For those of us of a certain vintage where the 70’s meant denim flares, disco and lava lamps, one of the top culinary experiences of the time was a huge slice of Black Forest Gateau.
It was always special as a youngster (I was a youngster then in case you were wondering) when on a birthday my mum and dad would take my brother and I to a pub and we would have Prawn Cocktail, Scampi (or Chicken) and Chips, in a basket naturally, and finish with a slice of Chocolate Gateau. What a treat.
Retro food has made a come back over the last few years, and very welcome it is too. Stroganoff, Chicken Kiev and even Arctic Roll have all been given a modern makeover and are great fun to make at home. But it’s the Black Forest Gateau that has always intrigued me as something I want to make in the Grumpy kitchen.
Broken down, I know it’s basically chocolate sponge, cream and cherries with some booze added. But obviously it isn't quite as simple as that.
I could go down the traditional and authentic route and make a Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte which has several layers of chocolate sponge (the bottom layer is sometimes sweet shortcrust pastry), lots of whipped cream, morello and maraschino cherries, grated dark chocolate and of course Kirschwasser (Kirsch). This sounds fantastic and a labour of love and some time I will do this on a day when there is no sport on the telly.
Other versions use a fatless chocolate sponge, or a flourless chocolate sponge, double cream, cherry jam, cherry brandy etc.
But none of these are for the Grumpy kitchen for one good reason - Mrs GCC does not like alcohol in her puddings, or anything come to that. So I need to find a recipe that has that Black Forest feel but without the Kirsch. And also something a little less involved.
So I found a few recipes for a Black Forest traybake which seemed to fit the bill. Quicker and easier to make and no Kirsch involved (although if I was eating it all myself I would add some). Some of the recipes used vegetable oil as the fat in the sponge but I’ve not used any of those as neither myself or Mrs GCC like the taste of cakes made with oil.
But because I didn't want the sponge base to rise too much I used melted butter as the fat in my traybake. The ‘creaming’ method you would normally use with softened butter for a sponge is great if you want some air in your mixture and a good rise, but for this traybake which has a heavier topping than normal and needs to hold its structure a bit more, using the melted butter means not as much air is incorporated in the mixture therefore giving a light but not too fluffy texture.
The chocolate sponge I have used is a Nigella all-in-one recipe that she uses for her Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake although I have added melted butter. Just put all the ingredients in a food processor, whizz until everything is well mixed, separate the cake mixture into two lined 20cm square cake tins and bake. This is the speed I am after.
I sandwich the two cakes together with some chocolate butter icing, drizzle the top with melted 70% dark chocolate, a good sprinkling of dried sour cherries and a combination of white and milk Toblerone, cut into slices. Dot some fresh cherries around and leave everything to settle down for an hour or two.
It may not be authentic, but if you want an eye catching chocolate cake that’s a wee bit different with a slight nod towards the Black Forest, give it a try.
INGREDIENTS (serves as many or as few as you want)
200g plain flour
200g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
40g quality cocoa powder
175g melted and cooled butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
150ml soured cream
For the butter icing
100g Softened butter
200g icing sugar to butter
2 tbsp Cocoa powder, sifted
For the topping
100g 70% cocoa solids chocolate
White and milk chocolate Toblerone bars
Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor and whizz until everything is combined and you have a smooth mixture. This hardly takes any time at all. Divide the batter into two lined square 20cm baking tins and smooth the tops flat. Bake in a preheated 160C (fan) oven for about 25 minutes, checking at 20 minutes. This is how long my cakes took in my oven but as your oven is probably different to mine you will need to use your own judgement. Just use the old ‘skewer comes out clean’ test to be sure. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes in their tins on a cooling rack then remove from the tins and leave on the rack to cool completely.
For the butter icing, just whisk everything together (start slowly unless you want your kitchen to resemble a sand storm in the Sahara) until light and fluffy. Always whisk longer than you think. I have made the mistake many times of thinking the buttercream was ready only for it to be dense and grainy on tasting. So when you you think it is done, convince yourself to whisk some more.
Spread the buttercream over the surface of one of the cakes (you may not need it all. It depends how much you like buttercream) and place the other cake on top. This is much easier when the cakes have cooled completely and settled down.
For the Ganache topping use 70% dark chocolate (I prefer Lindt, as it has a wonderful fruity taste but any good dark chocolate will do), chopped into smallish pieces and put in a bowl. Then pour over about 200g hot double cream (not boiling) and let the chocolate pieces melt. Stir well until very smooth. This 2:1 ratio of cream to chocolate will give you a good pouring consistency for drizzling, but the longer the ganache cools and the more you stir the thicker it will become. Drizzle the ganache over the top of your cake in haphazard lines. You will have ganache left over no doubt but let it firm up slightly, form into balls, roll in some crushed pistachios and pop in a tin for some quick truffles!
Before the ganache drizzle has completely set on your cake drop some soured cherries around trying to imagine when you cut the cake into squares each piece will have some cherries on it. I used dried morello cherries from Sainsbury’s which worked very well. Then just cut slices from your Toblerone bars which is easier said than done as some slices can become thicker than others but in the great scheme of things it doesn't matter at all as the look of the cake is due to its chaotic appearance - think Jackson Pollock.
Sprinkle the Toblerone pieces around the top of the cake (white and dark), again trying to visualise how you will be portioning it out. Trying to cut through a chunk of Toblerone into a soft cake is a nightmare. So a bit of judicious positioning now will pay dividends in the long run. I speak from experience.
Position a few fresh cherries on top for effect and taste and leave everything to relax and set.
This makes a great and unusual centre piece for a table if you have friends round for coffee or even served with a dollop of creme fraiche as a dessert.