Black Forest Cake (or Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte) is a South German dessert, usually prepared with sour cherries and kirsch (cherry brandy). Not all Black Forest Cakes are created equal, although they all contain some combination of cherries, chocolate and cream. The cake base in this version is an ethereally light chocolate chiffon sponge. Since it is prepared with oil rather than butter, it stays beautifully spongy and soft, even after a thorough chilling in the fridge. The cake is filled with canned dark cherries. (Yes, canned. I find them sweeter, juicier, and... cherry-er than fresh cherries. You also don't need to pit them!) I think it's the juicy tartness that cuts the mellow, rich flavour of cocoa, which can get boring in a plain chocolate cake. If time allows, let the assembled cake sit in the fridge for a few hours before you serve it; the flavours mingle and improve over time.
Unfortunately, I decided to make this at the height of a summer heat wave. Whipped cream gets unstable in the heat, and attempting to cover a cake with a mixture of milk and air gets tricky when the kitchen is over 25C. Things got a little precarious as the cream started sliding around, but here are a few quick tips for frosting with whipped cream:
-Keep things COLD. Whip the cream in a bowl and beaters that have been chilled in the freezer. Keep the bowl in a sink of ice water while you're working with it. Chill the cake as well before you ice it. Pop everything in the freezer for a few minutes if things start melting. I also cooled my hands in the ice water before handling the piping bag.
-Stabilize the cream. Many recipes call for whipping melted gelatin into the cream (1 teaspoon, bloomed and melted, to 1 cup of whipping cream), but this can be tricky. If the gelatin is too cold, it will form lumpy globs before it becomes uniformly mixed into the cream. If it's too hot, it will melt the cream, making it difficult to get peaks. Use the gelatin when it's on the warm side of room temperature.
-An alternative to gelatin is a starch stabilizer. The cream won't be as firm as if you used gelatin but the starch is much easier to use. Dr. Oetker's "Whip It" is a stabilizer that can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores. It doesn't change the flavour of the cream at all, but stops it from separating over time.
-Use a whipping cream with a high milk fat (% M.F.) content. Cream with a fat content higher than 30% qualifies as whipping cream. It can get as high as 40%, although this tends to be difficult to find. I used a 36% cream.
-Last but not least, avoid working with whipped cream on the hottest day of the year, if you can help it...
Chocolate Chiffon Cake
1/2 c baking cocoa
3/4 c boiling water
1 3/4 c cake flour
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1/2 c vegetable oil
7 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 t cream of tartar
In a bowl, combine cocoa and water until smooth; cool for 20 minutes. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Add oil, egg yolks, vanilla and cocoa mixture; beat until smooth. In another mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form; gradually fold into egg yolk mixture. Pour into an ungreased 10-in. tube pan. Bake on lowest rack at 325 degrees F for 60-65 minutes or until cake springs back when touched. Invert pan to cool; remove cake from pan.
Black Forest Cake
1 recipe chocolate chiffon cake
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned black cherries, pitted
6 oz. block of bittersweet chocolate
1. In a large, chilled bowl, whip the cream with sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Add stabilizer, if desired.
2. Split the cooled chiffon cake in half. Spread with about 1 cup cream and cover with cherries.
3. Top with the other cake half and ice with remaining whipped cream using a large metal offset spatula.
4. Use a chef's knife to create shavings from the block of chocolate. Press handfuls of shavings to the side of the iced cake to cover. (Wear a glove if your hands are very warm. It will slow the chocolate melting.)
Chiffon cake recipe adapted from Erma Fox at allrecipes.com
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