My kids will be at least 25% candy for the rest of the week, as the season demands. If it doesn’t come individually wrapped, if the first, second, or third ingredient isn’t chocolate, a food dye, or high fructose corn syrup, if it doesn’t have a marketing tie-in with Spongebob or Legos, they’re not eating it. Which means, since they’ve now definitely left the room, we get this cake all for us. You’re welcome, because we’re not going to share it anyway.
This whole fall — save a brief but devoted two weeks of apple pie studies — I have craved chocolate almost nonstop, and I don’t mean at perfunctory square of 72% and calling it a day. I mean, chocolate éclairs and chocolate brownies and molten chocolate cakes and chocolate pot de cremes and so when I spied this riff on a black forest cake in Julia Turshen’s new cookbook, Now & Again, I really couldn’t think about anything else until I made it.
We’ve talked about Julia Turshen before. This avocado-cucumber salad remains my favorite thing I’ve spied on the side of a plate on Instagram, ever; these merguez patties are still a weeknight favorite. I’ve always loved the way she assembles meals for friends and family. She so naturally answers the forever question, but what should I serve with it?, that when I learned her new book was built around collections of recipe that both work together but also new recipes to make with their leftovers, I couldn’t wait to dig in. The menus are fun and delightfully unpredictable — Red-Checked Tablecloth Late Saturday Lunch but also a No-Stress Thanksgiving — but my favorite, the one I’d like to believe was written just for me, the girl who loved going to steakhouses when she was a vegetarian because the sides are so good, is the Steak House Dinner for Vegetarians. Maple syrup old fashioned! Wedge salad! Stuffed mushrooms! Charred broccoli! Baked potatoes with horseradish and cheddar! And as a finale: this cake.
Let’s be absolutely clear: this is not a traditional black forest cake. A black forest cake (the German Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte), is a chocolate layer cake sandwiched with whipped cream and boozy cherries, finished with shaved chocolate and more cherries. It’s fancy. It’s complex. We’ll make one… one day. But this is for today, with everything good about the layer cake, abbreviated: a fudgy-centered, puffy-edged flourless chocolate cake that sinks in the center after it bakes. This space perfectly allows for a raft of barely sweetened whipped cream. And then, instead of imagining for a moment that anyone wishes to chase down sour cherries in October, she recommends using storebought cherry preserves and adding kirsh. I found several online; this was my favorite (it reminded me of Luxardo cocktail cherries) but there are plenty of other great ones out there. Honestly, the cake doesn’t “need” it — it works without the cherry sauce — but it’s so good, I do. Grownups need candy too.
One year ago: Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
Two years ago: Winter Squash Pancakes with Crispy Sage and Brown Butter and Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu
Three years ago: Salted Peanut Butter Cookies, Baked Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Twinkie Bundt
Four years ago: Carrot Cake with Cider and Olive Oil, Homemade Harissa, and Cauliflower Cheese
Five years ago: Apple Slab Pie and Potato and Broccoli Frittata
Six years ago:
Seven years ago: Homesick Texan Carnitas
Eight years ago: Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake and Spiced Applesauce Cake
Nine years ago: Apple Cider Doughnuts and Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers
Ten years ago: Meatballs and Spaghetti and Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad and Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
Eleven years ago: Pumpkin Butter and Pepita Granola and Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Twelve years ago: Easiest Baked Mac-and-Cheese
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Triple Coconut Cream Pie
1.5 Years Ago: Pistachio Cake
2.5 Years Ago: Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka, Perfect Garlic Bread and Shaved Asparagus Frittata
3.5 Years Ago: Obsessively Good Avocado Cucumber Salad and Strawberry Rhubarb Soda Syrup
4.5 Years Ago: Lamb Meatballs with Feta and Lemon
Sunken Black Forest Cake
- 12 tablespoons (170 grams or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
- 12 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips (2 cups), or chopped chocolate
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, distilled white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour or regular cherry preserves
- 2 tablespoons kirsch (sour cherry brandy, optional)
Heat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. Set it aside.
Place egg whites in the bowl a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, in a large bowl and use a handheld electric mixer, or use a large whisk and a lot of elbow grease. Beat on medium-high speed until they’re foamy, then slowly pour in the lemon juice and half the sugar, continuing to beat until the egg whites are billowy and almost glossy and hold a soft peak. This is important: try not to overbeat them until they’re stiff and tight foam-looking; it leads to more dry cakes. Set the egg whites aside (if you only have one stand mixer bowl, scrape them into a separate bowl so you can use it again).
Place the egg yolks, remaining sugar, and salt into an empty bowl and beat on medium speed until thick and pale yellow, about 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the chocolate-butter mixture, and mix well. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate cake batter to lighten in. Fold half the remaining egg whites in carefully, then the second half. Turshen says to fold them into the batter by “cutting your spatula downward through the middle of the bowl, scraping it along the bottom of the bowl, and then pulling the mixture back up… folding them with the batter.”
Transfer batter to prepared cake pan and smooth the surface. Bake until the center is puffed up, and just barely firm/dry to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few dry crumbs clinging to it, about 35 to 40 minutes. Try not to overbake it (the chocolate at the edges will smell toasty) or that cake can taste dry at the edges. Place the cake on a wire rack to cool completely; it will sink in the center.
To finish: Once cake is completely cool, beat the cream, sugar, and vanilla together until medium peaks form (I overbeat mine, whoops). In a small bowl, combine combine the preserves and kirsh.
Use a knife to loose then edges of the cake from the pan and invert it onto your rack. Peel off parchment paper, then invert it back onto a serving plate. Spoon the whipped cream into the center and then the preserves mixture on top. Cut into wedges and serve.
Do ahead: Leftovers keep covered in the fridge for 3 days, however, if the cherry-cream appearance doesn’t look great after a couple hours, although this has no effect on taste. To avoid this, you can just put the cherries on as you’re serving the cake in slices.