Black Forest Cherry Torte
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Who can resist this most famous of cakes, originating from Swabia in the Black Forest region of Germany. The key components of this masterpiece are cherries, chocolate, and whipped cream. Black Forest Cherry Torte is traditionally made with kirschwasser, but I prefer to use cherry brandy or cherry liqueur; the cherry flavor is strong and delicious for baking or just sipping.

This torte starts with a chocolate Genoise that has a light airy texture and is perfect for soaking up the liqueur laced cherry syrup. The cake is filled with sweetened whipped cream and, of course, lots of cherries. I prefer to poach my own cherries, using a dark sweet cherry. However jarred Morello cherries are also an excellent choice. To finish the cake, don’t skimp on the garnish. Adding whipped cream rosettes, additional cherries, and chocolate curls adds to the festiveness of this beautiful cake.

This cake takes time to prepare with the various necessary ingredients and preparation, longer than an average cake. But in the end it is worthwhile and you won’t be disappointed.
Recipe type: Dessert | Cake | Genoise | Chocolate | Cherry
Serves: 10 to 12
Chocolate Genoise Batter:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup cake flour
  • ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Poached Cherries:
  • 2 cups (about 1 pound) fresh dark sweet cherries
  • 3 cups water
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
Sugar Syrup:
  • 1 cup reserved cherry water (from the poached cherries), or 1 cup cherry juice from the jarred cherries
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons kirshwasser or cherry liquor or cherry brandy
Whipped Cream Filling and Frosting
  • 3 cups chilled whipping (heavy) cream
  • ¾ cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Reserved poached cherries
  • Reserved whipped cream
  • Small block of chocolate (milk chocolate, bittersweet, or semisweet) for chocolate curls
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare one 9 inch round layer cake pan; generously grease the pan with shortening and dust with flour. Tip: to make baked cake easier to remove from pan, lightly grease the pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, and then lightly grease the top of the parchment paper and dust the pan with flour. Wrap the outside of the pan with a cake strip to help ensure the cake rises evenly. Tip: Make a cake strip with a length of aluminum foil long enough to encircle the pan with a little overlap. Fold the strip lengthwise until it is 2 to 3 inches wide. Wrap the strip around the outside of the pan and secure it with a metal paper clip or tape. If you don’t have a heart shaped cake pan, substitute with a 9-inch round layer cake pan.
Chocolate Genoise Batter:
  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Or, place the butter in a microwave-safe bowl, use 50% power and heat just until the butter is melted; do not overheat. Set aside to cool.
  2. Sift the cake flour and cocoa together 4 times onto a paper towel or piece of parchment paper or wax paper. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, use a wire whisk to whisk together the eggs and sugar just until blended. Place the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, and heat the egg mixture 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until the mixture is a deep golden color and warm to the touch, between 110 and 120 degrees, using a candy or instant read thermometer to gauge the temperature.
  4. Remove the bowl from the simmering water and dry the bottom. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium-high speed until cool and the mixture has tripled in volume and is thick and light in color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla. Beat 1 minute longer. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  5. Place the cocoa and flour into a wire mesh strainer and sprinkle 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time over the egg mixture. Using a balloon type whisk or large rubber spatula, fold the cocoa/flour into the eggs, using about 3 to 4 turns with each addition of cocoa/flour, and making sure to reach to the bottom of the bowl as you fold. Do not worry about incorporating all the flour until the last addition, as too much handling will deflate the batter. The flour should be added quickly in about 5 to 6 additions.
  6. Before the last addition of cocoa/flour, quickly pour the warm butter in a stream over the batter. Immediately sprinkle in the remaining cocoa/flour mixture, and fold into the batter taking about 12 to 15 more turns to completely incorporate the ingredients, and taking no more than 15 to 20 seconds as the batter can deflate quickly.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, immediately push the batter into the prepared pan. If any butter remains in the bottom of the bowl, do not add to the batter as this could prevent the cake from rising. Smooth the top of the batter with a small offset spatula or the back of a large spoon.
  8. Bake: Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles, and place the pan in the oven. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is springy to the touch and has completely come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the oven and let stand 10 minutes on a wire cooling rack. Run a thin sharp knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake. Remove cake from the pan and place on a wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Tip: Lightly grease the cooling rack with vegetable oil or a nonstick cooking spray to prevent the cake from sticking.
Poached Cherries:
  1. Wash, remove the stems, and pit the cherries. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add the cherries; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until cherries are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the cherries cool to room temperature. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cherry water to use for the sugar syrup. Slice each cherry in half. Refrigerate cherries until ready to use.
Sugar Syrup:
  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the reserved cherry water from the poached cherries or the cherry juice if using jarred cherries, and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. When cooled, add the cherry liquor. Set aside and ready to use. Tip: if made in advance, rewarm before using.
Whipped Cream Filling and Frosting:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the whipping cream until soft mounds form; gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla, continue beating until thick and stiff. Tip: the cream will whip easier if the mixing bowl and beaters are first chilled; place in the refrigerator to chill until ready to whip the cream.
  2. Place about ½ cup of the whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large fluted tip. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  1. Set aside 12 cherry halves to use for the garnish. Place cherries, cut side down, on a paper towel to drain.
  2. Use a long kitchen knife to split each cake into 3 horizontal layers. Place the first layer cut side up on a cake plate. Using a pastry brush, brush about ⅓ of the sugar syrup over the cake layer. Using an offset spatula spread about ½ inch layer of the whipped cream over the top. Sprinkle ½ of the sliced cherries over the whipped cream.
  3. Place the middle layer over the first and brush with ⅓ of the sugar syrup, spread ½ inch layer of whipped cream over the top and sprinkle with the remaining sliced cherries.
  4. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with the remainder sugar syrup and place the cut side down on top of the cake. Frost the sides and top with the remaining whipped cream.
  1. Coat the sides of the cake with chocolate curls. Use the offset spatula to lift the curls and gently touch them to the sides of the cake. Reserve some of the curls for the top of the cake.
  2. Remove the filled pastry bag from the refrigerator. Pipe 12 rosettes around the top of the cake. Place a reserved cherry between each rosette. Sprinkle remainder of chocolate curls around the top perimeter of the cake.
  3. After garnishing cake, refrigerate, uncovered, 2 to 4 hours before serving. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.
Chocolate Curls:
  1. Place a small block of chocolate (milk chocolate, bittersweet, or semisweet) wrapped in a paper towel, in the microwave oven. Microwave for 10 seconds on the defrost cycle. Turn the block over and microwave again for 10 seconds.
  2. Handle the chocolate with a piece of paper towel so that it doesn’t touch your hands (the heat from your hand will melt the chocolate.) Scrape a vegetable peeler along the bar; scrape towards you, shaving the chocolate off into curls. If the chocolate seems too cold and hard and is not forming curls, return the chocolate to the microwave for a few seconds longer. Tip: the curls are fragile and will break easily if you pick them up with your fingers. Instead, use a thin spatula or toothpick to lift the curls and gently place them on the cake
Source: Baking Illustrated, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, 2004 The Essential Dessert Cookbook, Bay Books, Australia, 2008 The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book, Oxmoor House, New York, 2009 Walter, Carole, Great Cakes, Random House, New York, 1991 Wolter, Annette, Teubner, Christian, Best of Baking, Fisher Publishing, 1980
Recipe Notes
Pan: One 9" Round Layer Pan Prep: Generously Greased and floured Oven Temp: 350° Storage: Cover and Refrigerate Help: Cake Hints, Chocolate Types

Tip: In place of fresh cherries, use frozen cherries, or jarred Morello or Bing cherries. If using frozen cherries, cook as directed for fresh cherries. If using jarred cherries, they have already been poached; drain and reserve 1 cup of the cherry juice.

Help: Cake Hints and Tips, Chocolate Types

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