Know Your Sweets: Black Forest Cake

Maria del Mar Sacasa

The Basics

With its decadent layers upon layers of cherries, chocolate, whipped cream, and sponge cake, the Black Forest cake is perhaps Germany's sweetest export.

Similar Desserts:

German Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Covered Cherries, Cherry Garcia

Spotlight Ingredient: Kirschwasser

Jackson Stateman

A traditional Black Forest Cake would not be complete without the addition of the age-old, none-too-sweet cherry liqueur, Kirschwasser (cherry water). The drink is made by distilling morello cherries, a cousin to the sour cherry, twice, using a complete fermentation process (stones and all). It processes clear, and adds a sweet-tart depth to any number of desserts, from cherries jubilee to chocolate truffles. (It can also be taken in shot form, if you're into that sort of thing.)

Spotlight Region: Black Forest, Germany


The Black Forest region of Germany, known for its heavily wooded landscape and hilly beauty, is located in the Southwestern part of the country. The area is known for its profuse number of stunning cherry trees, which perhaps served as the inspiration for a Black Forest Cake. Additionally, it is custom in the region that newly married couples plant a cherry tree to cement their love and help it grow, making the cake a touch romantic. Slightly less romantic are the other items for which the Black Forest is known, including ham, cuckoo clocks, and the world's largest earthworm species.


Every German seems to have an opinion about what constitutes a "pure" Black Forest Cake, with debates swirling for generations about number of cake layers, cherry type, and which chocolate makes for the richest dessert. Play it safe by making your cake with three layers, placing boozy cherries between each layer, and topping with chocolate shavings. You can't go wrong, really.


There are dueling accounts of who first created the Black Forest Cake, but pastry chef Josef Keller's name is always in the mix. In the early part of the 20th Century, Keller is said to have created the original "Schwarzwaelder Kirsch" (Black Forest Cherry) at a café in the Black Forest region, then passed along the recipe to his apprentice August Schaefer, whose descendants still lay claim to the "original" Black Forest Cake at their restaurant, Schaefer Café, today.

Others, however, claim that Erwin Hildenbrand, a master patissier, invented the Black Forest Cake in the spring of 1930 at the Café Walz in Tübingen.

The cake made it into print for the first time in the 1934 cookbook, 250 Cake Specialty and How They are Created, by JM Erich Weber, and became widely known throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and surrounding countries. By 1949, it was the 13th most popular cake in Germany.

Pop Culture

A girl in a bollenhut. wikipedia

A bollenhut is a traditional hat worn by women in the Black Forest region of Germany, comprised of a flat piece of felt, large pompoms, and a ribbon for tying the hat under one's chin. The red pompoms worn by young, unmarried girls very closely resemble the cherries on top of a Black Forest Cake, while married women wear hats with black pompoms.

Get the recipe!

Easy Black Forest Cake

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