I am timid at tasks, which require me to keep up my energy levels high and constant through out. Baking layer cakes with icings and fillings is one such job, especially when the odds are always against me. What do you do when you have a small and a hot and humid kitchen? Do you extend it to the drawing room and even to your bedroom? I do! With the baking apparatus and ingredients occupying all possible nooks and corners of the kitchen platform and the floor, the dining table centered in the drawing room becomes the cake assembly station while the bedroom becomes my library with my laptop and cookbooks strewn all over the bed. Of course there are better and saner ways to stay organized, but this is how I go about most things in my life.
I shied away from making my own birthday cake on my last birthday. A girl requires to rest and get pampered on her birthday, doesnt she? But for my husband’s birthday I was all gung-ho about making a cake with a frosting and filling and all that jazz. It could also be because I had a co-baker to keep things going just in case I doze off on the sofa during baking time. My sister and I make a great team when baking. I was mean to her sometime back, or so she says, when I handed out trivial jobs like washing the measuring spoons when she had not a clue about baking. But the tables might just have turned now. We set out to make the traditionally German and the hugely popular celebration cake: The black forest cake.
We started making the cake at around 7 pm in the evening, and thanks to some poor planning by yours truly finally finished it at around 1 pm. The birthday boy meanwhile had become sleepy and the sisters were too tired to dress up and look clean for the cake pictures. So we decided to have a morning celebration instead and stored the cake in the refrigerator overnight. Its good to have dessert first but for a sweet hog like me, I loved it as my first meal of the day. We then packed half of the cake for my husband to take along to his office.
The cake hit the bull’s eye on all counts. The cake layers had a soft and delicate crumb held together by the sugar syrup. The whipped cream icing was not cloying sweet. The dark pitted cherries in syrup made it look like an authentic Black forest cake. The chocolate shavings on the sides perfectly concealed my faulty crumb coating and icing maneuvers. All in all it looked a million bucks for a birthday cake made at home. My first attempt at icing with whipped cream was not that bad either.
Black Forest cake
Adapted from Joy of baking
For the chocolate genoise:
- 3 tbsp hot melted butter (I used salted butter)
- ¼ tsp salt (I omitted it)
- 1/2 cup (60g) cake flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened or Dutch process cocoa ( I used Hershey’s special dark cocoa)
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the whipped cream frosting:
- 2 1/2 cup whipping cream (I used Tropolite which is a soy based dairy free whipping cream)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar
Sugar syrup for soaking the cake:
- 1/2 cup grain sugar
- 1 cup water
- few drops lime juice
For filling and garnishing
- Half of a 15 oz can of dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup
- Chocolate shavings
For the cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Butter a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and line the bottom of pan with parchment paper.
- In a bowl, sift the flour, salt (if using) and cocoa powder.
- In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm (about 5 minutes).
- Remove from heat and with the help of a hand mixer beat on high speed until the mixture is thick (about 5 minutes) (try to make a figure of 8 with the batter. The batter will fall in a ribbon like manner and the figure of 8 should stay on the surface and not disappear immediately. That’s when you know its done!)
- Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then fold in the rest. Take 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it). Then gently fold it into the egg batter. Pour into your pan, smoothing the top.
- Bake for about 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (cake starts to shrink from sides of pan). Cool on a metal rack before removing from pan.
For the whipped cream frosting
In your mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then beat the mixture just until stiff peaks form.
For the sugar syrup:
Add half a cup of grain sugar in 1 cup of water.in a saucepan. Heat till the sugar melts and the water begins to simmer. Add a few drops of lemon juice to get a clear solution
Grate your favorite bar of dark chocolate ( 50-70% cocoa).
Assembling the cake:
Using a sharp knife, cut the genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Alternately use the Lorraine Pascal method (as demonstrated on Masterchef Australia ) of using a thread (!) to split cake into layers. My sister did it a great job with it! Turn over the top layer of the cake (top of cake becomes bottom) and place on your serving plate. Brush the cake layer with 1/2 of the sugar syrup. Take 1 cup of whipped cream and spread on the moistened genoise. Place the cherries evenly over the cream. Brush the cut-side of second genoise layer with remaning syrup. Place cut-side down on top of the cherries, gently pressing to compact. Reserve one cup (240 ml) of whipped cream. First crumb coat the cake with the some cream. Place the cake in the fridge for about half an hour.Now spread the rest of the cream on the top and sides with a palette knife. Place reserved cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe rosettes on top of cake. Cover and refrigerate the cake for several hours (or overnight) before serving. Decorate with cherries and shaved chocolate.