Black Forest Cake Roll! The classic European cake made with cherries, chocolate cake, whipped cream and Kirschwasser is turned into a cake roll covered with rich chocolate glaze and topped with whipped cream and, ummmm, Maraschino cherries.
Black Forest Cake is one of the most famous traditional cakes from Europe and has always been a favorite of mine.
Chocolate and cherry is a perfect flavor combination and the dousing of Kirschwasser in this cake only makes it better, in my opinion. (Of course if you can’t or don’t do liquor you can replace the Kirschwasser with cherry juice.)
Me? I want the Kirschwasser, and plenty of it. I know, shocking, right? Although I love the flavor of liquor in desserts, it’s not about making it taste like a cocktail. You can check out my post, Simple Syrup Complex Taste, to learn how alcohol brings out flavors in foods. Or you can just trust me and enjoy.
The base cake for my Black Forest Cake Roll is a chocolate genoise, which is a type of sponge cake. Broadly speaking, there are two types of cakes; butter cakes and sponge cakes.
Butter cakes have a base of butter and sugar. A large proportion of flour helps form the structure of a butter-based cake. Butter cakes are rich and moist and can be served with no icing (Pound Cake), with buttercream icing (Vanilla Butter Cake) or with fresh fruit (Buttermilk Bundt Cake).
I’ll often sprinkle a little syrup on a butter cake to enhance the flavor. But a little syrup goes a long way. Too much syrup will make a butter cake pasty and mushy, and no one wants a pasty and mushy cake.
To learn more about butter cakes check out my “Cake Batter” series in the Baking School tab in the menu at the top of the page.
Why you want to use a Sponge Cake for a cake roll:
A sponge cake has a totally different texture than a butter cake. Because the structure of the cake is mostly formed by whipped eggs and sugar, and because they usually have very little or no fat in them, a genoise is lighter and drier than a butter cake.
I know, I know, no one wants dry cake. So why would we ever make a sponge cake instead of butter cake?
Well, first of all, sponge cakes are great for roulades because they’re flexible and can be rolled without cracking.
Also, as the name suggests, sponge cakes can absorb a whole lot of liquid. When I want a cake with a significant amount of syrup for both moisture and flavor, genoise works much better than butter cake.
I also prefer to use genoise with whipped cream filling because I like the light and spongy cake with the light and airy filling.
Soooo, that’s a very long explanation for why my Black Forest Cake Roll is made with a chocolate genoise. The whipped cream filling was a given. The last consideration is the cherries.
While I have seen recipes that use sweet cherries for Black Forest Cake, for me only sour cherries will do. The tart, assertive flavor of sour cherries really marries well with dark chocolate.
I decided to glaze the roulade with a dark chocolate glaze because it looks so pretty, and it goes without saying that more chocolate is always a good thing.
So, about those Maraschino Cherries on top. The fact is, pitted sour cherries are not really that pretty, especially when they’ve been previously frozen.
I could tell you that I decorated the cake with Maraschino cherries because the bright red color looks striking against the dark brown cake. But the truth is…Maraschino cherries are a guilty pleasure of mine.
I know, I know, they’re really kind of gross. They have the texture of plastic and don’t taste like anything that comes from nature. Although I’m usually all about local and seasonal produce, and bake only from scratch using real ingredients, for some reason I have a soft spot for the jarred “cherries”.
I dunno, I guess it’s in the kid in me who always wanted the cherry on the sundae…
Watch the recipe video to see how to put together a Black Forest Cake Roll.
- 2 cups fresh or jarred sour cherries, drained and juice reserved (see note 1)
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 112g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (4 oz, 120ml) Kirschwasser
- 1/2 stick (2 oz, 56g) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz, 42g) cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup (3oz, 90ml) boiling water
- 6 large eggs
- 3/4 cup (6 oz, 168g) granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3/4 cup (3 oz, 84g) cake flour
- 2 cups (1 pint, 473ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (1 1/4 oz, 42g) confectioner's sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Reserved cherry juice
- 8 oz (224g) semi sweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 stick (4 oz, 112g) unsalted butter, cut into 1" chunks
- 1/3 cup (3 1/2 oz, 98g) corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon Kirschwasser
Prep the cherries
- Combine the drained cherries with the sugar and Kirschwasser, set aside for at least 1 hour (I like to soak the cherries the night before baking).
- Preheat the oven to 325°F convection or 350°F regular. Line a 13"x18" half sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Continue heating the butter until it foams, bubbles, and the milk solids fall to the bottom of the pan and turn brown. Pour the browned butter into a small dish, leaving the browned milk solids in the pan.
- In a small bowl, combine the cocoa and boiling water, whisk until smooth and set aside.
- Combine the eggs, sugar and pinch of salt in a mixer bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Whisk until the sugar melts and the eggs are a little warmer than body temp.
- Remove from the heat, add vanilla and whisk on the mixer until the eggs are "ribboned" (see note 2). Whisk a cup of the egg mixture into the cocoa mixture. Sift the flour over the remaining eggs and gently fold until the flour is barely incorporated. Fold in the cocoa mixture and the browned butter, careful not to over-fold and deflate the batter.
- Gently pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth to an even layer. Bake until the center of the cake springs back when lightly touched, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cover with a damp kitchen towel and cool to room temperature.
- Whip the cream with the confectioner's sugar and vanilla to stiff peak. Drain the cherries, reserving the Kirschwasser. Add the Kirschwasser to the cherry juice, adjust sweetness to taste.
- Lift the cake out of the pan, leaving the parchment paper attached. Flip the cake onto a clean sheet of parchment and peel off the old parchment. Flip the cake back over and remove the parchment from the top.
- Brush the cake generously with Kirschwasser syrup. Spread the cream evenly over cake. Sprinkle the cherries evenly over the cream. Use the parchment paper to lift the long edge of the cake closest to you. Roll the cake, using the parchment to lift and curl the cake. Flip the roll, seam side down and wrap with the parchment paper. Set on a sheet pan and refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours.
Make the Glaze
- Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 1 minute increments (stirring between increments) until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the corn syrup and Kirschwasser. Stir until smooth and glossy. Cool until the glaze is room temperature, but still pourable. If the glaze gets too thick warm briefly in the microwave.
- Set the chilled cake on a cooling rack over a clean sheet pan. Pour the glaze over the cake, use a small spatula to pick up glaze from the sheet pan and fill in gaps on the cake.
- Chill until the glaze is set. Use a long spatula to transfer the cake to a serving platter.
- Trim the ends of the cake, decorate with whipped cream rosettes and maraschino cherries, if desired.
1. If using fresh cherries (as I did), stem and pit the cherries then drain the juice from the cherries (save the juice). If using jarred or canned cherries, drain the cherries and save the juice. Depending on the type of cherries you use, you may need to adjust the amount of sugar in the syrup to taste.
2. To check if eggs are "ribboned", lift the whisk above the bowl and let the eggs trail across the top of the mixture in the bowl. If it leaves a "ribbon" that stays for several seconds, it's ready.
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