Sunday, 15 January 2012

Winter-flowering Cherry Cake / Black Forest Gateau

A friend (the owner of a promptu and excellent specialist liqueur business Alchemist Dreams) had a Winter Foods Party this weekend where everyone had to bring something comforting.  'You make very very tasty puddings,' she said (no word of a lie) so I decided to bring a cake.  At first I thought of Nigella's chocolate marmalade cake, which keeps forever and is very easy to construct indeed as it is all made in a big saucepan.  However although tasty and warming it is not exactly the most flamboyant thing in my repertoire, so as usual when entertainment is called for I decided to make something up.

The following would probably be called a Black Forest Gateau anywhere else.  The last time I tasted home-made BFG was when my mum made one for my brother's forest-themed 5th birthday party.  There was a lovely hand-drawn (by Mum) red squirrel on the invitaitions, and we played many traditional wolf-themed party games.  The cake was I think the most luxurious, foreign and sqodgy thing Mum ever made, and due perhaps to the faff never made it again that I recall. She did save one of the invites from great pride though (it was a brilliant squirrel).

Dark cherries have been at the front of my mind recently for a reason I can't recall, and so this cherry-chocolate concoction with vanilla creamy filling was inspired by Culinaria, Muse of Baking, rather than any one gateau recipe.  By happy chance the combination has already been tested by Germans everywhere for decades, so I couldn't go far wrong.

Winter Flowering Cherry Cake
You Will Need: 20-23cm Springform tin (baking paper and scissors if not non-stick); sharp knife and chopping board, small plate; large bowl, wooden spoon, scales; small saucepan, medium bowl; mug, whisk, fork, breadknife;  serving plates.

200g dark cooking chocolate
70g sugar
100g butter
6 eggs
2 tins pitted black cherries in syrup
100g self-raising flour
dried black cherries
300ml extra thick cream
1tsp vanilla essence

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.  If necessary, line your tin with baking paper and grease with a small amount of butter; set aside for later.
2) Take a block of chocolate smooth side up, the sharp knife and chopping board, and small plate.  Scrape the knife towards you gently over the flat surface of the chocolate block to make curls of chocolate.  Set these aside on the small plate and put in the fridge for later. 
3) Melt the remaining chocolate in the medium bowl over a pan quarter-full of boiling water.  Cut the butter into small chunks and add that.  Stir very very gently to melt.  Add the sugar and mix gently.
4) Take four of your eggs, and whisk them in the large bowl until well blended.  Slowly add the chocolate-butter mixture and whisk as you go until well mixed.  Drain the tinned cherries of their syrup; check for any which have been badly pitted, remove any stones and stir them whole into the mixture.  Gradually sprinkle in the flour and mix gently.
5) Pour the lot into the tin and bake at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes, or to clean-skewer.
6) When the cake is ready, allow it to cool in the tin.  Remove from the tin when cool, and peel off any paper.  Flip the cake onto its serving plate.  When it is compeltely cooled, very gently saw the cake in half with a breadknife.  Shuffle the top half carefully onto another plate - don't try to pick it up, just pull an edge round until the halves separate and you can get the plate underneath the lip. 
Vanilla Filling
6) While the cake is cooling, make the vanilla filling.  Take your remaining two eggs.  Separate the yolks into a small bowl, and the whites into a mug or other container to use for something else (probably meringues).  Add a good heap of caster sugar to the egg yolks, about a tablespoonful, and the vanilla essence.  Beat with a fork.   Whisk in the cream a half at a time until stiff and smooth.
7) Spread the bottom half of the cake with half the vanilla cream.  Plop the other cake half on top gently (you may pick it up with both, widely-spread hands).  Add the rest of the cream to the top in a big central heap  and spread out with a dinner knife until it looks nice and even.
8) Sprinkle the top with the chocolate curls from the fridge.
 Cherry Blossoms
9) Take about 20 dried cherries.  Flatten them out on the board until round.  Make five cuts about 2mm long evenly around the edge of the circle.  Take the sections thus formed and pinch them apart and into points with your fingernails.  Add to the cake decoration.  Store the finished cake in the fridge until half an hour before serving.
10) Serve in 'ooh just a slither' sized pieces to the admiring throng (she said modestly).

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