Black Forest Gateau is the English name for the famous German dessert Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (“cherry cake of the Black Forest”), where it originated in 1915. The gateau is actually directly named from a specialty liquor of the region known as Schwarzwälder Kirsch(wasser), which is distilled from tart cherries. This is the ingredient, with its distinctive cherry pit flavour and alcoholic content, that gives the dessert its ‘heavy’ world-renowned taste.
Typically, Black Forest Gateau consists of several layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer. Then the cake is decorated with additional whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and chocolate shavings. Traditionally, kirsch (a clear liquor distilled from tart cherries) is added to the cake, although other liquors are also used (such as rum). German interpretation states Kirschwasser as a mandatory ingredient, otherwise the cake is legally not allowed to be marketed as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. True Black Forest Gateaux are decorated with black cherries.
It’s always cool to learn of a little backstory to a food or dessert before you try it, and I like the fact that the Black Forest Gateau is from the Schwarzwald region, deep in the Black Forest itself, although clearly this was not the specific reason for its name. If you visit the Black Forest at any time of the year, you will find a very moody and deep and brooding atmosphere inside, kind of like a European jungle – but without dangers of an Asian or African jungles! The ‘heavy’ taste of the gateau seems to reflect this moody environment.
Of all the European desserts I have been lucky enough to try down the years, the traditional Black Forest Gateau from Germany remains one of my all-time favourites. The cherry liquor taste makes it very distinctive, and just being from the Black Forest region of southern Germany makes it all the sweeter in theory, as this is my favourite place in the whole country! There are similar kinds of cake in Europe – Sachertorte and Tarte au Chocolate spring to mind – but these are quite lightweight when compared to the ‘heavier’ texture of this famous German gateau! It really is Bavarian foodporn!