a/k/a Black Forest Birthday Cake

I searched out a new chocolate cake recipe to make a heart-shaped lockdown birthday cake for a (German-speaking) friend.  This is a revised version of several similar recipes I found online, combined with Trader Joe’s bottled sour Morello Cherries and topped with a ganache made with TJ’s 72% Belgian chocolate.  It’s two hours drive to the nearest Trader Joe’s, but oh!  It was worth it!

Prep time is 20 minutes;  cook time is 35 minutes.  The filling takes about ten minutes – make sure it’s liquid enough to pour over one layer before placing the other layer on top.  The icing takes about 20 minutes to make;  set aside until nearly cool, and wait until the cake is at room temperature before applying the ganache.


250g (1 generous cup, two sticks + 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter
55g (heaped ½ cup) first quality organic cocoa powder
255g (¾ cup) plant milk
280g (2¼ cups) sifted all-purpose flour
15g (2 Tbsp) cornflour/cornstarch
350g (1¾ cups) sugar
4g (¾ tsp) baking powder
4g (½ tsp) salt
4g (1 tsp) vanilla extract
3 large eggs
185g (¾ cup) sour cream or Greek/Icelandic yogurt

One bottle of Morello cherries
25g (2 Tbsp) sugar
10g (1 generous Tbsp) cornflour/cornstarch, made into a thin paste with water
Optional:  25g (1 fl oz, 2 Tbsp) cherry liqueur

125g (4 oz) 72% chocolate or equivalent
125g (1/2 cup) boiling water or heated plant milk
100g (1/2 cup) sugar – icing sugar is best
Generous pinch of salt
Optional:  2-3g each of cinnamon and cardamom, 20g coffee liqueur

Two 9” spring-form pans, oiled/sprayed with Pam, and lined with baking parchment


1.   Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C and oil two 9-inch cake pans (or spray with Pam).  I use spring form pans, and line them with oiled circles of baking parchment for easy removal of the layers later.  Also, dust the bottoms and sides of the pans with cocoa and tap out any excess.

2.   Sift the cocoa into a medium bowl. Stir in 75g (generous ¼ cup) boiling water until smooth, then gradually whisk in the plant milk.   Set aside to cool.

3.   Sift the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt into a bowl.  Set aside.

4.   Using an electric hand beater or a stand mixer, cream the room temperature butter on low until fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, scraping down sides twice.  Beat in the vanilla.

5.   Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and reserved cocoa mixture a little at a time, starting and ending with flour mixture.  Add the yogurt and beat until smooth.

6.   Divide the batter evenly between your prepared cake pans, spreading with a flat knife or spatula until the batter is level.  Bake for 20-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  After 15 minutes of cooling in the pan, carefully remove the cakes and let cool on racks completely before assembling.

Sour cherry filling:

One 24 oz bottle of Morello cherries – make sure they are sour cherries
25g (2 Tbsp) sugar
15g (1 Tbsp) cornflour/cornstarch, made into a thin paste with water
Optional:  25g (1 fl oz, 2 Tbsp) cherry liqueur

1.   Drain the cherries and set aside while you make the sauce.

2.   In a medium pan, reduce the cherry juice by half.

3.   Mix the cornstarch with enough water to form a thin paste. Pour into the hot cherry juice in a thin stream, whisking vigorously all the while.  Simmer until the syrup is medium thick;  add the cherries and warm through.

4.   Once the cake layers have cooled, place one layer, topside down, on a serving plate. Pour over the warm cherries and set aside until cherries have cooled.  Carefully lay the other layer on top, right side up.  Set aside while you prepare the glaze.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze:

125g (½ cup)boiling water or heated plant milk
50g (½ cup) first quality unsweetened cocoa
100g (½ cup) sugar – icing sugar is best, sifted
125g (4 oz) 72% chocolate or equivalent, cut into chunks
Generous pinch of salt
Optional:  2-3g each of cinnamon and cardamom, 20g coffee liqueur

1.   In a glass bowl or pyrex measuring cup, mix the sugar, cocoa, and enough hot water or plant milk to make a thin paste. Whisk in the rest of the liquid.  Pop in the microwave for 45-60 seconds until the mixture has boiled up.

2.   Add the chunks of chocolate and let sit for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally to help the chocolate melt. You might need to microwave for 30 seconds at a time to help it along.

3.   Stir in the salt and spices (if using). Beat until smooth;  add more liquid (milk, boiling water, or coffee liqueur) until the overall texture is like heavy cream.

4.   Set aside until the sauce is room temperative. Pour over the assembled cake until it pools on the top and drips down the sides.  Leave the cake alone until  time to serve!

As always, here is a printable .pdf of this Black Forest Birthday Cake.