What Is a Black Forest Cake, Anyway?

Black Forest Cake Getty 10/3/19

There’s something incredibly decadent about the mysteriously named Black Forest cake. Here’s everything you need to know about the German dessert, including how to make it: 

What Is a Black Forest Cake?

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A Black Forest cake (or Black Forest gâteau) is a layered chocolate sponge cake with a rich cherry filling. It’s based on a German dessert called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, which means "Black Forest Cherry-torte.”

Typically, the chocolate layers are sandwiched with whipped cream and cherries. The cake is often elaborately decorated, sometimes with chocolate trees and other designs reminiscent of a forest. 

If you’re having trouble imagining what it tastes like, just think of it as Cherry Garcia ice cream in cake form.  

Where Does Its Name Come From? 

The Black Forest is a large mountain range in southwest Germany. The mountain range owes its name to the plentiful large, dark trees that grow in the region. 

The cake is likely not named after the region itself, but for the liquor that is made from the sour cherries that grow in the mountain range. 

Kirschwasser, which means “cherry water” in German, is a clear, colorless brandy that is used in traditional Black Forest cake recipes. 

The distinctive rich, tart, fruity flavor is what gives the chocolate cake its signature intense flavor. In fact, it’s not a legal Black Forest cake in Bavaria unless it is made with liquor from the Black Forest cherry.

Some historians believe that the cake was inspired by the women of the Black Forest area, who traditionally wear hats adorned with large, red pom-poms called a Bollenhut. However, this theory has never been confirmed.

How to Make a Black Forest Cake

Easy Black Forest Cake image

Easy Black Forest Cake image

Making a decadent Black Forest cake isn’t as hard as it looks—find our deliciously easy recipe right here.  

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