What exactly is the origin of Valentine’s Day? We have to travel back in time to The Christians vs. The Romans; to the stories of three different martyrs who defied the emperors of Rome. All were named Valentine (English) or Valentinus (Latin); their stories center on love; love between couples, love of freedom, compassionate love. After the fall of the Roman Empire, and the rise of the Catholic Church, February 15th was chosen for Valentine’s Day to replace the now outlawed Pagan fertility celebration of Lupercalia. However, this was not a great way to convince the Pagans to convert to Christianity; here is where the French come to the rescue. February 14th was thought to be the day when bird mating season began; mating for people meant love and marriage. Hence this was now a celebratory day of love, and that could not make anyone angry, right?
Well it seems to have worked out quite well, especially for greeting card and candy making companies. One decadent treat very popular is chocolate covered strawberries; rich, sweet, lips colored ruby red, begging to be kissed. However, that is more a late 20th century indulgence; and what was old, once again becomes new. 1915, The Black Forest (German: Schwarzwald), a large forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. Pastry Chef, Josef Keller, prepares a dark chocolate, four layer torte (made with ground nuts, not flour) with whipped cream, sour cherries and Kirsch (brandy made from cherries). He names it after the region which is known for, what else, dark chocolate, Morello cherries, and Kirsch; oh and cuckoo clocks, but you cannot eat those.
Black Forest Cake is a beautiful cake that is perfect for birthdays, special occasions, holiday season, as well as the holiday of love. This past season, I did make Black Forest Cupcakes, but they did not turn out the way I had wanted them to. Into between the two layers of cake batter, I placed several cherries; after baking, the cherries had sunk through the bottom layer. Still yummy, but very, very messy. My fix for this will be to add chopped, dried cherries to the cake batter itself next time, making a sort of dark chocolate, cherry chip cake; keeping the vanilla frosting and cherries with glaze on top.
On a side note, since 1915, many versions of this cake have been created; in America, white flour replaced ground nuts. While I have nut flours to use, I hesitate as I have no idea if someone trying the cake has an allergy to nuts (grown on trees, peanuts are legumes grown underground). Since the 1990s, I’ve noticed an increase in people, mainly children, developing this allergy, and must wonder if it is due to pesticides, processing methods or any other type of use to get the nuts to stores. Therefore, my recipe for this article will be one containing basic white flour; no one you know have an allergy, then try a nut flour instead!
Another side note, the frosting is only meant to go on top of both layers of cake; the sides are left open so the layers can be seen. I recently found out this is a new fad (been doing this, on various types of cake, for years myself) in the baking industry; it is called “Naked Cake”. Guess the cakes sell better if they are “sexier”, go figure.
Black Forest Cake
1 ½ cups flour3 Tbsp. baking cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 tsp chocolate syrup
¾ cup milk
¾ cup melted butter
12 Tbsp. butter, softened3 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup baking vanilla powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp. room temperature milk
Note: This is a buttercream frosting which holds up better over time (if there are any leftovers that is)
1 (15 oz.) can tart cherries in water; drain all water.1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut out two circles of parchment paper that fit within two 9” cake pans; spray cake pans with nonstick baking spray; line bottom with paper circles.
In a large bowl, sift flour and mix in cocoa, baking powder and sugar. In second bowl, beat together syrup, milk, butter and eggs; do not get mixture frothy by over beating. Pour wet ingredients into bowl of dry ingredients; mix on medium speed till smooth. Pour half of batter into each cake pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes; until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out cleanly. Let cakes cool before flipping out of pans; remove parchment paper before frosting cakes.
While cakes are baking, make the frosting; cream together the butter and sugar; add vanilla powder, vanilla extract and milk; mix until smooth, but do not over mix. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to firm up; frost cakes after they have cooled. There will be enough frosting for the tops of both cakes.
After making sure to drain all water from tart cherries, mix in small bowl with pie filling; keep cool until time to construct cake.
Place one layer of cake on plate; use half the frosting to spread over the top only; make frosting a little thicker one each in from the edge of the cake. Place 1/3 of the cherries with glaze in center, spread out, but not over the extra thick frosting on the one inch from the edge. The cherries and frosting will be even, so the second layer of cake will lie flush with them.
Place second layer of cake on top; spread remaining frosting on top only. Spread remaining cherries and glaze over top (if glaze drips over side, don’t worry, just makes it a little prettier).