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The best Black Forest Cake doesn’t come from a box or a bakery; it comes from your kitchen once you have this chocolate cake recipe in your arsenal. I’ll walk you through how to make layer cake that will have everyone swooning over the rich chocolate, cherry, and cream flavors.

A Black Forest Cake with slices removed.

Little feels more decadent to me than a thick slab of Black Forest Cake. Luscious chocolate sponge cake layers brushed with cherry liqueur, filled with cherries, then covered in sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings…pinch me, because I might still be dreaming.

Most people just buy Black Forest Cake from a supermarket or bakery, but when you whip up a homemade cake recipe, you can give it a grown-up upgrade, as I do here. Instead of the candy-sweet maraschino cherries, try sweet tart bings. Alongside plenty of rich cocoa and real whipped cream, this layer cake recipe stuns every time I serve it.

Before we dive into how to make the best Black Forest Cake, we can’t glaze over one very important question: “what is Black Forest Cake, exactly?”

In German, this rich chocolate cake is called Schwarzwderkirschtorte, which means “Black Forest Cherry Torte.” Some historians posit that the cake got its name from the traditional costume worn by women in this Black Forest region. The dress was black (like the chocolate), the blouse was white (like the cream), and the hat was adorned with red pom-poms that resemble the cherries.

Dressing up with clothes is good and all, but dressing up (and then devouring) a cake is even better, if you ask me.

Table of Contents
  1. Recipe ingredients
  2. Ingredient notes
  3. Step by step instructions
  4. Recipe tips and variations
  5. Recipe FAQs
  6. Black Forest Cake Recipe

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for black forest cake.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural or Dutch-processed. Dutch-processed cocoa offers a darker color and a bit richer flavor, but either tastes incredible in this layer cake recipe.
  • Bing cherries: Bing cherries are large, heart-shaped sweet cherries that have dark maroon and dark purple flesh. Their sweet flavor, ample availability in many areas, and easy-to-remove pit makes this cherry variety ideal for baking and cooking. I adore the fresh pop of flavor Bing cherries add to this homemade Black Forest Cake, but feel free to swap in pitted and stemmed jarred Bing cherries if you can’t find fresh.
  • Kirsch: Kirschwasser, or kirsch, is a clear, cherry-flavored distilled spirit from Germany. It’s the key ingredient in the Black Forest Cake syrup, and infuses extra fruit flavor and moistness into each and every bite. If you can’t find kirsch, swap in cherry brandy, rum, cognac, or Luxardo brand maraschino liqueur. For an alcohol-free option, try cherry juice instead.

Step by step instructions

To make the cake layers:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment. Do not grease the sides of the pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and cocoa powder. Set aside. In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, or with an electric hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 1 minute. With the motor running, gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating on high speed a full 8 minutes. The mixture will be thick and fluffy.
Making Black Forest Cake batter in a mixing bowl.
  1. Using a spatula, add the dry ingredients in 3 batches by hand, mixing just until no streaks remain. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over-mix and deflate the batter. Gently fold in butter and vanilla in a steady stream, folding and scraping as you pour to keep butter from pooling at the bottom. Fold until just incorporated. Divide batter equally between two prepared cake pans.
2 can pans with Black Forest Cake.
  1. Bake immediately for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool in pans for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a thin-edged knife around edges to loosen cake.
2 can pans with Black Forest Cake.
  1. Invert layers onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper. When cakes cool completely and you’re ready to assemble the cake, slice each layer in half horizontally with a long serrated knife. 
Slicing a chocolate cake in half lengthwise.

To make the syrup:

  1. Place chopped cherries in a medium bowl with 3 tablespoons kirsch. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
Cherries soaking with liqueur.
  1. Using a sieve, drain cherries and reserve both cherries and syrup. Add ¼ cup cold water to the syrup (you should have roughly ⅓ cup of syrup).
Draining cherries in a strainer.

To make the frosting:

  1. For best results, freeze the mixing bowl and whisk attachment 15 minutes prior to using.
A chilled mixing bowl and whisk.
  1. Beat heavy cream with whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form, then add powdered sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon kirsch and beat on high until stiff and spreadable, 1 to 2 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Whipped cream in a bowl.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Place first layer on a cake stand and brush with ¼ of the syrup.
Brushing cherry liqueur on a layer of chocolate cake.
  1. Spread ¾ cup frosting over the top of first layer, then top with ⅓ of the chopped cherries.
Building a Black Forest Cake on a platter.
  1. Repeat with the remaining layers, using the flattest layer to top the cake. 
An unfrosted Black Forest Cake on a platter.
  1. Transfer 1 ½ cups frosting to a pastry bag with a large flower tip and refrigerate until ready to use (try not to handle the bag too much or the cream will soften). Fill the cracks along the sides of cake with frosting then frost the top and sides with remaining frosting.
A frosted Black Forest Cake on a platter.
  1. Cover sides and top of cake with chocolate shavings leaving a 1-inch perimeter on top for piping frosting.
A frosted Black Forest Cake on a platter.
  1. Pipe rounds of frosting around the top of the cake. Place a whole cherry over each one.
A frosted Black Forest Cake on a platter.
  1. Refrigerate cake for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
A frosted Black Forest Cake on a platter.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: I usually get 14 generous, 4-layer servings our of one Black Forest Cake, but feel free to slice slimmer or thicker slices, as desired.
  • Storage: This cake is best enjoyed the day it’s made. Refrigerate any leftovers and enjoy within 2 to 3 days. The whipped cream doesn’t have the stabilizers that store-bought frosting or buttercream does. This homemade Black Forest Cake will taste so much better than a version you make from a boxed cake mix and shelf-stable frosting, but it won’t have as long of a shelf life.
  • Make ahead: My best Black Forest Cake recipe is designed to be a make-ahead cake; chill for at least 4 hours and ideally overnight before serving.
  • Freezer: A whole, fully-decorated Black Forest Cake does not freeze well, but feel free to bake the individual sponge cake layers in advance. Allow them to cool on a wire rack, then wrap them in a two-ply layer of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months.
Slices of black forest cake on plates.

Recipe FAQs

Do I really need to allow the cake to cool after baking?

Don’t skip this step; it’s essential so it’s easier to slice the two cakes in half to create four layers. Plus, this will ensure the toppings won’t melt off and guarantees a lot more stability as you layer and assemble the cake.

Why do you call for room temperature eggs?

Compared to eggs fresh from the refrigerator, room temperature eggs cream together with the rest of the cake batter much more easily and also help the cake itself rise better than if you opted for cold eggs. Chilled eggs may yield a lumpy batter and often mean your cake will require a longer bake time.

Can you explain how to make the chocolate shavings?

To make chocolate curls, which star in this Black Forest Cake, my Bûche de Noël (Yule Log Cake), and also make for a stellar sundae topping, use a vegetable peeler to shave the edge of the chocolate bar for narrow curls. Or flip the bar to shave the side wide curls. Curls can be refrigerated or kept at room temperature for a short amount of time before layering on this cake.

A Black Forest Cake with slices removed.

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A black forest cake on a marble platter.

Black Forest Cake

The best Black Forest Cake doesn't come from a box or a bakery; it comes from your kitchen once you have this chocolate cake recipe in your arsenal. I'll walk you through how to make layer cake that will have everyone swooning over the rich chocolate, cherry, and cream flavors.
4.67 from 3 votes
Prep Time 1 hr 15 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 5 mins
Servings 14 slices
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, German
Calories 707

Ingredients 

For the cake layers:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (see note 1)
  • 9 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cherry filling/syrup:

  • 4 cups (or 1 pound) bing cherries pitted and roughly chopped (see note 2)
  • 12 whole bing cherries to top the cake
  • 3 tablespoons kirsch (a cherry liqueur, see note 3)
  • ¼ cup cold water

For the frosting:

  • 3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kirsch (a cherry liqueur)
  • 8 ounces dark chocolate shaved with a vegetable peeler

Instructions 

To make the cake layers:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 9″ round cake pans with parchment. Do not grease the sides of the pans. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and cocoa powder. Set aside.
  • In a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, or with an electric hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 1 minute. With the motor running, gradually add 1 cup sugar and continue beating on high speed a full 8 minutes. The mixture will be thick and fluffy.
  • Using a spatula, add the dry ingredients in 3 batches by hand, mixing just until no streaks remain. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure all ingredients are incorporated. Do not over-mix and deflate the batter.
  • Gently fold in butter and vanilla in a steady stream, folding and scraping as you pour to keep butter from pooling at the bottom. Fold until just incorporated. Once butter is added, the cake must be baked right away or the batter will deflate. 
  • Divide batter equally between two prepared cake pans and bake immediately for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  • Let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes, then run a thin-edged knife around edges to loosen cake. Invert layers onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper. When cakes cool completely and you’re ready to assemble the cake, slice each layer in half horizontally with a long serrated knife. 

To make the syrup:

  • Place chopped cherries in a medium bowl with 3 tablespoons kirsch. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Using a sieve, drain cherries and reserve both cherries and syrup. Add ¼ cup cold water to the syrup (you should have roughly ⅓ cup of syrup).

To make the frosting:

  • For best results, freeze the mixing bowl and whisk attachment 15 minutes prior to using. Beat heavy cream with whisk attachment on high speed until soft peaks form, then add powdered sugar and remaining 1 tablespoon kirsch and beat on high until stiff and spreadable, 1-2 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble the cake:

  • Place first layer on a cake stand and brush with ¼ of the syrup. Spread ¾ cup frosting over the top of first layer, then top with ⅓ of the chopped cherries. Repeat with the remaining layers, using the flattest layer to top the cake. 
  • Transfer 1 ½ cups frosting to a pastry bag with a large flower tip and refrigerate until ready to use (try not to handle the bag too much or the cream will soften). Fill the cracks along the sides of cake with frosting then frost the top and sides with remaining frosting.
  • Cover sides and top of cake with chocolate shavings leaving a 1″ perimeter on top for piping frosting. Pipe rounds of frosting around the top of the cake and place a whole cherry over each one. Refrigerate cake for at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural or Dutch-processed. Dutch-processed cocoa offers a darker color and a bit richer flavor, but either tastes incredible in this layer cake recipe.
  2. Bing cherries: Bing cherries are large, heart-shaped sweet cherries that have dark maroon and dark purple flesh. Their sweet flavor, ample availability in many areas, and easy-to-remove pit makes this cherry variety ideal for baking and cooking. I adore the fresh pop of flavor Bing cherries add to this homemade Black Forest Cake, but feel free to swap in pitted and stemmed jarred Bing cherries if you can’t find fresh.
  3. Kirsch: Kirschwasser, or kirsch, is a clear, cherry-flavored distilled spirit from Germany. It’s the key ingredient in the Black Forest Cake syrup, and infuses extra fruit flavor and moistness into each and every bite. If you can’t find kirsch, swap in cherry brandy, rum, cognac, or Luxardo brand maraschino liqueur. For an alcohol-free option, try cherry juice instead.
  4. Yield: I usually get 14 generous, 4-layer servings our of one Black Forest Cake, but feel free to slice slimmer or thicker slices, as desired.
  5. Storage: This cake is best enjoyed the day it’s made. Refrigerate any leftovers and enjoy within 2 to 3 days. The whipped cream doesn’t have the stabilizers that store-bought frosting or buttercream does. This homemade Black Forest Cake will taste so much better than a version you make from a boxed cake mix and shelf-stable frosting, but it won’t have as long of a shelf life.
  6. Make ahead: My best Black Forest Cake recipe is designed to be a make-ahead cake; chill for at least 4 hours and ideally overnight before serving.
  7. Freezer: A whole, fully-decorated Black Forest Cake does not freeze well, but feel free to bake the individual sponge cake layers in advance. Allow them to cool on a wire rack, then wrap them in a two-ply layer of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Serving: 1sliceCalories: 707kcalCarbohydrates: 85gProtein: 13gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 21gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 196mgSodium: 78mgPotassium: 275mgFiber: 10gSugar: 58gVitamin A: 3585IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 137mgIron: 5mg
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I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Meggan Hill

I’m the Executive Chef and head of the Culinary Hill Test Kitchen. Every recipe is developed, tested, and approved just for you.

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Comments

  1. What kind of dark chocolate bar would you suggest for peeling for the outer layer? My husband’s birthday is Thursday and I’m going to try your recipe!!

    1. Hi Susan, any kind of dark chocolate would work! I’d suggest Ghirardelli, or you can choose your husbands favorite. Hope this helps! -Meggan

  2. Hi ,
    I would like to try this Black Forest cake . Could you please provide me the accurate ingredient measurements for one 9” round cake pan.thanks!!

    1. Hi Chaithra, do you mean you want to make half the recipe? Just one 9-inch cake instead of 2? What you’ll want to do is find the place where it says “servings” and you’ll see the number 14 is a link. Click on that and adjust the slider to “7.” That will adjust all the quantities for half the recipe, one 9-inch cake. The only thing is, keep an eye on the baking time, if you’re only baking 1 cake instead of 2, the baking time is probably a little less. I hope this helps! If you need anything else, please let me know. Thank you! -Meggan

  3. I just made this today for my brother’s birthday. It was really good, but a little dense, and it did not raise at all, so I was unable to cut the two cakes in half to make it a 4 layer cake. I see the eggless recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda; was baking soda and baking powder meant to go into the egg included recipe?4 stars

    1. Hi Jessica, I’m sorry you had issues. There is no baking powder or baking soda in the regular recipe because of the way you beat the eggs (with a whisk attachment) to incorporate a lot of air and create that height. There’s a video for the recipe on the page, so if you take a look you can see if you beat your eggs to the point where they filled the mixing bowl as shown. I did it that way so that you don’t dilute the chocolate flavor with leavening agents. It really is supposed to be a dense, fudgey cake. But you should still have enough height to cut the cakes in half lengthwise like the photos show. So the only thing I can think of is that your eggs weren’t beat correctly (did you use the paddle attachment instead of a whisk attachment, or not beat them sufficiently?). I made this recipe SO MANY times during testing, and then my photographer made it shoot the photos, and my video girl made it to make the video. It’s been tested a lot. I’m really sorry you had issues. -Meggan