You can take the girl out of the ghetto, but you can’t take the gateau out of the girl


(Black Forest Gateau with cherry chocolate jelly)

In a past or future life, I’d like to imagine myself as an accomplished writer. Someone who is proficient in conjuring up fact or fantasy. We don’t have any writers in the family (and I’m sure you won’t hear many Asian parents bemoaning that fact). Right now, I am happy to attempt to convey my emotions through the things I bake.

Fantasy : We approached the cottage built entirely from gingerbread. An old woman beckoned to us from the front window. Come inside, my dears, I have DSLR cameras you can use to take pictures of the house with.

Fact : A few weeks ago, I advanced another year in my life. It’s nauseating how cliched we become as we get older. Kids these days? I believe I have been known to use that phrase several times, without a trace of irony.

I don’t usually bother to celebrate my birthday in any big way. Vaguely in the same month, my family will congregate at a restaurant for dinner, and the boy will get me a gift. This year, I also decided to quietly bake myself a cake.


Fantasy : She refused the glossy red apple the old woman offered her. Sorry, but I’m a locavore who only eats biodynamic and organic these days, she said.

Fact : It’s been a long time since I last made a Black Forest cake, and an even longer time since I’d eaten one. For many years, it was my favourite childhood cake. Every year I would request it from the same cake shop, for my birthday. One year, mom talked me into picking a fruit flan, for the sake of trying something different. It turned out to be quite a disappointing birthday. I suspect I even spent five years learning German in high school just so I could say SchwarzwΓ€lder Kirschtorte with conviction.

Somewhere along the way however, this cake fell out of favour (or flavour). But I got to thinking about it again, as one does any childhood memory, the further you travel away from being aged 9 or even 19.

My version is composed of a chocolate cake doused with cherry syrup, topped with cherry brandy mousse, bitter dark chocolate mousse, cherries and pools of chocolate sauce. Cubes of Kirsch flavoured chocolate jellies and dehydrated chocolate cake crumbs add a juicy, boozy burst and chocolate crunch respectively.

The chocolate sponge component is from Heston’s ultimate Black Forest cake recipe, which appears in his Fat Duck cookbook. I had initial reservations about the sponge, until I tasted it after letting it cool for an hour or two. Amazingly moist and moreish.


Fantasy : Once overtime and union fees had been negotiated, the mice happily went to work, piecing together the dress that she was to wear to the ball.

Fact : I searched every drawer in the house for a small candle to fix on top of the cake before cutting into it, but it appears I don’t own any; just the emergency supersized candles with 4 – 5 wicks.

Tasting this cake, and blushing from the Kirsch, I was reminded of so many things. Sometimes revisting a favourite food is like meeting an old friend again. Your friendship may have fallen to the wayside and things might’ve been said along the way, but there’s no denying the history and the good times you’ve shared.

I wish I could relive those times, but the truth is, as good as the times were, they also involved mock cream, maraschino cherries and chocolate vermicelli. Those weren’t the glory days.

This cake reminds me of being 9. That greedy little 9 year old with a bowl haircut, and a penchant for fried foods and cake. Why do we suffer from so much nostalgia as we get older? I’m telling you, being 9 isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, especially when you can’t even choose your own cake. I prefer to raise my fork in celebration of the now, and to future things. To the friends I continue to meet along the way, and the boy who has hung around for the past 12 – 13 and not-really-counting years. Here’s to many more years of discovery and re-discovery, and if every now and then I encounter a Black Forest cake in my travels, I’ll be sure to say hello to it.

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  1. steph (whisk/spoon) said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 4:41 am

    happy birthday! you may have celebrated quitely, but you did it in high style this year! i had the BFG at the fat duck when my husband and i went to london in april…i must say, your version looks tastier and more beautiful than his (although he did accompany his with a tiny spritzer bottle filled with kirsch, so you could “enjoy the scent of the black forest while eating the cake…” i nearly fell out of my chair laughing when the waiter said that)!

  2. nico said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 5:46 am

    Amazing, really really good I almost tasted through the screen!!!! Could you please share the cake and jelly recipes?

  3. Heather said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 5:55 am

    Happy Birthday! What a beautiful cake…really fantastic

  4. lisaiscooking said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 9:11 am

    Lovely re-invention of the cake! And, happy birthday!

  5. Danielle said,

    September 10, 2009 @ 11:51 am

    Happy (belated?) birthday! I love your writing, this post was witty and intelligent without being overly cheesy, something that’s quite hard to do with nostalgia. And that cake looks divine, especially with chocolate jelly? You’ve got me curious now…

  6. Allison @ spice and more said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    Wow that looks stunning…a great ‘re-take’ on the old black forest cake. Well done!

  7. veron said,

    September 11, 2009 @ 1:27 pm

    Belated happy birthday to you! I guess I’m not the only who remembers Black Forest cake as a childhood favorite.

  8. Marysol said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 3:32 am

    Well, you certainly need no help with your writing, nor celebrating a birthday!

    It’s a weekend, so I hope you’ll continue on with the celebrations.
    Happy Belated Birthday Y!

  9. The Purple Foodie said,

    September 12, 2009 @ 5:45 am

    I love your version of the black forest cake. happy bithday!

  10. Sam@BingeNYC said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 3:25 am

    Oh. My. God. This gateau looks so insane delicious. Happy belated! That gingerbread house “fantasy” cracked me up, btw.

  11. Lisa said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    Y – First off, Happy belated Birthday! I hope you got everything your heart desires! Secondly, your take on the Black Forest Cake is mind blowingly delicious and beautiful looking..and those photographs, WOW! Finally, I guess I could ‘call’ this kind of a birthday gift to you! You can grab it at my blog at this link…

  12. Y said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 9:53 am

    Thanks very much for the comments and the birthday wishes πŸ™‚

    Lucy Vaserfirer : I used cocoa powder. Was quite happy with the end result, though I may attempt to make some changes if I made it again.

    pea and pear : The 9 year old me would’ve gotten on like a house on fire with the 9 year old you.

    Zemer : I don’t always include recipes with my posts. Sometimes because there are too many components and I don’t want to make my posts too long. On occasion, recipes I use for a component or two belong to people I know, who are quite protective of their recipes and don’t want them published.

    Howard : Feeling young at heart is never a bad thing πŸ™‚

    Hana : You should give it a go! No one should fear cake πŸ™‚

  13. cakebrain said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

    happy belated birthday! I think Black forest has never ever fallen out of grace with me. It is one of my favourites. I would much prefer your version as it’s heavy on the chocolate and looks amazing! I would be so happy with a huge chunk on my birthday!

  14. Eva said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

    Best belated wishes! Your version of this old favourite looks positively elegant! My man – coming from the Black Forest area – always requests this as his birthday treat and I’m happy to oblige usually sticking to a traditional recipe but upping the cherry content!

  15. Alli said,

    September 13, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

    Hi Y, I was wondering if you know of any food blog conferences in Australia? It would be so cool to have one over this side of the world wouldn’t it?

  16. Caitlin said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Happy birthday (yes, I know, a wee bit late – life, right?) Y! Lovely dessert, and one that I don’t think should have fallen out of favor – cherry + chocolate = yum! And I giggled through this entire post; I loved the little fantasies throughout πŸ™‚

  17. the caked crusader said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 5:58 pm

    Happy birthday!

    Oh, that last photo is too much! If I wasn’t at work I’d be licking the screen!!!

  18. L said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    Happy birthday Y!
    I know how it feels to get older, suddenly policemen, doctors and TV reporters look like they should be in high school, and someone says “madam” in the the street, I turn around to see who they are talking to, and it is me. Restaurants with dimmer lighting are favoured, I don’t know (or care) who is in the top 10 anymore. On the plus side, I don’t feel bad about complaining about poor service/food/anything, or paying for a decent hotel (ie, any hotel where I don’t have to share a dorm with 7 other backpackers).
    The cake looks amazing!!! Congratulations on the hat by the way, truly well deserved.

  19. Ana Powell said,

    September 14, 2009 @ 11:53 pm

    Happy Birthday
    Absolutely amazing.
    Beautiful photos and delicious cake x

  20. Susan said,

    September 15, 2009 @ 1:19 am

    Great post title and one of the all-time classically decadent cakes. Smashing! Hope you had a lovely B-Day.

  21. Irina @ PastryPal said,

    September 15, 2009 @ 5:19 am

    Great birthday story. If you want a cake done right, make it yourself, ay? I haven’t had black forest cake in a long time and I love your gussied up interpretation. Very elegant.

  22. Vera said,

    September 15, 2009 @ 6:52 am

    Very Happy Birthday, Y!!! I can’t think of any better cake to celebrate the occasion!

  23. cyn said,

    September 16, 2009 @ 2:18 am

    happy belated birthday! a special cake for a special person nonetheless πŸ™‚

  24. Cakelaw said,

    September 16, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    Happy belated birthday to you! I love this version of a black forest gateau far more than the traditional version – yum!

  25. Forager said,

    September 16, 2009 @ 8:24 pm

    Happy belated birthday! Loved the post – I see that kid with the bowl haircut from time to time. As a kid I refused to eat rice – would rather die than eat it – but now, every now and then I even crave it. Same for many other traditional Chinese foods.

    As for the black forest cake – boy, you sure know how to make a girl hungry – even one like me who doesn’t really have a sweet tooth.

  26. Anita said,

    September 16, 2009 @ 8:51 pm

    Happy Birthday!!! What a gorgeous cake. I especially love that last photo – drool!!

  27. Fiona said,

    September 16, 2009 @ 9:40 pm

    That is the yummiest looking cake I have ever seen. You’re really fantastic. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos.

    Happy birthday!

  28. Indigo said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 3:33 am

    Come inside, my dears, I have DSLR cameras you can use to take pictures of the house with. – That offer would QUITE GENUINELY lure me into the clutches of an evil witch T__T. I need to rethink my life a moment.

    Also; I LOVED this post (hello, that third photograph is my favourite picture of anything, ever) ^__^ Cherry chocolate jelly? – genius.

    And happy birthday!

  29. Darina said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 3:38 am

    Happy belated birthday. Now this is what I call a Black Forest Cake. Beautiful photos.

  30. Katherine said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 8:53 am

    What a work of art. It looks very sinfull. Belated Happy Birthday…

  31. CookieBoy said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 11:09 am

    wow!! Great Cake I must Say!!! Happy Belated Birthday!!

    Oh Btw My aunt recommended your blog to me!!!! and she is right Its a mighty GOOD one!!!

  32. rebecca said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

    wow what a cake and such a fun way you write love it

  33. Jackie at PhamFatale said,

    September 19, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

    Happy bday! Love, absolutely love the title of your post. And you always amaze me with your wonderful sweets. What a wonderful cake!

  34. HL said,

    September 21, 2009 @ 1:59 am

    Happy Birthday! Absolutely divine looking (and tasting too I bet)!!

  35. celine said,

    September 21, 2009 @ 3:11 am

    I am way late to wish you a happy, happy birthday, dear Y, but the feeling’s definitely in it.
    Black Forest is my mom’s favorite cake, so this post is doubly sweet to me.

  36. Dana McCauley said,

    September 24, 2009 @ 11:21 pm

    Love how you’ve modernized a classic dessert! Black Forest is one of my favs of all time. I keep intending to make Heston Blumenthal’s version and now I have yours to add to my list!

    Don’t kll me, but I’d still need to add a bit of whipped cream to it to complete the BF effect!

  37. Pinky said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 8:47 am

    I use to stare longingly at the photo of black forest cake in the cookbook we had when I was a child. It wasn’t until I was old enough to bake that I finally was able to taste one. It is a favorite still though.
    The narration of this post was quite charming, by the by.

  38. cookiecraze said,

    September 25, 2009 @ 11:01 pm

    Oh it’s lovely! Brings back so many memories too! I used to love this blackforest cake made by a local patisserie until they changed the recipe…it was horrible and I haven’t eaten one in years. But having seen your rendition, I feel inspired to come up with my own (maybe after exams haha…or better yet maybe pre exam motivational snacks :P). Mini blackforest cakes would be cute and fun to decorate! P.S hope you had a wonderful b’day! Thanks for another fantastic post

  39. Monika said,

    September 26, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

    Happy birthday and best wishes! The cake is so beautiful that it would be a shame to eat it πŸ™‚ I’m from Croatia which is near Germany, so The Black Forest Cake is almost a part of tradition in my county and is very popular. There are like zillion versions of it, but I must say that yours looks the best of all. I’m definitely going to try it soon πŸ™‚

    Best wishes,


  40. Marija said,

    September 29, 2009 @ 5:46 am

    Happy belated birthday! Lovely cake!

  41. peabody said,

    September 29, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    Wow! So stunning. Happy belated birthday…I’m sure you enjoyed your cake.

  42. Manggy said,

    September 29, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

    Happy birthday Y! When I saw the velvety top, I thought of Blumenthal’s version, but the pools of chocolate sauce cascading into the cake are a nice touch. Nothing wrong with the non-glory days version but of course I’m dying to try your very sophisticated one πŸ™‚

  43. Erika from The Pastry Chef At Home said,

    October 9, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

    Those cherry chocolate jelly squares are so SHINY and perfect (and the cake looks pretty good too- especially the second shot)

  44. b sonter said,

    November 30, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

    why can’t i find any of the recipes???? i see the recipe index link but it doesn’t have what i want….

  45. Jill said,

    December 4, 2009 @ 8:03 am

    Your interpretation of the Black Forest Cake is simply divine! Happy Belated Birthday wishes for you.

  46. Finashia said,

    September 1, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

    Hi, I would love to try ‘Black Forest Gateau with cherry chocolate jelly’ for my birthday. Can you pass me the recipe please? BW.

  47. Stan said,

    September 12, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

    Hi I’ve recently attempted to make Heston’s version and let’s just say it’s not easy.. This looks just as hard but I have to say presentation-wise, I think it’s a lot more elegant and beautiful. I especially love the chocolate jelly and the molten pools, very nice touch. Where can I find the recipe for this?

    Cheers from down under.

  48. Y said,

    September 19, 2010 @ 11:20 pm

    Hi Stan, thanks for your comment. I’m so sorry, I don’t actually have a recipe for this cake written down. A couple of people have also requested the recipe and I’m kicking myself for not taking notes when I made this. It was actually put together at the spur of the moment, and is a combination of various recipes from quite a few sources – many of which I’ve forgotten now. If I manage to find some time one day, I promise I will revisit this cake and publish a proper recipe.

  49. little red bird said,

    October 24, 2010 @ 3:45 am

    hello! i think your black forest cake looks superb. would you be able to share the recipe with me? thanks!

  50. Vera Zecevic – Cupcakes Garden said,

    October 20, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    Beautiful cake, really fantastic job!

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