It doesn’t get any more spectacular than Black Forest Cake: luscious chocolate sponge cake layers brushed with cherry liqueur, filled with cherries, then covered in sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Most people just buy Black Forest Cake from a grocery store, but when you bake your own, you get to skip the candied maraschinos and make it just the way you’ve always wanted it, using fresh cherries, rich cocoa, and real whipped cream.

A black forest cake on a cake stand.

Where does Black Forest Cake come from?

A romantic cake that celebrates what Germans call “forest-loneliness,” some historians say that the cake got its name from the traditional costume worn by women in the Black Forest. The dress was black (like the chocolate), the blouse was white (like the cream), and the hat was festooned with red pom-poms that resemble the cherries.

In German, the cake is called Schwarzwderkirschtorte which means Black Forest Cherry Torte.

One thing is certain, you won’t be lonely if you make this cake; people will come out of the woodwork to score a piece!

A piece of black forest cake on a white plate.

What is Black Forest Cake made of?

Traditionally, this cake uses four chocolate sponge cake layers that are moistened with Kirschwasser and layered with cherries and slathered in whipped cream. If you have a chocolate-covered cherry lover in your life, then maybe it’s time to surprise them.

Chocolate cake being sliced.

Can you make a Black Forest Cake for a birthday?

Of course you could, and you should, but only if you want it to be the best birthday ever. In fact, I can’t think of a better birthday cake than a chocolate, cherry, and whipped cream layer cake, can you?

A chocolate cake getting brushed with cherry glaze.

Can you make Black Forest Cake with cherry pie filling?

In case cherries are scarce at the store, you can certainly use plain old cherry pie filling, but start with about ½ cup filling per layer, otherwise the cake layers may slide around too much when you move it.

Also, consider using canned tart cherries from Oregon, which I like so much better. Save the juice for the syrup!

Finally, if you really want to take it up a notch, go all out on some fancy Luxardo maraschino cherries, preserved Italian cherries which aren’t anywhere near the ones in a kiddie cocktail.

Chocolate shavings being pressed on the side of a cake.

What can be used instead of kirsch?

Kirschwasser, or kirsch, is a clear, cherry flavored schnapps from Germany. If you can’t find it cherry brandy works fine, too.

Can you make Black Forest Cake without alcohol?

While I love the syrup that moistens the cake layers, you can omit the kirsch altogether and add a little more sugar to the syrup. Or you can order a kirsch flavored syrup online that works beautifully without alcohol.

Black forest cake being frosted.

Is it possible to make Black Forest Cake eggless?

There are so many eggs in this recipe that to go without them, you’d need to add some leaveners, like baking soda and baking powder.

Here’s a good recipe for an eggless version of a chocolate sponge cake:


  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cups vegetable oil


  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and baking soda.
  2. Add oil, milk, and vanilla, and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour into parchment lined cake pans and bake according to the recipe instructions or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Three slices of black forest cake on white plates.

How long does Black Forest Cake last?

Stored in the refrigerator, this cake is best enjoyed the day it’s made, but will be good for 2-3 days after that. The whipped cream doesn’t have the stabilizers that store bought frosting or buttercream does, so even though it will taste worlds better, unfortunately it won’t have as long of a shelf life.

Can you freeze Black Forest Cake?

The whole cake wouldn’t freeze very well, but by all means freeze the individual sponge cake layers if you want to make this ahead of time. Double wrap them in plastic wrap once cooled and stick them in the freezer. Once frosted, the cake shouldn’t be frozen since it’s made with whipped cream.

Black forest cake on a white and black marbled cake stand.

Black Forest Cake

It doesn’t get any more spectacular than Black Forest Cake: luscious chocolate sponge cake layers brushed with cherry liqueur, filled with cherries, then covered in sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.
Most people just buy Black Forest Cake from a grocery store, but when you bake your own, you get to skip the candied maraschinos and make it just the way you've always wanted it, using fresh cherries, rich cocoa, and real whipped cream.
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


For the cake layers:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 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
  • 12 whole bing cherries to top the cake
  • 3 tablespoons kirsch (a cherry liqueur)
  • 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


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


If you want to make a kid-friendly version of this cake, omit the kirsch and add 1 tablespoon sugar to the cherry syrup.


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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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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  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