Cherry Chocolate Cake

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

This is a very tossed-together Black Forest Cake, or, as I like to say, when I am too lazy to bring out the piping bag and tips, it’s RUSTIC. All of the components of the classic German torte without the fuss. This cherry chocolate cake has layers of dark chocolate cake, fresh whipped cream and sweet cherries spiked with Kirschwasser (“cherry water,” or clear sour cherry brandy). These flavors are among the most celebrated combinations in the history of pastry making and yet this cake is often cloyingly sweet, overly fussy and conjures images from my 1970s childhood. Honestly, the version I remember was probably made with Cool Whip, Maraschino cherries and a cake from a box. Don’t get me wrong, that was just fine with me when I was 13. But, now my taste buds always cringe a bit at the thought of those Day-Glo-red cherries, a frozen whipped topping, that tastes like anything but cream, and the cake from a box just can’t compete with my Devil’s food recipe. The swoon worthy homemade version is super fast and easy to put together.
Watch me make the cherry topping and assemble the cake below, and you’ll find the recipe card at the end. You can find an updated recipe for Black Forest Cake in my cookbook Zoë Bakes Cakes.

How to Make Cherry Topping

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Place the cherries and kirsch in a sauce pot.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add to the cherries.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Add the sugar mixture to the cherries and cook over low heat until the cherries come to a boil and the liquid thickens and is transparent, about 10 minutes. If you are using fresh cherries, you will want to cook them until the fruit is slightly tender.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.

How to Assemble Cherry Chocolate Cake

Whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Place one layer of the cake on a serving platter.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Spread half of the whipped cream over the top.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Distribute half the cherries over the cream.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Repeat with the next layers of cake, cream and cherries.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Serve cherry chocolate cake immediately or place it in the refrigerator.

Cherry Chocolate Cake a.k.a Black Forest Cake | photo by Zoë François

Cherry Chocolate Cake | ZoeBakes by Zoë François

Cherry Chocolate Cake

All of the components of the classic German torte without the fuss. This cherry chocolate cake has layers of dark chocolate cake, fresh whipped cream and sweet cherries spiked with Kirschwasser.
4.5 from 4 votes

Ingredients

Devil's Food Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder sift if lumpy.
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hot coffee
  • 1/4 cup rum or brandy if you opt out of the booze then use more coffee

Cherry Filling and Topping

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen sweet dark cherries pitted (If you are using fresh cherries you will need to add 1/4 cup water)
  • 2 tablespoons kirschwasser or brandy
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Whipped Cream

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  • For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper and butter.
  • Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl and whisk until combined, set aside.
  • Whisk together, eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Slowly add the hot coffee and rum to the batter and whisk until totally blended and smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be quite runny.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until set when tested with a toothpick. Cool completely.
  • For the cherry filling and topping: Place the cherries and kirsch in a sauce pot.
  • Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and then add to the cherries.
  • Add the sugar mixture to the cherries and cook over low heat until the cherries come to a boil and the liquid thickens and is transparent, about 10 minutes. If you are using fresh cherries, you will want to cook them until the fruit is slightly tender. Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.
  • To assemble the cake: Whip the cream, powdered sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks.
  • Place one layer of the cake on a serving platter. Spread half of the whipped cream over the top. Distribute half the cherries over the cream. Repeat with the next layers of cake, cream and cherries. Serve cherry chocolate cake immediately or place it in the refrigerator.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

41 thoughts to “Cherry Chocolate Cake”

  1. Gorgeous! And sounds SO delicious. I have yet to make a “Black Forest Cake” probably because I conjure up the same images, but this looks truly decadent and delicious. You do create such beautiful cakes with tips and piping bags, but I always love “rustic”…

  2. This looks like just the thing to make on a snowy/rainy day in May! I like rustic – I am ALWAYS too lazy to bring out the piping bag and tips. Thanks for giving me a term for the way I bake.

    P.S. You look so young for having grown up in the 1070s. 🙂 (I know that was a typo…I’m just saying it in good fun.)

  3. Ah! Cherries!! I can’t wait for them to hit the market here!! Hmmm.. tossed together or not, that’s a cake I want a slice of!

  4. Mmm this reminds me of the Black Forest Cherry Cake my great-grandmother used to make for holidays… only hers was perfectly decorated and fussed over and therefore not within my comfort zone. 🙂 This cake, however, is something I’d totally try! Yum!

  5. In my childhood version this was the one time my mom would bust out the real whipped cream, but the cake was boxed, and the cherries were pie filling. I’ve been making cooks illustrated’s version for a while and we all love it. You can never go wrong with chocolate and cherry!

  6. I made this for my dad’s birthday last night, and it was wonderful – so simple, yet so pleasing. Thank you!

  7. I am in the middle of preparing this and noticed that the instructions for combining the cocoa powder are missing. I assumed it is mixed in with the dry ingredients so that is what I did. I cannot wait to try it! It smells delicious and the raw batter is yummy 🙂

    1. It was a deliciously smashing HIT!! Loved it! Thank you for the great recipe! Wish I could post a pic of the final 🙂

  8. Black forest cake is one of my favorite cakes. I fell in love with it when I first had the pleasure of tasting it in pastry school. Your version looks so beautiful and delicious.

  9. I LOVE rustic cakes. They are beautiful. What can I substitute for coffee and brandy (is there anything?) We hold neither one in the house!
    I would LOVE to make this cake.

  10. Amazing! For me Black forest cake recipe was so inspiring that I have baked a tall 4 layers cake with rich cherry filling. Cherry and chocolate pastry make a special kind of magic together, it’s true! Btw, coffee seems to be a bit unexpected, but quite matching ingredient for this pastry.

    1. Did you assembly and frost it the same day you served it? I have made it but haven’t made the whipped cream frosting yet and I need this cake for tomorrow. Thanks in advance!

  11. This was my favorite request for my birthday cake every year as a kid. Lost the recipe after mom passed away, but this is the closest I’ve seen from what I can remember. My daughter and I are excited to try it this valentine’s season!!!

  12. Thanks for sharing this. I can’t tell how I love this cake and I’ll give it a try as soon as possible. Thanks, thanks…

  13. This looks amazing! I’m going to make it for my mom’s birthday, but can I subsitute something for the kirschwasser or brandy? Thanks!

  14. We don’t use sweet cherries in our Black Forest cake in Germany. We use sour cherries. They are already cooked and in glasses.

  15. This cake was awesome and definitely a keeper. We are hosting a German Intern and he was craving a traditional black forest cake. His mother sent over the recipe in German and we found it a bit difficult to translate and convert. I found your recipe and we decided to make it. he was sooo happy. The taste was very similar to that from his homeland and every other guest thought is was absolutely delicious. Thank you! (I may try it using sour cherries next time – just for comparison sake)

    1. Hi Mitzi,

      This is a tough one, the coffee and alcohol (or at least one of them) act to counter the sweetness of the cake, which gives it the depth of flavor. I am trying to think of something else you can use to recreate that flavor contrast, without being too powerful. You don’t taste the coffee or alcohol, they just add a bitter edge. Let me ponder and if I come up with something I will let you know.

      Thanks, Zoë

  16. Just found this cake in October of this year, and made it for a friend’s birthday. It r ceivedmrave reviews. When I told my sister about it, she requested I make it for our Christmas Eve dinner. It’s in the oven, now, looking forward to sharing this new find.

  17. This recipe is outstanding. I don’t leave too many reviews, but had to for this one. I used Remy Martin for the brandy. Next time will try with the cherry brandy. Definite hit with all the guests. Rustic, and beautiful.

  18. Thanks for posting the recipe. I’m excited about making it for a house guest that’s coming tomorrow. It’s actually in the oven now! I was curious though about two things. You list cocoa as an ingredient, but you don’t mention anything about adding it. Also you list 1 egg white and 1 egg. When you say to wisk the eggs with the other liquids, is the egg white just runny at this point – no wisking the white first? Not really an issue for me this go round as the guest is anaphylactic to eggs, but if I make it again it would be nice to know. Again thanks so much! You bring a lot of joy to people.

    1. Hi Carter, Thank you for pointing this out! I updated the recipe to reflect when to add the cocoa powder (whisk with dry ingredients). As for the egg white, no need to whisk it separately first as it will be whisked in with the other liquids.

      1. The cake turned out great. One of our guests is anaphylactic to eggs, so the only change I made was an egg substitute. I posted pics and tagged @zoebacks. Hope I did right by her! Cheers. Carter

  19. Hi Zoe and team!

    I have baked the cake, my cherries are cooling but I have not yet assembled it as it’s cooling. I need this cake to serve tomorrow afternoon. I have a couple of questions please 🙂

    1) Does this whipped cream frosting require unflavored gelatin to stabilize it?
    2) Can I make it in advance (as in tonight) so all I have to do it assemble it in the morning?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Milena! 1). No gelatin needed. 2). You will need to make the whipped cream just before assembly, but after assembly it will last a couple of days assembled. I hope this helps!

  20. 4 stars
    Thank you it did and it tasted great. The only thing was that my whipped cream frosting made cutting a little challenging and the layer was sliding around a bit. The main thing is the cake was great!

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