Black Forest


As the bakers in this week’s Great British Bake Off challenge have been tasked with making a Black Forest Gateaux I figured I would attempt one myself as a show of support.  Obviously, mine wasn’t made against a time limit, nor in a tent and not under the watchful\judgmental gaze of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood!

This German classic has been made in so many variations over the years that it was difficult in deciding which direction I should go for my (valiant?) attempt.  Do I follow Mary Berry’s classic of sponge filled with cream and cherries or do I go my normal trick of ignoring convention and jumping, feet first, into something far too technical?

A few years back my lovely girlfriend gave me the lovely present of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck cookbook.  If you have never had the chance to see this in person, I can tell you it is a behemoth of a thing.  A3 in size, lined with silver and presented in its own over-the-top box.  This is the book of recipes Heston himself uses in his Fat Duck restaurant.

Now, I may fancy myself as an OK cook and a slightly better baker but this book’s recipes are way beyond my, or most other normal peoples, grasp.  With ingredients like ‘Freeze Dried Carrot Powder’ and ‘E54’, not to mention the cooking equipment normally found in science laboratories, this is some crazy Breaking Bad style nonsense (not suggesting Heston cooks meth of course)!  On one of these pages though, hidden away between the recipes ‘Snail Porridge’ and ‘Sound of the Sea’ is a wickedly indulgent take on Black Forest Gateaux.

Combining layers of biscuit, Pate De Fruit, Ganache, Cherry soaked sponge, white chocolate mousse and (finally) dark chocolate mousse.  This is then finished by using a car sprayer to cover the frozen desert in a velveteen layer of chocolate powder.  This is the sort of desert I can get behind.  This is the recipe I was going to make.

At this point in my tale, I will confess that I tried making this same cake a few years back for Christmas.  It tasted lovely but looked like a Black Forest monster had an argument with a trifle. I always vowed to return to it though, to make it bigger and better than ever before!

So, armed with my newly obtained Patisserie qualification and a few years more experience, I set to work on today’s treat.   I have simplified the original recipe in a couple of places.  I don’t see the point in making huge amounts of Pate De Fruit, for example, only to use the smallest smearing.  Might as well use jam in its place!  I also skipped the chocolate finish, both because I like the layered look of the final desert and also because I don’t own a massive spray painter!

The finished article resulted in a pudding that I was very happy with and will certainly make again.  At around a billion calories a slice though, this may not be an everyday treat!

Good luck to anyone attempting this.  It took me about 3 hours of solid work.



Biscuit Layer

 175g Self Raising Flour

75g Caster sugar

50g Ground Almonds

Pinch salt

150g Cold Butter

10ml Cold Milk

Handful of flaked Almonds

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180c
  • Place the flour, sugar, salt, ground almonds and butter into a large bowl. Work together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add the flaked almonds and stir to combine.
  • Add the milk and bring the dough together into a ball. Wrap and place into the fridge for 30 mins.
  • Once cooled, roll out dough to ¼” thick. Use a round cookie cutter and place onto a lined baking sheet.
  • Bake each batch of biscuits for around 10 mins, making sure they don’t burn. You may need to turn your baking tray round half way through cooking.
  • Once cooked, leave on a baking tray to cool.


Dark Chocolate Cherry Ganache

150g Good Quality Dark Chocolate

75ml Double Cream

50g Finely Chopped Cherries

  • Place the double cream into a saucepan and heat until boiling.
  • Place the chocolate into a heat proof bowl. Pour the boiling cream over this.
  • Wait 60 seconds then stir to combine. You will be left with a thick and glossy ganche.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then stir through chopped cherries.
  • Cover and place to the side for later.


Chocolate Sponge

100g Self Rising Flour

50g Dark Cocoa Powder

1tsp Baking Powder

150g Butter

150g Sugar

2 Free Range eggs

  • Pre-heat over to 180c
  • Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs and a spoon of flour, one at a time, whisking between each.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and coca powder into the butter and egg mix. Fold to combine.
  • Line a 10” Square tin with non-stick paper. Spoon cake mixture into this and smooth over.
  • Bake for 20mins or until the top springs back when pushed.
  • Remove from the baking tray and leave to cool.

Cherry Compote

200g Cherries

100g Caster Sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Vanilla Pod

Double measure of Cherry Kirsh (Cherry liquor)

  • Place the cherries and sugar into a large saucepan along with the lemon juice and vanilla pod over a medium heat. Stir regularly.
  • Once all the fruit has dissolved into a syrup, remove from the heat and strain through a sieve into a bowl. Make sure to push all the pulp through.  Cover and leave to cool.
  • Once cooled, add the Cherry liquor and stir to combine. Leave to the side for later.


White Chocolate Mousse

250g Caster Sugar

100ml Cold Water

2 Large Free-Range egg whites

125ml Cold Double Cream

100g White Chocolate

  • Place the sugar and cold water into a saucepan (don’t use non-stick for this). Use a sugar thermometer and heat to 122c. Do NOT stir the sugar during this time as it will crystallize and you will have to start again.
  • Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks in a stand mixer if possible.
  • When sugar reaches correct temperature pour over the egg white whilst still mixing slowly.
  • Once all the sugar syrup is incorporated, turn whisk back up to full and whisk until cooled.
  • In a bowl over a pan of simmering water, melt the white chocolate and leave to the side.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until you get soft peaks. Try not to over-whisk or it will be a nightmare in the next step.
  • Slowly fold the double cream into the cooled Italian meringue.
  • Slowly fold into the, now cooled, white chocolate. Cover and leave to the side.

Dark chocolate Mousse – The same as the white mousse.  Simply swap out the chocolate for a good quality dark.



  • Melt 50g butter in a saucepan. Place the almond biscuits into a food processor and blend with the melted butter until you get to a fine breadcrumb mix.
  • Take the tin you baked your sponge in and line with greaseproof paper. Make sure you leave enough excess paper that you can lift the cake out in the end!
  • Press the biscuit crumb mix into the bottom of the lined cake tin. Make sure you get an even layer and press into all the corners well. Place into the fridge for 10 mins.
  • Cover the biscuit layer in a fine coating of Apricot Jam, again making sure to get an even (but thin) layer. Place into the fridge for 10mins to set.
  • Once set, pour over the chocolate cherry Ganache. You can gently reheat the Ganache over a pan of water if it has set a little too much already.  Use a small palate knife to get the Ganache into the edges.
  • Turn your sponge cake upside down and layer over the Ganache. Press down gently to get a good seal.
  • Using a pastry brush, cover the sponge cake with the cherry and booze compote. Use all the compote as it will sink into the cake.  You may need to wait 60 seconds between each application to use it all.
  • Using a small pallet knife, apply a layer of white chocolate mousse over the sponge. You want a layer around ½” thick or more.  Again, make sure you get in all the corners properly! Place into the fridge to set for 20mins.
  • Do the same as the above, only with the dark chocolate mousse. Cover and leave to set in the fridge for at least an hour, preferably overnight.
  • Gently lift the cake from the tin and remove the lining paper. Use a VERY sharp knife to cut ¼” from each side to clean up the layers.
  • Decorate with fresh cherries and cocoa powder.
  • Admire your handy work!



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