One of the most important aspects of celebrating a birthday is having a proper birthday cake. In my opinion, a birthday cake needs to be a proper round torte, with multiple alternating layers of (preferably) sponge cake and a sort of filling. The filling isn’t baked together with the layers, but added afterwards. A birthday wish is made and birthday candles are blown out. This is how I have been taught and raised by my mother any my grandmother. However, in Germany, it is pretty common to get regular apple cake, cheesecake or anything else but a torte for your birthday. If you ask me, if my cake isn’t a proper torte and has no round shape, no filling or no candles, I might as well not be celebrating a birthday!
In my family, everything evolves around food: what is being eaten, how much of it and are there any leftovers. If there are leftovers, did it not taste well? If there are no leftovers, wasn’t there enough, is somebody still hungry? We show our love and care for eachother through food and so, the nicely decorated multiple layered birthday cake shows that we’re glad you got to live another year.
This week it was my boyfriend’s birthday, so I asked him if he wished for a specific cake. After a few minutes of thinking, he finally told me how he had always, as a kid, wanted a Black Forrest cake for his birthday, but kept getting apple cakes instead. I found his remark so sad, as I imagined him as a child sitting there with his legs dangling off the edge of the chair, sadly looking at that rectangular apple cake.
The Black Forrest cake is a very popular German cake, whose name is as dark as its reputation. It’s infamous for its allegedly complicated recipe and, despite its popularity, almost no one makes it at home. Funnily enough, you can get it in every cafe, but it’s rarely good. This is my paleo twist on the original recipe. When it comes to the ingredients I used, some are interchangeable and some are not. You could substitute tallow in the short crust pastry for ghee, butter, lard or organic palm shortening. Just don’t use coconut oil. The sponge cake contains equal amounts of apple, cassava and tigernut flour. If you don’t have apple flour, you can use cassava and tigernut flour instead. As for tigernut flour, feel free to sub it for almond flour. For details see the recipe below. Note that this recipe is written in grams. You can find a conversion chart here.
I can’t say that this cake is difficult to make. Sure, it takes some time, because you need to make all the layers and make sure they’re cool before you use them, but if you start one day beforehand, you won’t have problems. The whole effort will definitely be worth it when you try your first juicy slice of this amazing cake.
If you’re a fan of the Black Forrest cake and are looking for a paleo alternative, which preserves the originality of the traditional recipe, this is for you. If you are looking for a delicious and beautiful birthday cake to surprise a friend, parent, sister or a loved one, don’t be intimidated and step into the sweetness of the Black Forrest.
- 60 g cassava flour
- 60 g tigernut flour
- 60 g tallow, chilled
- 2-4 tbsp water, chilled
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
- 400 g sour cherries (canned), pitted
- 200 ml sour cherry juice*
- 4 tbsp kirsch**
- 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp arrowroot flour
- 6 eggs
- 3 tbsp coconut palm sugar
- 50 g apple flour***
- 50 g tigernut flour
- 50 g cassava flour
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 75 g arrowroot flour
- 5 tbsp water
- 1.5 tsp baking soda
- 5 tbsp kirsch**
- 5 tbsl sour cherry juice*
- Preheat oven to 180 C (360 F). Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and start adding small blocks of chilled tallow.
- Knead dough and add water, 1 tbsp at a time, making sure you don't add too much. The moment you are able to form a dough, stop adding more water. Knead until tallow pieces are incorporated into the flour and form a ball of dough. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 mins.
- Roll out dough between two sheets of parchment paper. Remove upper sheet and place your cake pan onto the dough. Cut dough along the edges of the cake pan to get a round shape.
- Leaving the dough on the bottom parchment paper, transfer them together onto a baking dish and bake for 10 mins or until golden. Remove from oven and set aside. Be careful, since short crust pastry is very fragile and crumbles easily.
- Drain canned sour cherries, reserving all the liquid.
- Combine all ingredients in a small pot and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Set aside to cool a bit and then refrigerate.
- Preheat oven to 180 C (360 F). Separate egg yolks from egg whites.
- Combine flours with cocoa powder and baking soda. Sift the flour mixture.
- Using a whisk attachment, beat egg yolks on high with coconut palm sugar until pale and creamy. Add water and beat to combine.
- Add flour mixture to egg yolks and beat on high until a dough is formed.
- Using a clean whisk attachment, beat egg whites on high until soft peaks. Then slowly start adding coconut palm sugar, while still beating, until stiff peaks.
- Using a spatula, combine ⅓ of the egg whites with the egg yolk mixture. Then slowly and gently incorporate the rest of the egg whites, making sure no more whites are visible.
- Divide mixture among three 7 inch Wilton cake pans or one 10 inch cake pan.
- Bake for 20 mins, then turn oven off and leave cake another 10-15 mins in. It's done when you insert a skewer in the middle and it comes out clean. Do not open the oven too much or your sponge might collapse.
- Remove from oven and let cool down for 2 hours. Cut the round top off the cake in order to level it out. If using a one 10 inch cake pan, cut the cake with a long knife or a cake leveler to get three layers.
- When ready to use, combine kirsch and sour cherry juice and soak each layer with 3 tbsp of the mix.
- Make sure your coconut cream is chilled overnight. If living in a hot climate, it also helps to refrigerate the bowl, which you will use to beat the cream in.
- Scrape vanilla seeds from pod and add it to coconut cream. Beat on high until thick and creamy.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make sure you have the short crust pastry at hand, sour cherry filling cold and ready, sponge cakes soaked with the kirsch mix, coconut cream cold and beaten.
- The first bottom layer is the short crust pastry. Spread a thin layer of thick liquid from the sour cherry filling onto the short crust pastry. Do not add any cherries yet.
- Place the first sponge layer onto the short crust pastry. Spread sour cherry filling onto the sponge in a thick layer. Then top with an even thin layer of coconut cream.
- Follow with a second layer of sponge. Spread a thick layer of coconut cream on top.
- Place the third layer of sponge on top.
- Cover entire cake with coconut cream and decorate with cherries and chocolate shavings.
- Refrigerate for a few hours until set.
**If avoiding alcohol, sub kirsch for more sour cherry juice.
***If you don't have apple flour, you can omit it and use more cassava and tigernut flour. Instead of 50 g, take 75 g tigernut flour. And instead of 50 g, take 75 g cassava flour.
****If you can find coconut cream, I suggest using it. However, you can use coconut milk instead. Simply refrigerate coconut milk overnight and scoop the fatty layer on the surface.