The perfect gluten free dessert for a special occasion or celebration. Traditional Black Forest Cake (Gâteau). An iconic, layered chocolate and cherry heaven.
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The iconic Black Forest Cake (or Gâteau) made gluten free
I share with you my gluten free Black Forest Cake. Just like the best of the traditional Black Forest Gâteaux you remember, but gluten free! And that makes it safe for Coeliacs (and Celiacs) and anyone else who needs to eat a gluten and wheat free diet. After all… Why should we miss out? And why should we ‘have to get used to’ food which is not as good as ‘normal’ stuff.
I feel so sad when I see comments in Facebook groups offering support to newly diagnosed people… Telling them ‘in time you’ll get used to it’… Or ‘eat the really bad stuff first and the rest will taste better’. Really? Why? No. NO!! NEVER accept less… There’s absolutely no need to put up with it.
My Gluten Free Alchemist mission…
For those who haven’t visited Gluten Free Alchemist before… This is my mission… I have made it my absolute business to make everything on here as good as you would ever have had before. For me, it’s more than reuniting with the foods we miss… It’s about making sure they are at least as good as and preferably better than the foods we miss. And yes. While I love the food shared here to look good, rest assured… It is NEVER style over substance.
So, grab the ingredients and bowls and bake! THIS is the Gluten Free Black Forest Cake (or gâteau) of memories held.
What’s the difference between a cake and a gâteau?
The term gâteau is a French word. As a child it always sounded posh to eat ‘gâteau’ rather than cake. But for the pedants among us (and yes, I’m one of them…), the question has to be asked… Is this a cake or a gâteau and what’s the difference anyway?
If you check the dictionary, the most commonly found definition of gâteau is “a large, sweet cake, usually with cream or fruit in it”. I’ve also seen it described as “a rich and fancy cake”. So gâteau = cake… Right? Well… Yes and no.
While there seems to be no agreed statement around the differences, the gâteau it seems, comes down to that childhood perception of ‘poshness’. It is (apparently) considered to be a little bit special… The cake that wants to ‘make a statement’ … More elaborate, often taller and with several layers of rich, creamy lusciousness. They might include layers of mousse or ganache… cream or fruit. But typically, the fillings tend to be fresh and require refrigeration and are designed to be eaten soon after making. The sponge itself plays a mere supporting role.
To be honest… Looking at my Black Forest Cake (or Gâteau), I’m still no clearer on what I have made. So, you have my permission to call it what you like… Either way, it’s absolutely delicious and (having looked at some of the other gluten free offerings on the internet), is definitely up there with the best.
What is Black Forest Cake/Gâteau?
While the term gâteau may be French, the origins of the Black Forest Cake are, in fact, German. One of the world’s most loved and iconic desserts, it traditionally consists of several layers of chocolate sponge, whipped cream and cherries. There is always Kirsch (a cherry liqueur which is also known as ‘Kirschwasser’) involved somewhere in the recipe. And the sides of the cake are generally coated in cream and chocolate flakes, with the top decorated in cherries.
Looks like I’ve made a pretty traditional Black Forest Cake then!
A little history for this timeless Chocolate Cherry Cake
The Black Forest Cake is said to have been invented by a pastry chef called Josef Keller in 1915 and was originally called “Schwarzwaelder Kirsch”. Or not… As is often the case with food history, some believe that actually, it was enjoyed way back in the 16th Century, combining the local regional Black Forest Morello cherries and Kirschwasser, with the newly available import of chocolate. And with its regional cherry links, it thus came to be known as Black Forest Cake.
It would appear however, that the origins of its name are also disputed… Some argue the name ‘Black Forest’ has nothing to do with the cherries per se and everything to do with the cake resembling the traditional ‘bollenhut’ folk dance costumes (red pom-pommed hats). Although to be fair, this also links it directly to the German Black Forest region.
Whatever the truth of the matter, for those of us old enough to remember, Black Forest gâteaux became a much-desired dinner party dessert of 70’s and 80’s Britain. And for me, it holds nostalgia, with memories of excitement as a young child if I saw one on the buffet table.
What’s the best flour blend for making this Gluten Free Black Forest Cake recipe?
While it is really important to use a gluten free flour blend to make the chocolate cake for this Black Forest Gâteau (single gluten free flours don’t work on their own), there are options for what you use. I have made the chocolate cake with both my Gluten Free Alchemist White Cake Flour Blend A and also my Rice-Free wholegrain Blend B. Both taste great. But if you prefer to use a commercial blend, I would recommend using one that is sold as gluten free plain white flour. Not bread flour or brown flour (they are too inconsistent for me to be able to say with confidence the results will be okay). A flour such as Doves Freee Plain White Flour would be a sensible substitute (although I haven’t personally tried it).
I wouldn’t recommend using self-raising flour as the quantity of raising agents in the recipe has been calculated for the ratio of other ingredients. Equally, I advise that you check the ingredients list on any flour pack for the addition of xanthan gum or other thickeners. If the blend already contains binders, leave out the xanthan gum listed in the recipe.
Can I use a different chocolate sponge to make Black Forest Cake?
If you have an alternative favourite chocolate sponge recipe, suitable for layering and that isn’t dense, that’s fine too. Just make sure you don’t make the layers too tall to ensure balance in the final cake.
If you are needing a recipe that is nut free and dairy free, I can also recommend the sponge recipe for Squidgy Chocolate Cake which is made without flour and is super-light.
And of course… for anyone reading this who isn’t gluten free (I promise I’m not envious), just use a favourite light chocolate sponge recipe that you are familiar with.
Cherries in Kirsch or Cherries in Syrup?
A traditional Black Forest Cake has to (by protected status) contain Kirsch cherry liqueur. The recipe shared here brushes the cake with Kirsch and also uses Kirsch-soaked cherries. I got mine from Marks and Spencer, but Opies also make them and they are available in a few supermarkets including Tesco and Waitrose.
However, if you want or need to make a Black Forest Cake that is alcohol-free, simply sub the cherries in Kirsch for tinned cherries in syrup. Make sure you choose Morello or black cherries, both for flavour and colour.
Why use Mascarpone Cream in Black ForestGâteau instead of plain whipped cream?
Anyone who has had a sneak-peak of the recipe will notice that it uses Mascarpone whipped cream rather than standard whipped cream. The reason for this is simple… Using a combination of cream and Italian Mascarpone ensures a more stable whipped cream that is robust enough to support the cake layers, without adding excessive amounts of icing sugar. I would recommend that you follow the recipe as stated.
Making cherry sauce for this Black Forest Cake recipe
The recipe gives instructions for making a Cherry Sauce that is used to top the Black Forest Cake. It’s fresh and fruity and well worth the effort. Given that it is spooned onto the top of the cake (barriered by cream to prevent it dribbling down the sides), it is important to reduce the syrup enough that the sauce is thick when pureed. If (having run it through a blender) you feel it is too runny for the job, return it to the saucepan and reduce further.
Alternatively, you can replace the separate sauce topped with cherries for a single Chunky Cherry Sauce (using either whole or halved cherries). You’ll find the recipe linked in my Black Forest Trifle post.
If you can’t be bothered to make the cherry sauce and just want to leave it off, that’s fine too, although some of the cherry depth will be lost. Or alternatively, you can blend a can of cherry pie filling as a short cut. It may be sweeter, but will still be delicious. You could even use it to brush on the sponges before layering, in place of the Kirsch.
Ready to Make Gluten Free Black Forest Cake (Gâteau)?
I’d love you to try my Gluten Free Black Forest Cake. It’s a bit of effort for sure, but SO worth it and really not difficult. If you do make it, please let me know. Leave a comment, tag me on social media (You’ll find me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter) and share with Facebook groups and others to let them know where you found it. And if you do try and love it, please come back and rate the recipe. A lovely 5* rating helps more people find the recipe and the blog. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
For lots of other great cakes (for celebrations and otherwise), don’t forget we have a fabulous Gluten Free Big and Celebration Cake Index to inspire you. And for everything else, head over to our main Recipe Index and browse. It’s got more than 400 recipes… all waiting… and all for FREE!
Other Celebration Cakes we think you’ll love…
Black Forest Cake/Gâteau
- 3 x 7 inch round non-stick baking tins
- oven + hob
- measuring jug
- silicone/wooden spoon or spatula
- serving plate
- large open star-tipped piping nozzle
- 185 g plain white gluten free flour blend eg. Gluten Free Alchemist Blend A – See NOTES
- 1 tsp xanthan gum (leave out if using a commercial blend that already has xanthan gum added)
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1¼ tsp baking powder gluten free
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder (optional)
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 220 ml milk dairy free if necessary
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 40 g cocoa powder
- 75 ml boiling water
- 105 g butter (or good quality dairy free alternative) softened
- 280 g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs At room temperature – UK large (Canadian ‘Extra Large’; Australian ‘Jumbo’; and US ‘Extra or Very Large’)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 105 g ground almonds (almond meal)
Thick Cherry Sauce
- 1½ tsp cornflour (US: corn starch)
- 50 ml cold water (or light syrup from a can of cherries)
- 40 g caster sugar
- 120 g pitted sweet cherries (fresh/frozen/canned – pitted cherry weight)
- 1 to 2 tbsp Kirsch cherry liqueur (optional – taken from Cherries in Kirsch jar (see below))
Whipped Mascarpone Cream and Filling
- 250 g Mascarpone Italian cream cheese
- 500 ml double cream (US: heavy cream)
- 150 g icing sugar (US: confectioners sugar)
- 1 tsp vanilla powder or paste (do not use liquid extract)
- 450 g Black Cherries in Kirsch (approx weight) or Cherries in syrup (preferably dark cherries)
- 150 g grated dark chocolate or crushed dark chocolate Cigarillos (approx weight)
- ½ tsp unsweetened cocoa powder to dust
- red edible glitter (optional)
- Base-line the baking tins with good-quality baking paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Weigh and mix together the flour, xanthan gum, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, espresso powder (if using) and salt. TIP : weigh into an airtight container and shake well to blend. Set aside.
- Weigh or measure the milk into a jug and add the white wine vinegar. Stir thoroughly and leave to stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes, until it has a slightly curdled appearance. This will make 'buttermilk'
- Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl. Add the boiling water a little at a time, gently stirring through until you have a smooth paste. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar using an electric whisk until pale and fluffy.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat with a fork to blend, before gradually adding a little at a time to the butter mixture, beating thoroughly between each addition.
- Add the vanilla extract and cocoa paste and beat again, until smooth and well-blended.
- Gently fold in the ground almonds using a large spoon or spatula.
- Finally add and fold through the dry ingredients and milk mixture, alternating a little dry followed by a little 'buttermilk' (about a third of each at a time). Fold gently to ensure as much air remains as possible and stop when the ingredients are JUST amalgamated to avoid over-mixing.
- Split the mixture between the prepared cake tins evenly and smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the tops spring back and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
- Allow to cool completely before filling and decorating
Cherry Sauce (can be made ahead of time)
- In a medium saucepan, mix the water with the cornflour (corn starch), adding it a little at a time to form a smooth paste.
- Add the sugar and cherries and very gradually bring to the boil over a low to medium heat, stirring continually.
- As the cherries soften, squash them with the back of the spoon to release the juice.
- Continue to stir, simmering until the liquid becomes clear and slightly thickened.
- Remove from the heat and cool slightly, before blending the cherries and sauce into a thick, smooth puree using either a hand-held or standard blender.
- Strain the mixture through a clean sieve into a bowl and allow to cool completely.
- When cool, add 1 to 2 tablespoons Kirsch cherry liqueur (taken from the additional jar of Kirsch cherries), or the canned liquid syrup if making a non-alcohol version and stir through to loosen very slightly. The sauce should however remain a thick compote (with a thin jam-like texture) which will be used on top of the cake.
- Store in the fridge until ready to use.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream
- In a large bowl, gently beat the cream cheese with a wooden/silicone spoon to loosen very slightly.
- Add the cream, icing sugar and vanilla and beat on a low to medium speed with a whisk until the Mascarpone cream has thickened to soft peaks. Be very careful not to over-whisk.
- Set aside in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake.
Assembling and Decorating the Cake
- Using a sieve over a jug/bowl, thoroughly drain the Cherries in Kirsch or syrup from the jar/can, reserving the liqueur/syrup. Set the cherries aside.
- Although it probably won't be necessary, level the sponge cakes with a large sharp knife as required, so that they are flat top and bottom.
- Turn two of the cakes over so that their underside is at the top (these will make up the two base layers of the gateau) and place one of them onto a serving plate or cake stand (if necessary securing with a small dab of the whipped cream).
- Brush the upper surface of both these cakes with a little Kirsch liqueur or syrup and leave for 15 minutes or so to soak in. (If you prefer to do this stage while the cakes are slightly warm, that's fine, but it made little difference to the end result). You can alternatively use warmed cherry jam to brush over the cakes.
- Next, either pipe or spread a thick layer of the whipped Mascarpone Cream over the first layer cake and randomly but gently push a handful of the drained cherries (from the Kirsch or syrup) into the cream, away from the outer edges.
- Carefully place the second (Kirsch-brushed) sponge on top of the bottom layer and repeat the process of topping with cream and cherries, before placing the final sponge on the top.
- Place in the fridge to cool for about 15 minutes.
- Using a cake-scraper, smooth a thin layer of the Mascarpone cream over the entire cake (sides and top).
- Take the crushed/grated chocolate and with small handfuls, gently brush the chocolate upwards from the bottom of the cake around the sides, so that it sticks to the cream. and the sides are evenly covered. This process may be easier if wearing a food-safe glove.
- Tidy up the base by using a clean pastry brush to gently remove any 'dropped' chocolate from the serving plate around the cake.
- Using a piping bag and a large star tip (or tip of choice), pipe rosettes of whipped Mascarpone cream around the edge of the top surface of the cake. Make sure that the rosettes join together so they form a barrier (this will retain the thick cherry sauce when added).
- Carefully spoon a layer of thick cherry sauce onto the top of the cake, gently spreading it to the cream border (being careful not to damage the rosettes).
- Take the drained Kirsch-soaked black cherries (or other remaining cherries) and arrange on top of the cake, gently pushing into the layer of cherry sauce.
- Dust/sprinkle the cherry surface and cream rosettes with a little cocoa powder and a sprinkle of edible glitter (if using).
- Best served immediately or on the same day. Store left-overs in the fridge for up to 3 days.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
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