happy valentines: a romantic dinner for 5 with black forest cake

we had family over for dinner for valentine's day, so since we have heart-shaped cake pans courtesy of a garage sale, of course we had cake for dessert! my father-in-law isn't a big fan of sweets, so i thought, what's not too sweet - maybe a bit tart? cherries. and chocolate. black forest cake!

cherries are not in season, so i bought a jar of sour cherries to start with. i used about half the jar, i think. i started by straining out the syrup, sweetening it a bit (they were very sour cherries), and thickening it with a bit of corn starch. i also added a bit of cognac (one of these days i will break down and buy a bottle of kirsch).

the cake itself was a half-recipe of david lebovitz's devil's food cake. it was absolutely perfect, the most even and lovely cake i have ever baked! i only did a half recipe because i foolishly worried we would have too much cake otherwise. does that even make sense?

i really wish i'd taken a picture of the putting-together process. i am generally bored to tears by blogs that have endless pictures of everything (look! an egg! look! a mixing bowl with some sugar in it!) but one pic could have been quite useful. i sliced the single heart-shaped layer horizontally to make two thin layers, coated the cut edges with a thin layer of cocoa buttercream, and then - here's the clever bit - piped a thick edge of buttercream around the edge of the bottom layer, and another thick heart outline in the middle. then i chilled both layers before assembling.

basically, i was trying to recreate what i remember of the swiss pastries black forest cake i remember from childhood. the idea is to use the butter cream to create a vessel for the cherry filling, so you can get more cherry goodness inside without it squooshing out the sides. you can sort of see what the edge-barrier looks like in this photo.

anyway, i did that, then filled it up with as many cherries as i could get inside without overflow (and saving some cherries for decoration), and filled any outside gaps with more cocoa butter cream. then i grated enough of a bar of bittersweet chocolate to sprinkle over the top, and melted the rest with some heavy cream to make a ganache (no measurements, just eyeballed it), and used that to cover the whole cake.

then the cream! i always get organic or small-dairy cream, or really any cream that doesn't have ingredients other than cream. lots of commercial cream now has sugar and thickeners added. meh. i will add my own stuff if i feel like it. (i added a bit of icing sugar and vanilla, actually.)

i spread the cake with whipped cream, sprinkled with grated chocolate, piped a few dollops for the cherries, and then because i still had some cream in the piping bag, did a heart/arrow on top as well.

it was delicious! but my father-in-law still wasn't interested. ah well, all the more for us! it didn't last long, really. next time, full recipe of cake, and more layers.

also, i finally took a picture of my january sewing project. pyjamas!

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