Black Forest gateau

I wanted to make a chocolate cake for a little pre-Christmas get together with friends, but was struggling to decide on a recipe that I was happy with. I didn’t want anything too dense as I knew we’d be feasting on savoury food and would probably be a little too full to eat anything rich. But I also knew I wanted to make some sort of a chocolatey cake as it’s M’s favourite flavour and when I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food’s website, it seemed entirely too providential as it’s her very favourite type of chocolate cake! Had to be done. The cream and the slightly tart cherry compote helped offset the chocolate cake itself so it made a delicious dessert for our little party.

It debuted to rave reviews, which of course made me so pleased.

Do read the comments on the website, they turned out to be very helpful for me in making modifications to the recipe. Read the recipe through to the end including my own tips, and it will turn out wonderful.

Have a lovely Christmas!

Black Forest gateau

For the cake
175g salted butter, plus extra for greasing
75g dark chocolate, broken into large chunks
300g plain flour
300g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 medium eggs
200g buttermilk
100ml boiling water

For the ganache
100ml double cream
75g dark chocolate, broken into large chunks

To assemble
350g frozen dark cherries, defrosted
100g morello cherry compote
4 tbsp kirsch (leave out if you prefer non-alcoholic)
300ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
Fresh cherries

  1. Make the cakes. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease and line the base of 3 x 20cm cake tins. Put the butter and 75g dark chocolate into a bowl and heat for 30 seconds at a time in a microwave. Stir after each time until completely dissolved.
  2. Mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda with a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk really well for a few minutes until thick and creamy .
  4. Stir in the egg mixture and the chocolate mixture into the flour mixture, then add 100ml of boiling water and whisk briefly with an electric whisk until the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the mixture into three baking tins and bake for 25 minutes, swapping them around after 20 minutes (to ensure they have risen adequately first) if your oven’s heat distribution is a little uneven or if the tins are on different shelves. I cooked 2 tins first, then the last one separately. A skewer should come out clean when they’re done, and they will start to shrink away a little from the sides of the tins.
  6. Let the cakes cool completely on a rack before transferring them out of the tins.
  7. Level the cakes off using whichever method works best for you (see below). I levelled two off and used the last one as the top layer.
  8. Make the ganache. Heat up 100ml double cream until just below simmering point. Put 75g dark chocolate into a heatproof bowl and pour the double cream in, stirring until all the chocolate has melted.
  9. Make the whipped cream. Add the icing sugar to 300ml double cream, and whisk for a few minutes  until soft peaks form.
  10. Mix the defrosted frozen cherries with the cherry compote and kirsch, if using.
  11. Assemble the cake. Spread a thin layer of ganache on the two levelled cakes to prevent the whipped cream making the cakes soggy. Spread the whipped cream over, then spoon over the cherry mixture. Repeat with the middle layer. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining ganache over the top. Don’t worry about the cherry mixture puddling at the bottom, adds more flavour! Decorate with some fresh cherries, if wishing.


  1. Whisk the eggs and buttermilk mixture really well. I only gave mine a perfunctory mix and I think my cakes would have risen more if I’d whisked more.
  2. Cool the cakes completely in their tins. Absolutely completely until they are room temperature. This will take an hour or two. If you try and transfer them out too soon, they will crumble into one big mess. You could, like me, make the cakes the night before and assemble the next day.
  3. There are lots of instructions and videos online on how to level cakes off. I tried the dental floss and skewer method – it didn’t really work for me. So I stuck in wooden skewers all the way across and out the other side of the cake at a level I wanted. I used 3 in total which divided the cake into six segments, then carefully lobbed off the domed cake tops using a bread knife. Keep it as parallel to the countertop as possible and it should work well.
  4. Don’t overwhisk the double cream. I kept on going with mine because I thought it wasn’t quite there yet but on spooning out realised that it had gone over.
  5. Morello cherry jam/conserve/compote is much tastier than the standard cherry flavour, so do use that if you can find some. I used Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference morello cherry compote.

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