Step-by-Step Black Forest Gateau is the most comprehensive tutorial on making a Black Forest Gateau, all from scratch! Featuring all the information, tips, process photos & a video tutorial, you too can make a stunning 4-layer Black Forest Gateau using an Air Fryer!
Step-by-Step Black Forest Gateau By Air Fryer
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Why Use My Recipe?
- Comprehensive recipe
- Step-by-step process photos
- Long-form video tutorial
- Common problems to avoid
- Baker top tips
- Air Fryer or Oven recipe
- Egg & butter-free Cake
- Money-saving recipe
- Gram, ounce & cup measurements
- All conversions & alternatives tested
- Bonus 8″/20cm Conventional Oven version
- Tastes amazing!!
This is my most comprehensive, step-by-step recipe that is also a teaching aid, with process photos for every stage, as well as a long-form video tutorial.
Baking On A Budget
I am not got to give the costs for making this cake as it will vary in different cities and countries. However, I will show you how to make for less than any other 4-layer, Black Forest Gateau you will find on the internet. Here is how:
1. Ingredient Savings
This chocolate cake is egg & butter-free, so saves you money with 2 of the more expensive cake ingredients not being needed. There is also no need for any special ingredients either. This cake does not contain Kirsch, a cherry brandy, but rather is alcohol-free and makes use of the cherry syrup from making the cake filling.
Now unless you have a cherry tree, cherries can be very expensive. And to reduce costs, as well make the cake easier to make any season, I have also made the cake using frozen cherries. Cherries I have frozen myself, as well as frozen cherry or mixed berry/Black Forest berry mixes you can buy all year round.
Fresh cherries are classic for the decoration on top of the cake, but it is very common to use Glacé cherries (candied cherries), or even Maraschino/Cocktail cherries. Just remember to wash and dry really well. You will see in some of the photos I used Glacé cherries.
With the increase in cost of UK Caster Sugar (Extra/Super Fine), I am now developing some recipes using standard granulated sugar. As well as being easier to source, it is still less expensive than Caster Sugar.
There is also no need for expensive chocolate or baking chocolate to use on this Black Forest gateau. For the 6″/15¼ cm cake, only 100g/3½ oz of chocolate is needed. And I recommend a 50/50 split between milk & dark (semi-sweet & bitter), basic chocolate by Aldi. (Currently Aldi Everyday Essentials Dark Chocolate 100g is priced @49p). If you don’t want to buy 2 bars, or prefer dark/bitter chocolate, then go for just the single 100g bar of dark/bitter chocolate.
2. Air Fryer Energy & Money Saving
If you have an air fryer, make the most of it, no matter how small, as it is great for so much more than just foods you would normally fry. Fry, roast, bake, stew, anything is possible and it will save you energy and hence, save you money too.
No need to get the ‘Big Oven’ on, (unless you are making something else in the oven, in which case use it for more than one thing and make some savings there). Using the air fryer also means, in these hotter days, your kitchen doesn’t get even hotter, making it harder to bake.
Using the air fryer, you will be making a smaller diameter of cake too, and reducing the ingredient costs. With the air fryer, I made the 6″/15¼ cm wide cake, (seen in most of the photos, with fresh whole cherries on top) using this slightly smaller cake tin. Photo here is the 8″/20cm version baked in the oven.
Air Fryer Baking On A Budget
This Black Forest Gateau consists of several components and here are the ingredients needed for each: (please note ingredient amounts are listed in the Recipe Card at the end, which you can skip to:Jump to Recipe
What You Need For Cake Layers
Granulated Sugar – for less expense, granulated sugar has been used, but this chocolate cake also works well with caster sugar, or a combination of granulated and brown sugar, (you can see more examples in the Egg & Butter-free Chocolate Layer Cake recipe.)
Plain (A.P.) Flour – this cake can be made with Plain/All Purpose flour or UK Self-raising flour. *Note if using Self-raising flour, no need for the Bicarbonate Of Soda (Baking Soda), or vinegar.
Bicarbonate Of Soda (Baking Soda) – only if using Plain/A.P. Flour.
Vinegar – any kind is fine: white vinegar, apple cider vinegar etc. *Only required to activate the Bicarb/Baking Soda, if using Plain/A.P. flour.
Coffee – espresso coffee, or coffee granules (see recipe for amounts). Note the coffee is not for taste but rather to enhance the chocolate flavour.
Cocoa Powder – this gives the deep chocolate taste to the cake.
Milk – any fat milk works fine, and has also been tested using lactose-free, dairy-free milk, as well as coconut milk. All work well and so the sponges can be made vegan if wanted.
Vegetable Oil – you could also use any neutral tasting oil as a replacement.
Vanilla Extract – a little Vanilla is added to enhance the chocolate flavour. Vanilla essence or ‘flavour’ won’t do this. Learn how to make your own Homemade Vanilla Extract, and save money in the long run.
Filling, Covering & Decoration
Here is what is needed for the rest of the Black Forest Gateau:
Whole Cherries – black cherries are best, and if you can get fresh cherries, use 12 of the best-looking ones for decorating the top of the cake. An alternative is to use Glacé cherries (candied cherries), or Maraschino/Cocktail cherries (just make sure to rinse and dry really well).
Berry Jam – traditional Black Forest Gateau is filled with a mixed berry thick and juicy jam-like mixture. This can include cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants etc. If you don’t have enough fresh cherries, you can (and less expensively), use frozen instead. Here in the photos I have used frozen Black Forest Fruits mix from Aldi and topped up the weight with some frozen black cherries. The frozen too will save you time in washing and pitting the cherries, (*for a tip on how to do that, see tips section after recipe card).
Cherry Syrup – traditional Black Forest Gateau has a cherry syrup laced with Kirsch, a cherry brandy, used to soak the cake layers. Proper name Kirschwasser, this is a clear brandy made from Morello cherries. To be alcohol-free and less expensive, we are just using the cherry/mixed berry syrup from the jam filling.
Lemon Juice – the lemon juice has pectin which is naturally occurring gelatin-like setting agent that is ideal for jam making.
Cornflour – also known as Corn Starch, this is to help thicken the berry jam.
Cream – double/heavy/whipping cream is needed & used to fill the cake, cover the sides and for piping on top of the cake. I like to use Elmlea Double Cream, as it has a longer life than fresh double cream and is slightly more stable too. (I see they also do a plant-based one too). It used to be less expensive than fresh cream, so was always handy to have in the fridge. As of June 2023 however, they both seem to be the same price now.
Chocolate – grated chocolate is essential for the classic Black Forest Gateau taste experience. I use a 50/50 mixture of plain & milk chocolate (bitter & semi-sweet chocolate), but you could use 100% dark/bitter is you prefer. I use Aldi basic chocolate too for all my baking, so no need for high cocoa percentage chocolate.
The Process In Detail
Planning Before Baking
Before you start baking, and if using an air fryer to cook the cakes, I advise on planning out what cake tins you are going to use. In Photo 1 you can see my small 3 litre/3.2 quarts air fryer, where I was deciding on what level to place the cake tin. You want enough space for the air to flow above and below the cake tin.
I baked the 2 sponges in 2 batches, but if you have a deep enough air fryer (or are using the oven), you might be able to bake 2 cakes at once. Please note that for this egg & butter-free cake, it is best not to bake all the batter in one cake tin as it will not rise enough and make cutting the layers more difficult. You could also divide the batter and bake in 4 shallower tins (in the oven), to reduce the need for cutting the cakes.
A Note On Baking In Two Batches
If there is bicarbonate of soda/baking soda in any cake batter you are using, and you can’t bake all the batter at once, place the rest in the fridge, while the first lot are baking. This slows the activation of the bicarb/baking soda and so your cakes will still rise.
Prepare Your Cherries – if using fresh cherries for the top of the cake, pick out 12 nice looking ones (you don’t need to be as ocd as me and match the shades, size and stalks haha.)
Making The Cake Layers
1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, sieve in the Plain/A.P. flour, Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking soda (don’t add if using self-raising flour), cocoa & coffee powder/granules. Add in the granulated sugar and mix to combine. (This can be done by hand or with a stand-mixer). See Photo 2 collage.
2. Next add the oil, Vanilla extract and vineger to the dry mixture.
3. Add half of the milk before using a hand-held or stand mixer to start to mix the ingredients together. And finally add in the rest of the milk and mix just until all combined. See Photo 3 below.
4. Prepare your cake tins/pans by greasing and lining. I use Frylight cooking spray for a lot of my baking, and spray on the sides and base of the cake tin, before adding a baking paper/parchment circle on top. See my video below, or article on how to cut circles for lining round tins/pans to save paper and save paper sticking in the cakes. Alternatively use cake release spray, or some butter and flour, but be sure to still paper line the bottom. See Photo 3.
5. Now divide the cake batter between the 2 cake tins/pans, as evenly as possible. (If you want to weigh the batter, it is approximately 400g/14 oz batter per cake tin). Give the cake tins a few tap on the counter/worktop to expel any trapped air before baking.
If using the oven, or your air fryer needs to be pre-heated, do so before this point. (Air fryer: 160°c/325°f. Oven: 180°c/160°c Fan oven/350°f/Gas mark 4). If only baking one cake at a time, place the second cake tin in the fridge until the first cake is baked.
Baking The Cakes
6. Pop the cake in the air fryer to bake @ 160°c/325°f, (Oven: 180°c/160°c Fan oven/350°f/Gas mark 4), for about 35 – 40 minutes, until risen, set and a cocktail stick comes out clean of crumbs. (See Photo 4). You might need to turn the cake pan part way through, but please no not open the air fryer or oven door, until past the half-way mark. You can also cover the cake with foil if the top is completely set and you are worried about over baking. Just make sure the foil is all the way under the cake tin so it doesn’t move. (If making the 8″/20cm cake layers, the bake time will be the same).
7. This cake will dome by nature, but to flatten and make layering easier, cool the cake upside-down as soon as out of the air fryer/oven. Place baking/parchment paper on top of a cooling rack and turn the cake pan over and on top of it. Press gently between the base of the tin and the underside of the cooling rack a few times to help flatten (use some oven gloves or a tea-towel as it will be hot). Leave to cool and set upside-down for at least 15 minutes, before releasing the cake tin. Run a palette knife around the sides of the tin if needed, and leave upsidedown on the rack to cool completely. You can try to carefully pull back the paper now, but if it is not coming off easily, leave a little longer. See Photo 4.
8. Pop the second cake tin in the air fryer to bakes as before.
Making The Berry Jam Filling
1. The berry filling can be made ahead of time, or while the cakes are baking. Begin by adding the sugar to a medium sized cooking pot and heat on a medium heat for the sugar to start to dissolve. Add in the lemon juice and your pitted berries or frozen berries (no need to defrost), and mix together. See Photo 5.
2. Let the mixture come to a rolling boil for about 5 minutes.
3. Next, remove 6 tbsps worth of the cherry syrup from the mixture and reserve for later. (If making the bigger 8″/20cm cake, reserve about 8 tbsps worth). See Photo 5.
4. Add 2 tsp cornflour (corn starch) to a small bowl and make into a slurry by adding 2 tbsp of water and mixing till combined and smooth. See Photo 6.
5. Add 2 tbsp of the reserved cherry/berry syrup and mix through.
6. Add this pink-coloured mixture to the cooking berries and mix through. Reduce the heat slightly & let the mixture continue to boil for another 10 minutes.
7. Reduce to low heat, and simmer the berry mixture until it reduces and becomes much thicker. Periodically you can check the thickness on the back of a wooden spoon, by running the end of a spoon through it.
8. Once ready the mixture will make a clear line on the back of the spoon (see Photo 7).
9. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl and allow to cool completely. (If making the gateau in stages or over several days, you can let the jam cool before covering with cling film/plastic wrap or placing in an air-tight container). Note it will thicken more with cooling & time.
Cutting & Flavouring Cake Layers
1. Once the cake layers are completely cooled (note you can make these ahead of time), you can cut each cake in half horizontally to make 4 thin cake layers for the gateau. If cutting same day, you can also pop on some paper and freeze for 15 – 20 minutes before cutting.
2. The easiest way to do this is to use some cocktail sticks to mark out the middle of the cake. Simply insert a cocktail stick at the half-way mark up the side of the cake layer. Push the stick in about half-way and add about 4 sticks, positioning them evenly, like at 12, 3, 6 & 9 o’clock on a clock face.
3. Use a long sharp knife to cut the sponge in half, by placing the knife so that it lies on top of 2 of the cocktail sticks. Keep the knife flat and on top of the sticks, and place your opposite hand on top of the cake to help hold in position, while you carefully start to cut into one side of the cake (see Photo 8, where my hand is missing as I was holding the camera haha).
4. Cut about 1/4 to half-way through the cake, before rotating the cake a little and positioning your knife on the next cocktail sticks and cutting as before. Once all the way around the cake, it is a case of holding the top of the cake and then cutting through the middle-most section of the cake before the cakes will separate completely. Lift apart and place on some baking/parchment squares, before repeating with the other cake to make 4 thin layers. (See photo 9 below).
5. To give some cherry flavour and moisture to the cake layers, use the left-over cherry syrup reserved from making the jam filling earlier and gently brush on top of the cake layers until all the syrup is used up.
**Tip – do NOT brush on both sides of the cake, as the layers are thin and delicate and can break.
6. Leave the cake layers on their papers to allow the syrup to be absorbed before using. If making ahead of time (overnight before assembling), you can leave an hour or 2 before loosely covering with a piece of cling film/plastic wrap. See Photo 9.
*Note the sponges can also be baked and cooled (with no syrup), 2 or 3 days before assembly, if wrapped in cling film/plastic wrap, stacked and left out at room temperature. No need to chill.
Whipping The Cream
1. To whip the cream simply add to a medium or large sized bowl (or your stand mixer), and use the balloon whisk on the stand mixer, or beater attachment on a hand-held mixer, to beat until you have soft peaks. See Photo 10.
2. Next add in 1 tbsp of icing/powdered sugar and some Vanilla Extract (the extract is optional), before beating again until stiff peaks are formed – see Photo 10. (*The cream can be made up a day before if need be, covered with cling film/plastic wrap, and placed in the fridge).
Grating The Chocolate
1. Don’t skip the grated chocolate. I used a box grater (shredder) and it was the easiest way to do it. Food processor and micro blades did not produce the right consistency. The regular size of grater/shredder that you would use for cheese, works great- no need for extra fine or larger pieces. (See Photo 11). Unless it is very warm, there is also no need to chill or freeze the chocolate first either.
2. Break the chocolate into double squares, (big enough to hold comfortably), and run over the grater. **Tip – hold 2 strips of chocolate together, as shown in Photo 11, to grate in half the time. The chocolate can also be prepared ahead of time.
3. If you can’t grate the chocolate, you can sometimes buy grated chocolate at the supermarket, in the hot chocolate aisle. Other alternatives are Chocolate Vermicelli sprinkles, found in the baking aisle.
Assembling The Cake
1.Once ready to assemble the cake, plan how best to layer the cakes to make it look as flat and level as possible. In Photo 12 you can see how I stacked the cake layers, with paper in-between, and placed on top of a cake tin to get an idea of how it will look. Once happy with the order of layers, deconstruct, and keep on their own paper, and place next to you, in the order you intend assembling. I hope that makes sense.
2. Have your 12 best cherries ready too for the final decoration (I planned them out by forming a circle as seen in Photo 12).
3. To make less mess, and make transferring the completed cake easier, I used an extra thin 6″/15cm cake board that would not be seen once complete. Place a wide sheet of baking/parchment paper on top of a cake tin, cake stand or something similar, (wider than 6″/15cm), that will give you height, as well as a flat edge to slide the assembled cake off of. (See Photo 13).
4. Place the thin cake board on top of the paper and spoon on a little of the whipped cream in the centre, before spreading a little.
5.Place your base layer of cake on top of the cake board, (whichever way up will make the top more level), and let the cream hold it in place.
6. Add some cream to the centre of the cake layer and spread out to the sides. Don’t worry about it going past the edge, and apply some more to make a thick layer of cream. (See Photo 13).
7. Carefully spoon on 4 – 6 tbsp of the berry jam filling on top of the cream layer, being careful not to go right to the edge.
8. Place the second layer of cake on top of the cherry filling and press down gently.
9. Use a palette knife and scrape the excess cream from the edges, and spread around the sides like a crumb-coat, sealing in the filling. (see Photo 14).
10. Place the cake in the fridge for 30 minutes, (or freezer for 15 minutes), to allow the cream to firm and the layers to settle in together.
11. Add another layer of cream and jam, before adding the third layer of cake and chilling like before. (See Photos 14 & 15).
12. Repeat for the final layer of filling and cake and then spread an even layer of cream around all the sides of the cakes (see Photo 15). It does not need to be perfect or smooth, just make sure that all the chocolate cake is covered and don’t worry about using too much cream as there will be plenty left over.
Covering The Sides
13. Covering the sides is messy but this is the best way I found to be able to use as little grated chocolate as possible – by using what falls down into the paper below. I placed a larger tray under the cake tin I was using to elevate the cake, and also added a layer of paper there too, to catch the chocolate. See Photo 16.
14. I used a glove on one hand, to lift some of the grated chocolate, then carefully placed my hand very near to the side of the cake, towards the top half of the cake. Then angled my hand before moving extra close and pressing my hand against the side of the cake, letting the cream grab the chocolate. (See my video for a better visual of that -was hard to take photos). Chocolate will fall into first layer of paper, and any excess to the tray below.
15. Use the first layer of paper under the cake, and lift underneath it, press against the cake and some more chocolate will adhere to the cream. Cup some more chocolate in your hand, and press against the bare area of cake.
16.Repeat this pressing chocolate and pressing the paper at the bottom edge, until all of the cake is covered in grated chocolate. See Photo 16.
Piping & Decorating The Top
17. To decorate the top of the gateau, you want to pipe some rosettes to hold your cherries in place. Use a small-medium piping bag (or even a piping syringe). I used a medium, closed star-tipped nozzle. See Photo 17.
18. Spoon about 10 tbsp worth of the cream into the piping bag, more if doing the 8″ cake. (See photo 17 where I placed the open piping bag, into a tall glass, and turned the ends over the glass. This allows you to have both hands free to fill the bag with the whipped cream.
19. After adding the cream, lift the ends of the bag, remove from the glass, and squeeze the cream towards the nozzle end. Close the bag and twist shut (a peg or clip is handy (see Photo 17), before pushing the cream all the way to the nozzle. Leave to the side.
20. Use some of the left-over cream, and spoon on to the top of the cake like in Photo 18. Leave a border around the edges and form a circle, to use as a guide for piping the rosettes. I just used the back of a dessert spoon to raise the cream into small peaks. (Alternatively, use the piping bag).
21. Pipe 4 rosettes at 12, 3, 6 & 9 o’clock, before filling in the gaps to make 16 piped rosettes. (If you only have 12 cherries for the top, then only pipe 12, make them wider, or leave wider gaps in-between). See Photo 19.
To make the rosettes, hold the piping bag at the closed end with one hand, and use the opposite hand to hold and guide the nozzle end. Squeeze the closed end while holding the nozzle tip on the cake, and let the cream pipe out for a few seconds. Let it give it height of about 1″/2.5cm, before pulling up sharply while releasing the bag pressure at the same time.
Twist the bag closed again and repeat all the way around the cake. You should have plenty of cream left in the bag, so go back around the rosettes and pipe on top of any that are smaller than others. You can also pipe on top of all of them again, to make tall rosettes, (about 1.5″/3.75cm), like in Photos 19 & 20. See video for more details.
22. Chill the piped cake for at least 30 minutes, before very carefully arranging your cherries on top of the cream rosettes.
23. Try to keep the cherries away from the outer edge and it is fine if the cherries touch, as long as they don’t make the cherries fall off. If you have problems with the cherries not staying in place at all, chill for another 30 minutes, or freeze for 15 minutes if possible.
24. Once all cherries are in position, add some left-over berry jam filling to the centre of the cake (optional), before sprinkling on a little of the grated chocolate. (Alternatively add cream and then chocolate).
25. Carefully place the cake (and cake tin), back into the fridge for 1 hour or longer if not serving soon.
Serving & Storing
1. Keep the cake chilled to make cutting and serving easier. But note that this cake is ‘jam-packed’ (excuse the pun), with yumminess and doesn’t cut super cleanly. Freezing would probably make it neater, but my lot won’t wait to eat cake! With chilling too, & constructing on a thin cake board, you should be able to easily transfer the cake onto it’s final serving plate or cake stand (either slide the cake off gently, or carefully lift under the cake board).
2. Serve the cake as is, or with left-over cream, but with the 4 layers, and the way I designed it, the cake should be of an even proportion and not too sweet. So all that would remain is to pair with your favourite beverage!
3. Store the cake in the fridge (or freezer for short periods), under a cake dome, in a cake saver box, or use an extra large Tupperware box, turned upside down to stop the cake drying out. Will be fine in the fridge for up to 3 days after assembling. Will also be fine at normal room temperature, for a few hours, but should be chilled again for easier cutting. Excess cream will be fine covered in the fridge for 3 to 4 days.
4. The chocolate cake sponge layers can easily be frozen for up to 3 months2. I recommend freezing the 2 baked and cooled layers, and not cutting until ready to use. Cover in cling film/plastic wrap and then some paper or foil, and in a food baggie, labelled and with date. Once ready to use, leave out at room temperature to start defrosting. Cut the sponges before the cake is fully defrosted, and still slightly firm to make this easier.
5. The berry jam filling can also be frozen, and stored in a labelled, freezer-safe air-tight container or strong jar, for up to 6 months3 and defrosted overnight in the fridge. Alternatively, it can be stored in a clean jar and placed in the fridge until ready to use. Left-over fresh cherries can be used in a lot of my cakes, pastries, frozen (for up to 6 month4) or make a concentrated cherry puree by following my Strawberry Puree Reduction recipe.
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DIFFICULTY LEVEL: Intermediate
Step-by-Step Black Forest Gateau
- Scales or measuring cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Small Jug (optional)
- Medium mixing bowl
- Stand or Hand Mixer
- Mixing spoon(s)
- 2 6"/15¼cm Round Cake Tins (for 8"/20cm recipe see notes)
- Baking/parchment paper
- Frylight/Cake Release Spray (or Butter & Flour etc for greasing)
- Wooden Cocktail stick
- Timer or Phone Timer
- Cooling rack
- Medium cooking pot
- Piping bag or piping syringe & nozzle
- Palette knife, or butter knife
- Knife & chopping board
- Cheese Grater (box grater or similar, see ingredient notes)
FOR THE CAKE BATTER
- 239 grams Plain Flour ( 8½ oz, 2 cups less 4 tsp – All Purpose Flour. Alternative UK Self-raising but omit the bicarb & vinegar – *see notes below)
- 1⅛ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda – if using Plain/A.P. flour only)
- 1½tsp Vinegar (Any vinegar – white vinegar, cider vinegar etc, but only if using Plain/A.P. flour)
- 228 grams Granulated Sugar (8 oz, 1 cup plus 2 tbsp * see below for variations)
- 36 grams Cocoa Powder ( 1¼ oz, 4½ tbsp)
- ½ tsp Salt 23⅔ fl oz
- 1⅛ tsp Espresso Powder (For Instant coffee granules use 1¾ tsp)
- 270 ml Milk ( 9 fl oz, 1 cup plus 2 tbsp – Any milk, lactose/dairy free or vegan alternative. See notes below)
- 90 ml Vegetable Oil (3 fl oz, ⅓ cup plus 2 tsp – any neutral oil)
- 1¾ tsp Vanilla Extract (Or Vanilla bean paste. See notes for how to make Vanilla Extract)
BERRY JAM FILLING
- 500 grams Cherries (fresh or frozen, pitted weight 17½ oz – or combination of cherries and Black Forest or Mixed Berries bags. Cherry weight with stones & stalks approximately 580g/20½ oz)1
- 200 grams Granulated Sugar (7 oz, 1 cup. For alternatives see notes)
- ½ Medium Lemon: juice off
- 2 tsp Cornflour (corn starch)
- 2 tbsp Water (30ml/1 fl oz)
- 2 tbsp Cherry Syrup (30ml/1 fl oz *taken from cooking cherries)
FOR THE CREAM
- 540 ml Double Cream (19 fl oz, 2¼ cup Heavy or Whipping Cream – before whipping)
- 2 tbsp Icing Sugar, sieved (Powdered Sugar, or add more to taste)
- 1½ tsp Vanilla Extract (Or Vanilla Bean Paste – optional)
- 4 tbsp Cherry Syrup (60ml/2 fl oz/¼ cup, taken from cooking cherries. Traditionally Kirsch (Kirschwasser) a cherry Brandy.)
- 12 – 16 Fresh Cherries (120-160g/4¼-5½ oz on average. Whole cherries, or lighter Glacé Cherries/Candied Cherries or Maraschino/cocktail Cherries)
- 50 grams Milk Chocolate, grated (1¾ oz, semi-sweet chocolate, see notes*)
- 50 grams Dark Chocolate, grated (1¾ oz, Bitter chocolate)
- Before baking, and if using an air fryer, I recommend planning out which cake tins/pans you will need to use, for there to be enough heat getting above and under the cake tin. See before this Recipe Card for more info.
PREPARE CAKE BATTER
- Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), salt, cocoa & coffee into a medium to large mixing bowl and mix together before adding in the sugar. (If using UK Self-raising flour, do not add bicarbonate of soda/baking soda or the vinegar).
- Add the Vanilla Extract, oil and half of the milk before mixing on the lowest setting of a hand-held or stand-mixer. Add in the rest of the milk & mix just until all ingredients are combined.
- Divide the batter between the two cake tins as equally as possible (about 400g/14oz batter in each if you want to weigh it). Tap the cake tins a few times on the counter/worktop to expel any trapped air before placing one cake tin in the air fryer. Set the air fryer to 160°c/325°f and bake for about 35 – 40 minutes. (If using a regular oven instead, pre-heat earlier to: 180°c/160°c Fan oven/350°f/Gas mark 4). If you have plenty room in your air fryer, bake both at once, otherwise, what I do, is place the second cake tin in the fridge so it will rise properly.
BAKE THE CAKES
- Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes till risen & a cocktail stick, inserted in the centre, comes out clean of crumbs. Place on top of a cooling rack for about 5 minutes, before adding some paper on top of the cooling rack, and turning the cake tin upside down. Leave to cool upside down and remove the tins now if you can, and leave for 10 minutes before attempting to carefully peel back the lining paper.
- Pop the second cake in the air fryer and bake as before. Leave both cakes cooling completely in an upside down orientation, as this helps with having more level layers and easier layering.
PREPARING THE FILLING
- While the cakes are cooking/cooling (or even a day or two before), you can prepare the berry filling. Simply dissolve the sugar & water on the stove-top on a medium heat, before adding the lemon juice and cherries (or mixed berries) and letting come to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Remove 6 tbsps of the cherry syrup & reserve for later. Next spoon 2 tsp cornflour (corn starch) into a small bowl, 2 tbsp water & mix to combine before adding in 2 tbsp of the reserved cherry syrup & mixing together. Add this pink-coloured 'slurry' to the cooking berries & mix through.
- Reduce the heat slightly & continue to boil for 10 minutes before reducing to low heat, to simmer until thicker & reduced. Once thick enough, the cherry jam mixture will make a clear line on the back of the spoon (see Photo 7 in the process photos before Recipe card). Transfer to a heat-safe bowl & cool completely.
CUTTING & FLAVOURING CAKES
- After the 2 cakes are completely cooled, cut each in half horizontally to make 4 thin cake layers. If cutting same day, pop the cakes in the freezer for 20 minutes before cutting. (See process photos & step-by-step instructions before recipe card for more information). Leave to settle at least 1 hour before adding the cherry syrup
- Have the 4 cake layers on papers, and brush the cherry syrup on the top of all 4 layers, until the syrup is used up. (You can leave 30 minutes in-between brushing on more if you like). DO NOT BRUSH ON BOTH SIDES. The layers are thin and delicate and can break. Leave uncovered for an hour or two before placing some paper on top and wrapping in cling film/plastic wrap if not constructing the gateau same day.
WHIP THE CREAM
- Before assembling the cake, with a hand-held or stand-mixer, whip the double/heavy cream to soft peaks. Add in the icing/powdered sugar & vanilla extract & continue beating until firm peaks form. Place in the fridge till ready, but if longer than 1 hour, cover with cling film/plastic wrap.
GRATING THE CHOCOLATE
- The grated chocolate can be made several days ahead of time & stored in an air-tight container. Simply grate the chocolate with a cheese grater/box grater on the standard edge. Will only take about 5 minutes if holding 2 blocks/strips of chocolate together. (see Photo 11 before the recipe card).
ASSEMBLE THE LAYERS
- To assemble the cake, have a thin 6" cake board ready, and place on top of baking/parchment paper, on top of a wide cake tin, flat edged cake stand, or something similar (see photo below, or Photo 13 in the step-by-step instructions). This will give height for you to work, be able to turn the cake , as well as be less mess for later when adding the grated chocolate.
- Spoon a small amount of the whipped cream into the centre on the cake board & spread a little. Place your 1st layer of cake on top of the cream & cake board & spread on a generous layer of cream, all the way to the edges. Carefully spoon on 4 – 6 tbsp of the cherry jam & spread carefully, but avoiding going right to the edges. Place the 2nd cake layer on top, press down very gently & use your palette knife to spread any excess cream, onto the sides of the cake, similar to a crumb-coat. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes, (or freezer for 15 minutes), to allow the cake layers and filling to settle.
- Repeat the cream & jam layering, 2 more times, as well as scraping the cream around the sides of the cake as you go, (not forgetting to chill in-between layers). Once the 4th layer of cake is in position, you can either just spread a little of the excess cream onto the edges of the cake alone, or cover the top layer completely in cream. You want to make sure you have enough cream left for piping but. Place the cake in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes & prepare to add the grated chocolate and cherries.
ADDING THE CHOCOLATE
- Place a larger sheet of baking/parchment paper on top of a large tray, wider than the cake tin or cake stand you were working on (this will collect the excess chocolate that falls. See photo below, the video or Photo 16 for reference). Have your grated chocolate ready & I recommend wearing gloves for adding the chocolate.
- Remove the cake from the fridge & place on top of the paper lined tray (so you should now have 2 different layers of paper, under the cake area, to catch the chocolate). Add the grated chocolate to the sizes of the cake with a cupped hand full of chocolate. Apply with your hand, to the top half of the cake first, release your hand, let chocolate fall, and press against the cake a little lower down, pressing more chocolate on. Lift more chocolate and fill the bottom area of the cake.
- Repeat all the way around the sides of the cake. In-between this, scrape the chocolate that has dropped onto the 2 sheets of paper below, & then back into your bowl of grated chocolate. See my video for more on this. **Tip – don't add the chocolate to the top of the cake too, as it makes it harder for the piped cream to adhere to the top of the cake. Once covered, place back in the fridge to chill while you clean up the mess (a chocolatey mess, that is still edible and useable).
PIPING & DECORATING THE TOP
- Place about 10 heaped tbsps worth of the whipped cream into a medium sized piping bag, fitted with a closed star-tipped nozzle & evenly pipe 12 to 16 rosettes in a circle, on top of the cake. Go round the rosettes twice, piping on top of the rosettes, making them taller. Place the cake back in the fridge for 30-60 minutes to firm the cream.
- Carefully transfer the cake, via the cake board, (use a palette knife to get under the cake board and allow you to get your two hands under the cake to be able to move it onto a cake stand or serving plate – see video). You can add some left-over berry jam filling to the centre of the cake if you like, with some chocolate sprinkled on top, or add some of the left-over cream before sprinkling on the chocolate. And finally, add the cherries on top, being careful not to push down too hard. Chill again for 1 hour before serving (or store overnight).
SERVING, STORAGE & FREEZING
- Keep the cake in the fridge and cut when ready to serve. The cake is ‘jam-packed’ (excuse the pun), with cream and berries, so difficult to cut cleanly. Store the cake in the fridge, with a cake dome on top, in a deep cake box, or with cling film/plastic wrap on top if you think it will be finished quickly. Will be fine in normal room temperature for a few hours, and last at least 3 days in the fridge. Left-over cream is still good for 3 days, if covered & stored in the fridge.
- The chocolate cake layers on their own, can be frozen for up to 3 months2. Best to freeze as 2 layers, and not cut into 4 layers, until ready to use. Cover with cling film/plastic wrap, then some paper or foil, and a labelled bag. Defrost overnight in the fridge & cut the sponges before the cake is fully defrosted, and still slightly firm to make it easier.
- The cherry jam filling can be frozen in a freezer-safe air-tight container or strong jar, for up to 6 months3 & defrosted overnight in the fridge. It can also be stored in a clean jar in the fridge until ready to use. Left-over fresh cherries are great in a lot of my cakes, pastries, frozen (for up to 6 month4) or make a concentrated cherry puree with my Strawberry Puree Reduction recipe.
- Choice Of Flour – Plain/A.P. flour used, but Self-raising (UK) also works, but remember to omit the bicarb/baking soda & vinegar.
- Choice of Sugars – a combination of light brown, dark brown and caster/extra fine or granulated all work well too.
- Choice of Milk – Almond, coconut & lacctose free milk all work too.
- Vegetable Oil – you can use any neutral tasting oil as a replacement.
- Cherries – fresh or frozen can be used for the jam filling, or a Black Forest berry mix. Fresh for the top decoration, or Glacé, candied cherries, or Maraschino/Cocktail cherries can be used, but rinse and dry really well.
- Cherry Syrup – traditional Black Forest Gateau uses Kirsch, a cherry brandy to soak the cake layers. To be alcohol-free & less expensive, we are using cherry/mixed berry syrup from the jam filling.
- Vanilla Extract – make your own Vanilla Extract at home
- Chocolate – grated chocolate is essential for classic Black Forest Gateau taste experience. I use 50/50 mix of plain & milk chocolate (bitter & semi-sweet chocolate), but you could use 100% dark/bitter.
- If not using air fryer, pre-heat oven to: 180°c/160°c Fan oven/350°f/Gas mark 4
- All measurement conversions hand tested by myself as Google is inconsistent & often inaccurate. Click to go to my Handy Table Of Common Baking Ingredient Conversions.
- More details and photos can be seen in the step-by-step instructions, before this Recipe Card.
- See below my Cardamom Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream using same egg & butter-free chocolate cake recipe.
- Pitting Cherries Tip – see my photo collage below, where I used a metal straw, to successfully remove the stone from lots of cherries. Which also worked with ripe apricots. This method not only made the job easier, left the cherries mostly whole, with minimal wasted cherry flesh, had you used a knife.
- To use a bigger diameter pan, check out the How To Increase A Recipe article. But for a 8″/20cm version (which is seen in some of the photos), here is what you need to know in the table below:
- Note on Timings – 6 hours is based on making all components on same day & being efficient, by using baking time/cooling time, to make other parts. These are estimates only and each part can be made on different days. See step-by-step recipe before this Recipe Card for more on this.
References: 1 Cherry weight with stone & stalk, based on my own calculations of pitting (using a straw), and weighing before and after. 672g before weight became 565g after weight, with a 16% reduction. If using a knife to pit, more cherries may be needed.
2, 3, 4 references all from Freezeit.co.uk For specific links to each, see bottom of main recipe post.
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1 Cherry weight with stones & stalks – all figures based on my own calculations with before and after weights, using a straw for pitting.
2 Taken from site Freezeit.co.uk – read more at Can you freeze chocolate cake?
3 Taken from site Freezeit.co.uk – read more at Can you freeze jam?
4 Taken from site Freezeit.co.uk – read more at Can you freeze cherries?
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