Black forest of dreams

RECIPE:   BLACK FOREST CAKE

Black forest cake | Infinite belly

Auvergne is wild. Night creatures scuttle from the edge of the woods across the road as we drive at 5am to a nearby forest for mushroom foraging. Hedgehogs, snakes and cats make occasional appearances. The cows are still asleep on the fields. The sky is slowly shifting, lifting its dark mantle of night to reveal pockets of orange and pink. I try hard to keep my eyes on the road.

Auvergne black forest | Infinite belly

The morning radio talk show interviews a fashionable French actor. I turn the sound off and lower the windows as it gets warmer and the day begins. Looking up, hawks circle over a field, ready to swoop down on unsuspecting mice. Walking in the woods, we spot a fox in the distance, silently slipping away. The air is damp and fresh. Still, no mushrooms. Even with all of this wild life, I’ve never felt in danger while wandering deep in the forest (as long as I have some good rubber boots on).

Adelaide in the forest | Infinite belly

Rubber boots in a stream | Infinite belly
Depending on the place in which we live or grow up, we have different relationships to the forest. In Brazil, I used to go on road trips to the beach with my family via the Serra do Mar, a mountain range covered in lush Atlantic forest (the most biodiverse in the world). I would stare out of my window as we passed by this majestic, seemingly impenetrable jungle, where the vegetation was so thick you could barely see past the edge of the road. During long traffic jams at night, I would imagine all kinds of beasts roaming about this mysterious place (lions, tigers, and bears!), and shudder at the thought of finding myself alone and struggling to survive. Nature could feel like a dangerous place, an “unfinished, pre-historic world” where one could perish if not prepared.

So many books and movies I love have illustrated this more eloquently. I think especially of Werner Herzog’s films and travels in the Amazon, narrated in Les Blank’s movie Burden of Dreams. In the jungle, “even the stars are a mess”, we get overwhelmed and disoriented from our cardinal points; we end up embarking on a wild quest to pull a boat over a mountain as in Fitzcarraldo, or go mad like Claus Kinsky with the monkeys in Aguirre. Wandering in the woods here, on the other hand, makes me think of the Brothers Grimm or Charles Perrault tales; nature feels like it’s both gentle and mysterious.

Magical Auvergne forest | Infinite belly

Heart shape in the forest | Infinite belly

Cloves in the forest | Infinite belly

The nice thing about mushroom foraging – in other words, staring at the ground for hours – is that even if you don’t find any, it forces you to look at the micro-forest – the tiny things that form the surface of the ground, like drops of dew on fallen branches, snails of all sizes, iridescent copper beetles, a winding staircase of tiny mushrooms on a tree trunk, the variety of colors and textures in each and every square inch.

Auvergne micro-forest | Infinite belly

Cloves & mushrooms | Infinite belly

Colorful beetle | Infinite belly

Time goes by in a different way, and before you know it, it’s 11am and we head back home to cook lunch. With a bucket of wild berries just picked, tomorrow’s breakfast is ready, along with some fresh faisselle cheese from the market. Our clothes smell like pine and my whole body feels like it’s been exercising even though I was never short of breath. The day has just started.

Adelaide picking berries | Infinite belly

Auvergne forest | Infinite belly

Basket in a forest | Infinite belly

Ruban

Black forest cake chocolate decoration | Infinite belly


Timeless black forest cake | Serves 6-8


If the taste of this classic German cake is timeless, its look can be quite versatile. Our take on this Black forest is an understated contrast between the dark chocolate and the Chantilly cream, but you could also go for more color by decorating the cake with cherries, or for rustic and bare aesthetics by leaving the different layers of cake and cream appear, not covering them with extra Chantilly…

Black forest cake | Infinite belly

The chocolate sponge cake:

  • 180g eggs, at room temperature
  • 90g white sugar
  • 75g flour
  • 15g unsweetened cacao powder
  • melted butter and flour for the springform pan
  1. Preheat your oven at 180°C.
  2. With a pastry brush, grease an app. 16cm springform pan with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with flour and remove excess by turning the pan over.
  3. Using an electric hand or stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar on medium to high speed until it becomes light and fluffy. The consistency must almost be that of a light mousse and the mix must lighten in color to a pale yellow.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cacao powder and mix evenly.
  5. Gradually incorporate the powders to the beaten egg and mix delicately with a rubber spatula, scooping up the mix from the bottom to the top of the bowl with gentle movements. Your batter must remain frothy.
  6. Immediately pour the mix into the prepared pan, gently even out without pressing and bake for app. 25 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a rack to cool.

Fouet vertical

The chocolate mousse:

  • 115g good quality dark chocolate
  • 230g single cream (at least 30% fat), cold
  1. In a bain-marie, melt the chocolate to 55°C. You can check the temperature with a meat thermometer. Once melted, leave the chocolate to cool down if necessary. If used too hot, the chocolate will alter the cream’s consistency and won’t blend in smoothly.
  2. Beat the cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Using a whip, incorporate a small quantity of cream into the melted chocolate and mix throughout. Add the rest of the cream and gently mix with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate until use.

Feuille

The Chantilly cream:

  • 300g single cream (at least 30% fat), cold
  • 30g white sugar
  • vanilla bean (or extract)
  1. Beat the cream, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Refrigerate until use.

Sucre

The syrup and filling:

  • 200g water
  • 270g white sugar
  • 1 tsp-1 tbsp kirsch liquor (depending on taste)
  • 1 can of pitted sour cherries
  1. In a pot, mix the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Refrigerate.
  2. Drain the cherries and reserve some of the juice to add to the syrup.
  3. With a serrated knife, slice the sponge cake horizontally into three layers. Cut slowly and start by making a notch all around the cake so you cut even layers.
  4. Once cooled, take out the syrup and add in the cherry juice and kirsch.
  5. On a plate or cake cardboard (you can use a paper plate), place an app. 18cm cake ring (app. 5cm tall). Line with a clear acetate collar band (so that the cake ring will be easy to remove). If you don’t have acetate, you can use parchment paper cut into a strip.
  6. Place the first sponge cake layer at the center of the ring and soak it with syrup using a pastry brush.
  7. With a pastry bag or an offset spatula, pipe Chantilly cream between the sponge cake and the cake ring. Pour or scoop half of the chocolate mousse over the sponge cake, stopping at the edge (there will be Chantilly around it). Add the drained cherries and cover with the rest of the chocolate mousse.
  8. Place a second sponge cake layer on top, soak it with syrup and pipe more Chantilly around it. Cover with Chantilly cream and place the third already soaked sponge cake layer on top. Cover again with a little bit of Chantilly cream and even out with an offset spatula. You should reach the top of the cake ring. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before removing the cake ring.

Note: if you don’t have a cake ring, choose the bare layer look: alternate layers of cake and chocolate mousse or Chantilly cream as indicated above without piping any cream around the sponge cake and smooth out with a spatula.

Black forest cake | Infinite belly

The decoration:

Depending on your inspiration, there are many ways to decorate this cake, simple to realize or more elaborate. Choose among and/or combine the suggestions below!

– Chocolate shavings, two methods

  • 200-300g good quality dark chocolate

Method #1

  1. Melt dark chocolate in a bain-marie (try not to go over 50-55°C) and pour into a rectangular tupperware. Refrigerate for app. 10 min or until the chocolate hardens.
  2. With a spoon, shave out thin layers of chocolate and place immediately on and / or around the cake.
  3. You can dust the shavings with powdered sugar.

Method #2

  1. Place a metal baking sheet in your oven so that it warms up to 50°C. You must be able to touch it easily with your bare hands without burning yourself.
  2. Melt dark chocolate in a bain-marie (try not to go over 50-55°C).
  3. Flip over the baking sheet and pour the 50°C melted chocolate on its backside. Even out into a thin layer with an offset spatula. Place in your refrigerator for app. 10 min or until the chocolate has hardened.
  4. Remove from the fridge and leave at room temperature for a few minutes (the chocolate should get softer) and with a triangle front spatula or a bowl scraper, scrape up the chocolate over a few centimeters in a straight line. If the chocolate has the right consistency, it will roll into little tubes like the picture below. If it breaks, the chocolate is too cold; leave it at room temperature a little longer. If it melts in your hand, put it back in the refrigerator for a minute or two.
  5. Place on top and / or all around the cake.
  6. You can dust the shavings with powdered sugar.

Black forest cake chocolate decoration | Infinite belly

– Chantilly cream piping

 Using a pastry bag with a plain or star tip, decorate with the remaining Chantilly cream.

– Cherries (canned or fresh)

Place on top of the cake to your liking.

– Chocolate cut-out design & chocolate strip

If you want to make more elaborate chocolate decorations, you will need to use special dark bittersweet couverture chocolate, ideally from Valrhona or Cacao-Barry. Unfortunately, the regular dark chocolate you will find in supermarkets (even special baking chocolate) doesn’t have the same properties because of its lower percentage of cacao butter. You can order this product online in professional baking supply websites.

Another important aspect of chocolate decoration is the tempering process. In order for the chocolate to be tasty, shiny and for it to crystallize (solidify) properly, you need to temper it by making it follow a precise set of temperatures once melted. For dark chocolate, this temperature curve is: heat to 50-55°C, bring down to 27-28°C, bring up again to 31-32°C. Then, your melted chocolate is ready to use!

Chocolate cut-out design

  • 100-150g dark bittersweet couverture chocolate (ideally Valrhona or Cacao-Barry)
  1. Pick a design and print it out at the right scale on regular paper. Place the page on your work surface and cover with a transparent acetate sheet. Put something heavy like cutlery or glasses at the corners so that the sheets don’t move.
  2. In a bain-marie, heat up the couverture chocolate to 50°C (be careful not to go over 55°C). Remove from bain-marie and wait until it cools down to 27°C (leave a thermometer in the chocolate and stir occasionally). This may take a while depending on room temperature but it is the easiest technique. Put back in the bain-marie and heat up to 31°C – be careful because this happens very quickly! And if the chocolate goes over 32°C, you need to start over from the beginning…
  3. Fill up an icing pen or paper cone with your melted chocolate and draw over the design. Make sure the lines are thick enough so that your design doesn’t break; go over the same area two or three times if necessary. Slide onto a cooking sheet, a cutting board or even a book and place it in your refrigerator for app. 10 minutes. Once the chocolate has hardened, delicately flip the sheet directly over the cake and remove it very carefully, starting by lifting up the edges. Voilà!

Ornement trois horizontal

Chocolate strip

  • 100-150g dark bittersweet couverture chocolate (ideally Valrhona or Cacao-Barry)
  1. If you want to go wild and try out the chocolate strip around the cake, cut a strip of transparent acetate to the correct dimensions (measure the circumference and height of your cake ring).
  2. Follow step 2 in the directions above to temper the dark chocolate.
  3. Pour over the acetate strip and even out into a thin layer with an offset spatula.
  4. Give it a couple of minutes so that the chocolate starts crystallizing and place around your cake before it has solidified completely. Refrigerate for at least 10 min before removing the acetate strip.

Vintage chair & cannage | Infinite belly

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