache.
- Pipe 8 dollops of mousse evenly around the edges of the cake and top each one with a canned (or fresh) cherry.
The chocolate ganache should be thick but flowy, not hot and runny. Ganache thickens as it cools. Hot ganache will melt the frosting!
Tips for Success:
- Make sure the heavy cream is chilled before whipping. Warm cream doesn’t whip properly.
- Use the “spoon and level” method to measure the flour. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup and then level off with a knife. Or better yet, weigh the flour on a scale.
- Avoid overmixing the cake batter. This results in a dense and gummy cake, instead of a light and fluffy one!
- Make sure the white chocolate mixture is completely cool before folding into the whipped cream, or else it will melt.
- Never frost a warm cake! A warm cake will melt frosting quickly.
- Chilled cakes are much easier to slice. A warm cake is prone to break easily.
- If the white chocolate mixture doesn’t melt all the way, microwave for 10 to 15 seconds, then stir until smooth.
- For a boozy kick, add kirsch or cherry liqueur to the cherry syrup before you brush it onto the cake layers.
- The chocolate cakes can be made in advance! They’re actually easier to slice this way!
- Wrap the cooled cakes in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Make the cherry sauce up to 2 days ahead of time and refrigerate in a sealed container.
- Don’t make the white chocolate mousse frosting in advance. The gelatin will set up in the refrigerator and make it hard to work with.
Store black forest cherry cake in the refrigerator gently wrapped in plastic wrap.
Black forest cake is traditionally made with chocolate sponge cake layers brushed with kirsch, cherry filling, and whipped cream as frosting. It’s decorated with maraschino cherries and chocolate shavings.
Black forest cake is made with kirsch, a dry colorless brandy distilled from the fermented juice of morello cherries. Unlike other cherry liqueurs, it isn’t sweet.
Black Forest Cake
For chocolate cake:
- 2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (60g) unsweetened cocoa powder Note 1
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder Note 2
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons (280ml) milk at room temperature, Note 3
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- ¼ cup (60ml) vegetable oil
- 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter melted
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
For cherry sauce:
- 4 cups pitted sweet cherries fresh or frozen
- ½ cup sugar
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For white chocolate mousse:
- 1 ½ teaspoons (6g) powdered gelatin
- 2 tablespoons water
- 18 ounces (500g) white chocolate chips
- 3 cups (720 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 can (15oz) dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup
For the chocolate ganache:
- ¼ cup (2oz/60ml) heavy cream
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped
To make the chocolate cake:
- Line two 7-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
- In a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds, or until everything is well combined.
- Add milk, eggs, oil and butter. Mix the batter just until smooth, about 15 seconds.
- Stir in vinegar and mix for another 10 seconds.
- Divide the batter into the prepared baking pans. Bake for 35 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Let cakes cool completely in the pans set on wire rack. Then carefully run a knife around the edges and invert.
- Wrap each cake in a plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use, preferably overnight and up to 2 days. Chilled cakes are sturdier and slice much easier, but you can definitely frost the cake as soon as they have cooled completely.
To make cherry sauce:
- In a medium saucepan, bring the cherries to boil over medium-high heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add this to the boiling cherries along with vanilla extract and lemon juice. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook the mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and cool completely.
- Pour half of the cherry sauce over the bottom layer with white chocolate mousse, then place the top layer of the cake with white chocolate mousse and pour the remaining cherry sauce. You may serve right away.
To make the white chocolate mousse filling:
- In a small cup sprinkle the gelatin over cold water. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, pour 1 cup of heavy cream and bring it to simmer over low heat. Don’t boil. Remove from heat and add the gelatin mixture. Stir until gelatin is fully dissolved.
- In medium bowl, pour the warm mixture over white chocolate and using a silicone spatula mix until the chocolate is completely melted. Let it cool to room temperature.
- In a large mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, whip the remaining 2 cups of heavy cream until hard peaks form.
- Add white chocolate ganache into the whipped cream and gently fold until well combined. (TIP: Make sure white chocolate ganache is not hot, or it’ll melt the whipped cream and you’ll end up with soup.)
To assemble the cake:
- When the cake is cooled completely, slice each cake horizontally into two equal layers.
- Place the mousse filling into 2 large piping bags fitted with plain round tips, or simply cut the ends off.
- Strain the canned cherries and reserve the cherry sauce in a small bowl.
- Place a cake board on a turntable and smear a small amount of frosting in the middle.
- Put the first layer of the cake and evenly brush on the reserved cherry sauce over the cake.
- Pipe the mousse filling all over the cake and then spread it evenly with a small offset spatula. Then pipe frosting around the edges to create a border.
- Spread 1/3 of cherry sauce in the middle and top it with a little more frosting on top to even out the layer.
- Place the next layer of cake and repeat steps 5-8 until all the layers are assembled.
- To crumb coat the cake, frost the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and smooth it out as best as you can. Wrap the cake with a plastic wrap and place a metal cake collar around the base, if you have it. This will help the cake stay nice and straight. Refrigerate the cake for 30-60 minutes to stabilize.
To make chocolate ganache:
- Heat heavy cream in microwave for 45 seconds, or until hot. Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour hot cream over chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes, and then stir until smooth.
- If the chocolate isn’t melted completely, microwave the mixture for 15 seconds and stir, continue until ganache is smooth and runny. (TIP: Make the ganache right before assembling the cake.)
To decorate the cake:
- Apply another layer of frosting and smooth it out nicely with an offset spatula, or a bench scraper.
- Put the ganache in a squirt bottle. Make sure the ganache is not too hot before decorating the cake, but runny enough for dripping. (The ganache gets thicker as it cools.)
- Transfer a small amount of frosting into a piping bag, fitted with a star tip.
- Drip chocolate ganache around the edges of the cake, then cover the entire top of the cake with more ganache.
- Pipe 8 dollops of mousse with star tip on top and garnish with canned cherries.