Black Forest Gateau has something of a bad rap in the UK. It's seen as terribly kitsch, horribly gauche, and rather passé. This is what happened when something became a stalwart of 1970s and 80s menus, alongside prawn cocktail and Steak Diane. They became victims of their own success. There is nothing inherently disgusting or unpleasant about any of these foods—in fact, they're delicious—but their ubiquity made them figures of fun and worse, items of poor imitation. At this point, they began to lose their appeal. It's a terrible shame, because not only do they taste good, but all three of them are risibly easy to make. Yes, even a three-tiered gateau. Don't believe me? Try this recipe. You will not be overwhelmed by it and neither will you be disappointed by the results.

I'm fortunate to have eaten Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, to give it its official name, in Germany, in the 1980s. I can in no way vouch for the authenticity of this recipe, however. It's my take on a version that I found in the Guardian. Gosh I am pleased that I made it, however. I don't especially like chocolate or chocolate desserts, but this isn't too sweet, partly because it uses cocoa powder and also because morello cherries aren't overly sweet. The kirsch helps, too. Yes, it is rich, but it's perfectly rich.



Grease and line three 20cm (8") cake pans and preheat the oven to 180° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit). Many recipes say to bake one cake and slice it horizontally when it has cooled. That sounds like a recipe for the gateau equivalent of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to me, so I do it the way requiring more washing up. If you have springform pans, or at least loose-bottomed pans, so much the better.

Beat together the egg yolks with the sugars until thick. Sift in the cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. (If you find the mixture horribly stiff and the cocoa powder unco-operative, use half a tablespoon of hot water to loosen it.)

In a scrupulously clean bowl, whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff.

Add a spoonful of the egg white to the yolk/sugar mixture to make it malleable, and then carefully fold in the rest of the beaten whites, being careful not to knock out the air bubbles.

Divide the mixture between the three cake pans and place in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the cakes spring back to the touch. Ideally all three pans should be on the same shelf, but that's a logistical impossibility for most of us, so I had two on one shelf and one on another.

When cooked, I removed them from the oven, allowed them to set in the pan for ten minutes before tipping them out to cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, drain the jar of cherries (I bought mine in a Polish deli), reserving at least 100ml (3½floz) of the syrup and setting aside 12 cherries for decoration. Mix this reserved syrup with the kirsch. You can retain the rest of the syrup for cocktails, if you're that way inclined. Whip the cream so that you can spread it easily, so that's not too sloppy and not too stiff.

Once the cakes have cooled, sprinkle them evenly with the syrup/kirsch concoction and allow it to soak into sponges.

Place the first cake on a presentation plate and spread it generously with cherry jam (maybe a quarter of a 300g jar), pushing it all the way to the edges of the sponge. Now spread roughly one third of the whipped cream over the jam. You might want to leave a half centimetre gap around the edge of the cake to allow for 'ooze'. Scatter half of the cherries over the cream. Do place some cherries strategically at the edges of the cake to ensure that the sides don't succumb to gravity.

Place the next sponge on top of the cherries, and repeat the process.

Lay the final sponge on the other two and spread with jam. Now you can either get out a piping bag and pipe cream rosettes onto it with the remaining whipped cream, or just smear it with cream as you've done with the preceding two layers. Decorate it with the 12 reserved cherries and the shaved chocolate.

Serve it within a few hours of construction, otherwise it might collapse or the cream might go sour, and enjoy. It's not too sweet, looks wildly impressive, and is perfect for any kind of celebration.

(There's a picture here, if you want to see.)

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