Black Forest Cake History and Recipe

Black Forest cake has multiple (usually 4) layers of chocolate sponge cake, cherries, and whipped cream.  It is frosted with whipped cream and covered with chocolate shavings and a few cherries for decoration.  Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps) is used to flavor the whipped cream.  The bottom layers of sponge cake are also brushed with Kirschwasser (cherry schnaps) to provide moisture and a little extra flavor.

There are many other ideas on how the cake originally got its name.  Some historians say that it is possible that the cake got its name from the traditional costume worn by women in the Black Forest.  The dress was black (just like the chocolate flakes), the blouse is white (like the cream), and the hat has red pom-poms that look just like cherries.  Called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in German, which means Black Forest Cherry Torte or Gateau.

Black Forest Cake

History of Black Forest Cake:

16th Century
– Historians believe it originated in the late 16th century in the Black Forest Region (Der Schwarzwald in German) located in the state of Baden-Wttemberg.  The name, Schwarzwald, evokes darkness and mystery coming from the romantic German concept of Waldeinsamkeit or forest-loneliness.  During this era, chocolate was first integrated into cakes and cookies.  This region is known for its sour cherries and Kirsch or Kirschwasser (a double distilled, clear cherry brandy made from the sour Morello cherry).  Combine these cherries with the Germans love of chocolate, and you have this wonderful chocolate confection with cream and cherries.  It is thought that the cake is named after this brandy.

1915 – Following history of the Black Forest Cake from the Cafe Schaefer web site:

Josef Keller (1887-1981) is the inventor of the Black Forest cherry cake. Keller was the pastry chef in the Caf“Ahrend” (today called Agner) in Bad Godesberg.  In the year 1915 he created for the first time what he called a “Schwarzwälder Kirsch”, or “Black Forest Cherry”.

After his time in the military, Josef Keller established his own cafin Radolfzell.  August Schaefer learned the trade as the apprentice to Josef Keller in Radolfzell from 1924 to 1927.  After many years of collaboration, Josef Keller gave August Schaefer his recipe book which contained the original recipe.  His son, Claus Schaefer, the current Konditormeister of the Triberg CafSchaefer, inherited the book and the original recipe and has thus been able to carry on making Josef Keller’s original.

Today the recipe book and the original recipe for the now world-famous “Schwarzwälder Kirsch” can be found with August Schaefer’s son, Claus Schaefer, the current head chef at Triberg’s Konditorei Schaefer.

1930 – According to research carried out by Tingen town archivist, Udo Rauch, evidence is also pointing to master patissier, Erwin Hildenbrand, as having invented the Black Forest gateau in the spring of 1930 at the CafWalz in Tingen.  Before this he was working in several places in the Black Forest.

1949 – The cake was rated the 13th best known cake in Germany.

Black Forest Cake-Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte Recipe:
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr 10 mins

This is an easy-to-make version of Black Forest Cake

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Keyword: Black Forest Cake History, Black Forest Cake Recipe, Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte
  • 1 box dark chocolate or devil's food cake mix (your favorite brand)
  • 1 teaspoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar (confectioners')
  • 1/4 cup Kirshwasser (Cherry Brandy), divided
  • 1 container whipped icing (cream cheese or vanilla)
  • 1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling, divided
  • Maraschino cherries (for garnish)
  • 1 to 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, shaved*
  1. Make chocolate cake according to package directions, adding 1 teaspoon red food coloring and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Bake cake, as directed, in two 9-inch layer cake pans.  When done baking, remove from oven and cool the cake completely on a wire rack.  When the cake is cooled, wrap each layer in plastic wrap.  Place layers in the refrigerator for approximately 1 hour.

  2. In a large bowl of the electric mixer, whip together the heavy cream and powdered sugar.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

  3. Using a sharp knife, slice each cooled cake round horizontally to make four layers.

  4. First Layer:  Place one layer on a flat plate and brush with 2 tablespoons cherry brandy.  Fill a plastic bag with whipped vanilla or cream cheese icing (your choice) and pipe a generous ring (at least one (1) cherry high!) around the edge of first cake layer.  Fill the exposed ring of the cake with some of the cherry pie filling.

  5. Second Layer:  Place the second layer on top of the first layer.  Repeat first layer process with the second layer.

  6. Third Layer:  Place third layer on top of the second layer.  Repeat process with the second layer.

  7. Fourth Layer:  Place fourth layer on top of the third layer.  Frost the entire cake with freshly whipped cream.

  8. Garnish the top of the cake with (cherries picked from the pie filling) or maraschino cherries.  Sprinkle the top chocolate shavings.  Gently press chocolate shavings onto sides of cake.

  9. Refrigerate for at least two hours prior to serving.  Slice while well chilled for best results.

  10. Makes one (1) four-layer cake.


Recipe Notes

* How To Make Chocolate Shavings - For best results, the chocolate used should be cold, straight out of the refrigerator.  If it is room temperature, then the slices won't turn out paper thin; instead, they will be thick, broken chunks.  To make chocolate shavings, you first need a good quality of chocolate in block form.  Using a vegetable or potato peeler, hold the chocolate with a paper towel and pass the vegetable peeler over the narrowest side of the chocolate block.  The chocolate will curl up like wood shavings.

Source:  Photo from website.

Comments and Reviews

8 Responses to “Black Forest Cake History and Recipe”

  1. carlos

    can i have some

  2. Noida

    Thank you soooo much. It provided us an awesome black forest cake.

  3. AM Dixon

    Great information to share with a 5th grade class. Today they are enjoying a Black Forest tart as part of a food project. Adding the history of the food is wonderful.

  4. Maddy

    I’m in love with cake and spoopy history. this is cool

  5. Don

    All that history to get a box mix recipe? REALLY? How about Josef Keller or Erwin Hildenbrand’s recipe?

    • Nancy

      Don, I am sorry you were disappointed, most people don’t make their cakes from scratch these days, kudos to you for doing so. I hope that the history was useful as that was not from a box. Feel free to post your favorite recipe from scratch.

  6. Inquisitive

    I agree with Don… This recipe is clearly not one of the originals, as it is utilizing a “box mix” this is soOOO disappointing!

  7. Amy

    I did happen to come across this German origin recipe, after I was disappointed with the “box mix” version given above:

    In Germany, to be considered a true Black Forest cake, there are some requirements:

    “…the non-ruined version of Schwarzwälder kirschtorte still thrives on its home ground, where the baking industry works under regulations that require a kirschtorte to be made according to a basic set of guidelines. The rules define it as either “a cake made with Kirschwasser and whipped cream or with Kirschwasser and buttercream, or a combination of the two” — so without the kirsch, the cake isn’t genuine. The presence of fruit is actually considered secondary to the presence of the kirsch, the flavor of which has to be clearly apparent. The layers — of a light Viennese cake or sponge — must contain at least 3% cocoa or chocolate (though there can be more), and the topping must be of either buttercream or whipped cream, and garnished with chocolate.”


Leave a Reply