If you’re looking for a unique dessert that is as good as it looks, bake this authentic black forest cake. The light chocolate cake is made with a sweet, yet tart cherry filling and rich whipped cream. This traditional recipe is a family favorite and great to serve on special occasions!

top of black forest cake with whipped cream, cherries and chocolate shavings.

I love a dessert that perfectly pairs different flavors so well it’s hard to resist. Black forest cake does just that with its chocolate cake layers, cherry kirsch filling and homemade whipped cream frosting. This cake, also known as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, comes straight from Germany and is simple to make from scratch!

What is Black Forest Cake?

It is a layered chocolate genoise cake with a sour cherry filling and homemade whipped cream. Genoise cake is a light spongecake, which pairs well with the tart, yet sweet cherry filling made with kirsch (or cherry liquor). To hold it all together, the cake is covered in homemade whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Why this recipe works

  • Authentic German recipe: It is a variation of my future mother-in-law’s recipe. She was born and raised in Germany. She shared her go-to recipe with me and even helped me translate it from German to English.
  • A show-stopping cake: It’s meant to be served at special occasions, such as Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays—really whenever friends and family are visiting!
  • Perfection flavor combination: Sour cherries with chocolate cake and whipped cream truly has a mouth-watering effect.
  • Easy to follow: The detailed instructions, step-by-step photos and expert tips sets up novice bakers for success!

Ingredient notes

authentic black forest cake ingredients in bowls labeled with text.
  • Flour: All purpose flour is what I used in this recipe, but you can also use cake flour. I do not recommend self-rising flour.
  • Cocoa powder: Dutch-processed cocoa will provide the best chocolate flavor.
  • Eggs: You will need 6 eggs to make a light spongecake.
  • Cherries: Canned and pitted sour cherries are a must. Make sure they are in light syrup as this is used to make the filling. You can use maraschino cherries, but the filling will be sweeter (and not authentic).
  • Kirsch: A popular cherry-flavored liquor in Germany, kirschwasser is a clear brandy traditionally used in this Black Forest Cake.
  • Heavy cream: It is essential that the cream is cold in order to make a good stable whipped cream.

Recipe variations

You can also use frozen cherries in this recipe. Defrost the cherries in a strainer over a bowl and use the juice drippings for the cherry kirsch reduction. To make this recipe alcohol-free, use store-bought tart cherry juice instead of kirsch.

Alternatively, you can bake the batter in four 6-inch round cake pans or two 8-inch round pans. Baking time will be shorter. I suggest checking the 6-inch cakes around 18 minutes and the 8-inch cakes around 25 minutes. Cakes are done when they start to pull away from the sides and spring back slightly when gently pressed.

For garnish, I prefer chocolate shavings and fresh cherries, but you can also use chocolate sprinkles or pour chocolate ganache over the cake. Another beautiful finish is leaving the sides exposed, like I do in my German chocolate cake. You can use any leftover whipped cream to make my icebox cake.

How to make black forest cake

photo collage demonstrating how to make black forest cake in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients—flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Whisk eggs and sugar until well combined. Then heat bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly until warm to the touch.
  3. Whip egg mixture with an electric mixer until the batter has tripled in volume. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Transfer 1 cup batter to a bowl and stir in melted butter. Set aside.
photo collage demonstrating how to make black forest cake in 9-inch pan and how to make kirsch cherry filling and whipped cream.
  1. Add dry ingredients to batter. Fold until just barely combined. Add reserved egg and butter mixture. Stir just until combined without deflating batter.
  2. Transfer batter to 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes.
  3. Make cherry filling. Drain cherries and reserve 1 cup juice. Place drained cherries in bowl with kirsch. Cook cherry juice and sugar in a saucepan until reduced to 1/2 cup. Transfer to bowl with cherries and kirsch.
  4. Make the whipped cream. Whip cold cream with vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form.
photo collage demonstrating how to assemble and layer black forest cake with kirsch cherry filling and whipped cream.
  1. Assemble cake. Cut cake into three layers. Place one layer on a serving plate. Brush cherry kirsch syrup on top of the cake layer.
  2. Spread ¼ cup whipped cream on top the bottom cake layer. Pipe whipped cream around the edge and transfer cherries to the center. Add a little more whipped cream and spread evenly. Repeat steps with second layer.
  3. Place third layer on top and cover the entire cake with remaining whipped cream.
  4. Chill cake, garnish and serve.

Expert tips

Weigh your ingredients with a kitchen scale for accurate measuring. If you don’t have a scale, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level with a knife. Do the same with the cocoa powder. Do not open the oven door while the cake is baking. It will cause it to deflate!

Let the cake cool completely before cutting into layers and assembling. The cherry mixture should also be cooled completely so it doesn’t melt the whipped cream.

Use a cold metal bowl to make the whipped cream and whip until stiff peaks form. The more stable the whipped cream, the better results you will have while frosting the cake. Keep the cake chilled until ready to serve. Do not keep it at room temperature for more than an hour.

slice of black forest cake with fork holding a bite.

Make ahead and storage tips

Store the assembled cake covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can also freeze the cake for up to 2 months. Wrap it in plastic wrap and aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn. I like to freeze without the chocolate shavings or cherry garnishes so the cake has a fresh look when served. After freezing, defrost the cake in the refrigerator before adding fresh garnishes and serving.

The unassembled cake may also be made ahead of time and assembled later. After the cake has cooled, cut it into layers and wrap each individual layers in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to assemble.

The cherry filling and whipped cream may be made one day ahead of time. Let the cherry filling cool completely before covering and storing in refrigerator. Whipped cream should be covered and chilled too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are my cakes flat?

The batter was over-mixed and deflated. Genoise cake needs to be light and airy to get that characteristic spongecake texture.

Why is it called black forest cake?

There is a Black Forest region in Germany, but the cake gets its name from the kirsch used in the recipe. The cherry liquor, Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser, is from the Black Forest region and distilled from tart cherries.

Why is my whipped cream not whipping?

It’s either not cold enough or you used the wrong kind of cream. You need to use heavy cream or heavy whipping cream. Do not use plain whipping cream as it doesn’t have enough fat (yes, there’s a difference!)

What can I substitute for kirsch?

Any fruit-based brandy will work in this recipe. Try to use cherry-flavored liquor if you can find it. For an alcohol-free version, use tart cherry juice instead.

black forest cake garnished with chocolate shavings, whipped cream and cherries.

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top of black forest cake with whipped cream, cherries and chocolate shavings.

Black Forest Cake

If you're looking for a unique cake that is as good as it looks, bake this authentic black forest cake. It's the perfect holiday dessert!
5 (12 ratings)

Ingredients

Chocolate Genoise Cake

  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 ¼ cup (156 g) unbleached all purpose flour
  • ½ cup (50 g) dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cherry Filling

Whipped Cream

  • 3 cups (720 g) cold heavy cream
  • ¼ cup (30 g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Chocolate shavings for garnish
  • Fresh cherries for garnish, optional

Instructions 

Chocolate Genoise Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Heat the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until warm to the touch, about 110 degrees.
  • Remove from the heat and beat on medium-high speed with whisk attachment until the eggs are pale, cream-colored and voluminous, about 6 to 8 minutes. The mixture should form a thick ribbon with bubbles that falls from the whisk and rests on top of the batter. Mix in vanilla.
  • Transfer 1 cup of the batter to a bowl and gently stir in the melted butter. Set aside.
  • With the mixer running on the lowest speed, gradually sprinkle in the flour cocoa mixture. Mix until just barely combined. Fold in the reserved egg and butter mixture. Be careful not to deflate the batter.
  • Transfer batter to the prepared springform pan. Hold the bowl close to the pan so not to deflate the batter. Spread into an even layer. Bake at 350° F for 35 minutes or until the cake springs back slightly when pressed gently with a finger. Let the cake cool completely then run a butter knife around the edge of the pan before releasing it.

Cherry filling

  • Drain the cherries and reserve 1 cup of the cherry juice/syrup. Set aside 8 cherries for garnish (or use fresh cherries for garnish).
  • Place 2 cups drained cherries in a bowl with the kirsch. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup cherry juice and ½ cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until reduced to ½ cup, about 8 minutes. Transfer reduced cherry juice to the bowl with cherries and kirsch. Set aside.

Whipped cream

  • In a cold metal bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cold heavy cream and vanilla until soft peak form. Add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form (careful not to overbeat and curdle the whipped cream), about 2 minutes longer.

Assembly

  • Cut the cake into three layers. It helps to measure the height of the cake and divide by three. Mark where you want to make the two cuts and run a serrated knife across the cake horizontally to make three layers.
  • Place one cake layer on a serving plate. Use a pastry brush to generously brush cherry kirsch syrup on top of the cake layer. Spread ¼ cup whipped cream on top. Pipe whipped cream around the edge to prevent cherry filling from spilling out. Use a slotted spoon to transfer cherries to the cake. Spoon a little more whipped cream on top and spread evenly (you’ll still see the cherries most likely). Place second cake layer on top and repeat these steps. Place third layer on top and cover the entire cake (top and sides) with remaining whipped cream.
  • Chill the cake for at least 2 hours and ideally overnight.
  • When ready to serve, press chocolate shavings against the sides of the cake. Garnish the top of the cake with piped whipped cream and cherries (either fresh or the cherries set aside earlier). Slice and serve.

Notes

Alcohol free: Substitute kirsch with tart cherry juice (no sugar added).
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Freeze for up to 2 months. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Defrost in the refrigerator before adding fresh garnishes and serving.
Serving: 1slice, Calories: 502kcal, Carbohydrates: 49g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 18g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 164mg, Sodium: 149mg, Potassium: 199mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 29g, Vitamin A: 1474IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 64mg, Iron: 2mg

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