It's snowing, in April. As large snowflakes, big as tissues, fell yesterday at a blizzarding rate, I needed comfort, a reminder of childhood skiing holidays (as an adult I can't afford them). I loved the food we had when skiing: gluwein; frankfurters, sauerkraut and mash with yellow Austrian mustard; raclette and cheese fondue and hot frothy chocolate drinks. I wanted to make something that suggested snow ploughing between pine trees, forests and frost.
I had recently been sent some early cherries, called 'Glamour', from a grower, Mr Ortiz, from a farm in Lleida, Spain. Unusually these cherries are available in March and April. It's a good name for this fruit, as there is something both pristine and pornographic about the cherry. This led me inevitably to baking a Black Forest Gateau, a notorious relic from dinner party menus of the 70s but actually dating from the 1930s. The Black Forest Gateau cake is rather more 'Cabaret' and Liza , all sheer dark stockings with glossy red lipstick, than sweet trollies in suburban restaurants and Alison Steadman in Abigail's Party.
Recipe for Black Forest Gateau:
You'll need two 8 inch sandwich tins, buttered up to the edges and lightly floured. Lined with baking paper if you wish.
80g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
280g caster sugar
3 tsps baking powder
2 pinches of salt
240ml whole milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Decoration and filling:
I jar of black cherries in kirsch (cherry liqueur), drained, kirsch set aside
2 punnets of cherries (Glamour are available at M & S, Harrods, high end food shops)
600 ml of double cream, whisked or 150g of double cream whisked with a large tub of CoYo coconut yoghurt. This made for a slightly exotic flavour.
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 170cº.
- Prepare the cake tins by greasing and flouring.
- In a stand mixer, or by hand in a bowl, beat the butter until smooth, pale and fluffy.
- Add the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt into the stand mixer or a bowl and beat together until combined.
- Whisk the milk, egg, vanilla extract together then pour half into the flour mixture, beat together, then add the second half.
- Keep scraping the sides down yeah?
- Tip half the mixture into each sandwich tin. It doesn't matter if it's not smooth, I rather like the uneven 'mountainous' look for this cake.
- Bake for 45 minutes in 160c degree conventional oven.
- In Aga I baked for 20- 25 minutes in the bottom shelf of the baking oven. I found they rose better without the cool shelf. If you have a 2 oven, use the hot oven with the cool shelf.
- Check they are done by sticking in a clean metal probe, if it comes out clean, they are done
- Place on a wire rack to cool
- Prod with the probe to make holes all over the cake, pour Kirsch cherry liqueur or the liquid from the black cherries, all over the holes. About 4 tablespoons per cake.
- Whip the cream into soft peaks
- Place the first cake on a plate and ladle 1/3 of the cream onto the base, leaving a border all around so that it doesn't squirt everywhere when you put the top on.
- Add half the cherries from the black cherries in Kirsch
- Place the top cake on, ladle on the rest of the cream.
- Add the rest of the black cherries in Kirsch
- Add the punnets of fresh cherries, stud them in the cream and stack them artfully in a pyramid shape on top. You want a look of tumbling plentitude.
- Dust with icing sugar in a tea strainer.