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 Schwarzwälder 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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