On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

A first time for everything

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I asked my Mum a week ago what she’d like for a birthday cake. It’s not a significant birthday but I’d been drooling over pretty cakes on Sweetapolita‘s and raspberricupcake’s blogs and I felt that I might be brave enough to try something as beautifully crafted as they’ve produced.

Of course mine would be minus the “craft”. But with a reason to crawl out of my safe place I would give a decedent cake a go.

Mum gave it some thought and said she’s always loved a Black Forest Cake. At first I was a little disappointed. I wanted to make one of those pretty cakes, one with plenty of frills and coloured in a sweet pastel colour.

A Black Forest Cake (BFC) was none of those things. But it’s also not a simple chocolate cake slathered with chocolate icing.

I’d still be thrust out of my comfort zone. It’s still a tiered cake. It’s made with sponge, something I’ve never baked before. And it still has some tricks to decorating it, as I discovered.

The whole experience was full of firsts. And it took almost every single mixing bowl I have. And I have plenty.

For those deciding if it’s even worth wading through this, my first post on this blog, here’s a photo. And I’ll fess up now that it looks better than it tastes (I presume, it’s not yet cut) because I made a blunder with the sponge and it’s much more dense than a sponge should be.

So the photo.

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I had spent a number of lunch breaks and evenings reading other blogs where BFC was the object of much fussing about. Actually it was probably a breeze for others and possibly came together in half the time it took me.

For the cake I used this recipe. And I’ll use it again.

The mistake I made was following the recipe too closely and not actually thinking for myself.

Because the cake had been made with a hand mixer I decided my paddle attachment for the Kenwood would produce the right result.


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This is NOT how the beaten egg and sugar is meant to look. And even as I was trying to determine if the egg mixture had tripled in size I still didn’t think about what I was doing, nor why I didn’t use the whisk attachment.

Thanks to reading this blog, of course AFTER I’d made the sponge, I found a video of making a Genoise cake from author Rose Beranbaum of The Cake Bible.

I’ve read many blog posts over the space of 3 or 4 weeks where The Cake Bible is spoken of fondly. I ordered by copy yesterday. It should be here by the first week in October. Can’t wait.

The chocolate mixture folded in easily. I’d read (I’m having trouble keeping up with which post on what blog my information has come from) on a post that the chocolate should be at a consistency that you can write your name in it.

Well my name was too big for the pot, but here’s what it should look like.  And it’s my initials.  I tried.

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This cake is truly a labour of love. It took me 24 minutes of constantly stirring the chocolate before I came to the conclusion it was never going to reach boiling point. And that’s not odd given the type of pans we have. So I upped the temperature and soon I had little bubbles and not long after that the chocolate mixture started to take on that “pudding” consistency I’d read about.

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Now into the pans. The new pans I’d bought off Amazon then found that I could have ordered them online in New Zealand. I like to think the pans are a little more special since they’ve come a long way to my kitchen. I’d also read about adding a collar to the pans to help them cook more evenly and not end up with a volcano (hump) due to uneven cooking. My oven is pretty fierce and I never have the oven at the temperature specified in a recipe.

I made my own collars using a tip I’d read about. I used tin foil (Aluminium) with wet paper towels and folded the tin foil over so the towels were enclosed. Then I wrapped these around the cake pans. Just making these collars took a lot of effort. And in the end one of them popped off.

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Not to worry, I thought this might be a better test to see if the collars made a difference. Maybe. But not much. Though it could be that the Wilton cake pans are such good quality that they deal to the fickle temperament of my oven.

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And another tip learnt after watching Rose’s videos on YouTube is to NOT tap the pan. Not that I had a lot of height to knock out of the mixture.

I was looking forward to trying out my new Wilton cake slicer. But the edge was too tough for it to slice through, even when I made a starting slice. So I had to do what I hoped I didn’t need to do, and use the bread knife to try and make perfect slices to split the cakes in half. They’re in two parts, but not necessarily in half if you know what I mean.

I made the syrup, which doesn’t actually thicken up like I was expecting for a syrup. I used the measurements of yet another recipe. And the cream I made from another recipe again.

Clearly I’m not loyal to any one party.

I had pretty much decided to see what the sponge cakes were like before committing myself to using the rest of the ingredients.

As expected, the cakes were dense, certainly not the spongy texture I was aiming for. But they weren’t dry and I knew I’d still learn more if I soldiered on.

I realised the pastry brush I had for brushing the syrup was lacking. After diligently following instructions for the first two layers I got bored with the monotony and actually poured the syrup over the top two layers.

I layered cream onto the bottom cake and strategically placed some cherries. As hard as I try to be random about placing them I just couldn’t. I had to make sure there were just as many on one part of the cake as the rest.

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On and on it went with cake, syrup, cream, cherries, press lightly.

The new layer cake slicer thingee did come in handy. I used it to score the top to mark out where  I would pipe the rosettes.

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So a light coating of cream over the top and sides and in the fridge it went. For at least 15 minutes. I guess this is the equivalent of a crumb coat. Not that I was concerned about having crumbs as I expected all crumbs to be hidden by chocolate curls.

And for the chocolate curls. I’ve tried the block of chocolate with the potato peeler. It’s ok but I wanted larger curls. So a quick Google that morning and I had a new method that worked surprisingly well. You can find that here. I’ll take this moment to say I really enjoy reading The Pioneer Women’s blog and have saved numerous recipes to Pinterest to try later.

In New Zealand you wont find anything called Crisco. I used Shreddo. You’ll find that in the baking isle as the supermarket. The Shreddo was past it’s best by date but it still worked a charm.

The thing about making the curls is that you need to be patient and you need to understand you’ll likely need to place the tray back in the fridge as the chocolate will warm too much to continue to make decent chocolate scrolls. I’m not good at being patient but I think I did okay.


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So yet another new experience. And one I’m happy to repeat again.

If I thought that process took patience, I was yet to learn more would be required to place those scrolls around the cake.

I pulled the cake out, piped the rosettes and then applied more cream around the outside of the cake.

Of course a sensible person would have put more on the outside before piping the rosettes. Thankfully I averted any damage with limbs getting in the way and knocking the rosettes into one big smooshy mess.

On went the chocolate scrolls, in several batches due to warm hands and warming chocolate. And finally it was done.

And it wasn’t too shabby for a first attempt if I do say so myself.

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Ok, so now it’s the end of the day and several hours since I began this post.

I didn’t know what to do with the cake. It’s large, and I’m not really a cherry cake person.

I know it looked the part but how did it taste and what was the crumb like.

Mum was coming for dinner and for days I’ve been toying with the ideal of somehow hiding it or serving it up for dinner.

The birthday cake was meant to be a bit of a surprise, even though I’d asked straight out what Mum wanted. She didn’t know if I’d read her blog to see her answer.

I decided that it was a bit silly to just hang onto it and what? Take it into work for the crew? I want to bike to work so there’s no way I could get it to work without taking the car since I’ve yet to master how to balance food on my head. It’s on my list of new skills to acquire, but way way down the list Winking smile

I could give it to the neighbours. But they already benefited from my cupcakes last weekend and I don’t want them relying on leftovers each week. Best not to start a trend. I suppose I could have given it to my mother-in-law to take to her ladies group, that thought has only just sprung up as I type.

I was in a bit of a quandary and even used Mark as a sounding board to my confusion. I’m sure he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

If I’ve learnt one thing about living through multitude earthquakes in Christchurch, it’s to not save things because they are too nice or too precious or you’re waiting for a perfect opportunity. There’s too much to lose.

So we had it for dessert. Of course I explained the cake was too dense. I like to set the expectation up front to avoid too much disappointment.

So here’s what it looked like.

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What’s the verdict? The gelatine taste in the cream wasn’t evident. It cut nicely, but I’m not sure how that might change with a more sponge-like cake.

There wasn’t enough cherries (I had more, but I’d also used more than the recipe called for). And there was a lack of cherry flavour. A big disappointment when the cake is all about cherries.

I know the recipe called for the syrup to be covered after it was cooked. I did do that, but about 30 minutes later. Perhaps the alcohol evaporates?


What will I change?

  • More cream
  • More cherries
  • More cherry liquor
  • More air in the egg mixture
  • Make the cakes in advance and freeze them
  • Make the curls in advance and keep them in the fridge
  • Assemble the cake in the morning of the day I want to serve it. The cream was starting to look a bit old this evening, some 28 hours after I’d assembled the cake
  • Use the new pastry brush I’ve bought which should solve the boredom of brushing the syrup over the cake layers
  • Not tap the pans after I’ve poured the batter
  • Forget about the tin foil collars
  • Be more economical in my use of bowls.


Mum has the leftover cake to take for morning tea for her work crew.


And that is the end of the first post on this blog and my first foray into making Black Forest Cake.


One thought on “A first time for everything

  1. Pingback: Black Forest Cake: An update « On to the plate

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