Black forest gateau

Black forest gateau

B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself

My guilty secret. I don’t even eat it like an ironic hipster; I just eat it because it tastes and looks great. So clear your head of any 1970s nightmares you might have conjured up: there’s no squirty UHT cream or glacé cherries here, just chocolatey, morello cherry-ey goodness. Let’s get cracking…


Quantity Ingredient

For the filling and decoration

Quantity Ingredient
400g black cherries in syrup, (drained weight; these come in a can of around 850 g)
320g morello cherry jam
2 tablespoons kirsch
2 tablespoons arrowroot
600ml double cream
250g dark chocolate, (70 per cent cocoa solids)
12 ripe cherries with stalks

For the sponge

Quantity Ingredient
350g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
350g caster sugar
6 large eggs
100g dark chocolate, (70 per cent cocoa solids)
300g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
50g cocoa powder
2 tablespoons kirsch
6 tablespoons cherry syrup, (from the cherries in syrup)

Tool kit

Quantity Ingredient
3 20 cm round sandwich tins, (or bake in batches)
electric whisk
offset palette knife
2 wire cooling racks
pastry brush
2 piping bags
display plate


  1. Prepare the filling by first draining the canned black cherries, reserving the syrup in a bowl. Tip the cherries into a saucepan with the jam and kirsch. Bring to the boil; this should release quite a lot of juice. Take 3–4 tablespoons of the juice and mix with the arrowroot to form a paste, then return the paste to the saucepan. Stir; it should thicken up quickly. As soon as it thickens, take off the heat and allow to cool.
  2. To make the cakes, butter 3 x 20 cm round sandwich tins and line the bases with baking parchment. (If you only have 1 or 2 tins, you can still make the cake, but you’ll have to bake it in batches.) Beat together the sugar and butter with an electric whisk until light-coloured, smooth and creamy. Beat in the eggs one by one, beating well between each addition.
  3. Put the 100 g of dark chocolate for the cake in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (the bowl should not touch the water). Once melted, take off the heat to cool.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into a separate bowl, then fold this into the egg mixture, making sure there is no unmixed flour left in the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Pour the chocolate into the mix and fold this in too, then load each of the prepared tins with 450 g of the mix, spread out with an offset palette knife and bake for 18–20 minutes, or until a cocktail stick comes out clean when poked into the centre of each sponge. Put on 2 cooling racks and turn the sponges out of the tins once they are cool enough to handle. Leave the cakes on the racks until completely cold.
  6. Once the cakes are cold, mix the kirsch with the 6 tablespoons of cherry syrup and brush on the top of the cakes, dividing it evenly between them. Whisk 575 ml of the cream until it forms firm peaks and set aside for decorating.
  7. Melt 25 g of the dark chocolate as before for decoration. Once melted, take off the heat. Mix in the remaining 25 ml of double cream to form a small amount of ganache. Load into a piping bag.
  8. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut around the indent of each ripe cherry and split open, being careful not to pull the stalk off. Pop the stone out of the cherry and pipe a blob of dark chocolate ganache in its place. Close the cherry up again (the setting ganache should seal it). Set aside.
  9. To make the chocolate decorations, roughly chop 100 g of the remaining dark chocolate and melt as before. Meanwhile, finely chop the remaining 125 g chocolate and set aside.
  10. Stir the chocolate in the bowl to fully melt it down, and immediately take off the heat. Dry the base of the bowl and stir in half the finely chopped chocolate. This should take about 1 minute to melt into the mix. If it melts in more quickly than that, let the chocolate stand for 5 minutes to cool off. Now add the remaining finely chopped chocolate. This will temper the chocolate, so you can pipe it out into shapes that will set hard and shiny.
  11. Lay out 2 sheets of baking parchment on a flat surface, dip each of the ganache-filled cherries into the chocolate and lay out to set.
  12. Next, load the remaining melted chocolate into a piping bag. Pipe out trees of different heights on to the parchment. Try piping them out quite quickly, as you’ll get a better effect than if you painstakingly try to make every tree perfect.
  13. To assemble, place the bottom sponge on a display plate and spread on a thin layer of cream (about 5 mm), then spread around half of the cooled cherry mix on top of that. Place the next sponge on top and layer cream and cherries on again. Place the final layer of sponge on top, upside down, so the layer that was soaked with syrup is facing down, and gently press to consolidate the cake.
  14. Use the offset palette knife to cover the whole cake in the remaining cream and smooth out to an even surface. Because it is double cream you won’t be able to make the surface totally smooth, but don’t worry; it all adds to the effect!
  15. Position the set chocolate trees around the sides and on top of the cake as densely as you like; pressing them into the cream. Arrange the chocolate cherries around the edge of the cake. Bingo!


  • This recipe has a star bake (extra advanced) difficulty.


  • If you have a confectionery thermometer, you can use it to help temper the chocolate here: while tempering, add the unmelted chocolate only when the melted chocolate has cooled to 46–48°C. This is the optimum temperature that allows a shiny hard chocolate to form. (For milk chocolate it is 40–45°C and for white chocolate it is 37–40°C.) Why not use all three types of chocolate for your forest?

    I make chocolate ganache using the ratio of 1:1 cream to chocolate. Try making 600 ml of ganache, chill it in the fridge, then whip. Whipped ganache covering tastes and looks brilliant; it goes further too, as the volume increases.

    If you find the rawness of kirsch a bit jarring, use cherry brandy. (I’d happily pour that over most things!)
Great British Bake Off
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again