The History and Recipe of a Traditional Black Forest Cake

Estimated reading time 4 min

Originally the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte which translates to the Black Forest Cherry Torte or Gateau in German. In English, we cherish this delectable cake as the Black Forest Cake. It is easily recognized by its chocolate, cherry and whipped cream layers topped decoratively with more cherries, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. It has grown to be the most popular cake from Germany and among the best cakes of the world. But how did this cake come about? We’ll walk you through the history of the recipe and how to make your own from home.

History of Black Forest Cake

There are two dueling theories as to the invention of the dessert masterpiece that is the Black Forest Cake. The first and more popular claim, is that in 1915 pastry chef Josef Keller created the ‘Black Forest Cherry’ from his café in Bad Godesberg. It wasn’t until the recipe was passed down to his apprentice, and again to the apprentice’s descendant, that the recipe was officially printed in a cook book in 1930.

Another theory comes from a pastry chef named Erwin Hildenbrand, who worked extensively in pastry-making across the Black Forest region. His town of Tingen, argues that Hildenbrand had the first recipe in 1930 with written proof.

Despite the inventor of the cake, the recipe was printed and shared in 1930, and became a popular cake among Germans and soon, the rest of the world.

Traditional Style of Black Forest Cake

There are a few different ways to make the Black Forest Cake. One common method is to add kirsch, a fruit brandy, made from sour cherries. This is used to soak the layers and create a heavier cake. Over the years, different alcohol has been used, and for many, no alcohol at all.

How to Make a Traditional Black Forest Cake

One of our travel colleagues, was fortunate enough to meet Black Forest Cake chefs in Freiburg and return with the recipe. Here was the cake she experienced in Germany’s Black Forest region.




Ingredients for the Sponge Cake:

1 ¼ cup Sugar

2 cups Flour

2 tablespoons of Cocoa

7 Eggs


Ingredients for the Filling:

5 cups Cream

¼ cup Sugar

3 bags of Cream Stiffener (or three sheets of Gelatin)

2 ½ cups Sour Cherries

1 cup Cherry Juice

4 tablespoons Starch

¼ – ½ cup Cherry Schnapps

Final Decoration:


Grated chocolate



  1. Prep for the Sponge Cake – Stir eggs and sugar for about 15 minutes until fluffy. Stir in flour and cocoa and carefully fold in. Bake in a springform in the over for approximately 30 minutes with 350 – 400 degrees F.
  2. Preparation of the Black Forest Gâteau – Cut the sponge cake into 3 equal parts. Whip the well chilled cream and sugar until stiff. If you are serving the cake the same day you don’t need further additions to the cream. If you are planning to serve the cake later, we would recommend adding cream stiffener or gelatin to the cream.
  3. Dissolve starch in a little bit of cherry juice. Bring the rest of the cherry juice to boil, add the dissolved starch and bring to a boil while stirring continuously. Take the juice from the cooker, add cherries and let it cool.
  4. Add approximately 1 1/3 tablespoon of the cherry schnapps to the juice, then spread the mixture evenly on the bottom layer. Spread one layer of cream over the cherries and place the second sponge cake on top.
  5. Drizzle with cherry schnapps and spread one layer of cream. Then put the third layer of sponge cake and drizzle with cherry schnapps.
  6. Fill the rest of the cream in a piping bag and add to top and sides. Afterwards, spread evenly on the cake. Stray cream rosettes on the top of the cake in a circle and put a cherry on each rosette. Add gathered chocolate on the sides. Chill well before serving.

Tip: To get an even level sponge cake, let it cool down upside down. We would recommend preparing sponge cake one day earlier.


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