The great Black Forest Cake adventure

A friend of ours was turning 95 and I wanted to bake him a his favorite cake. Turns out it was Black Forest cake, which he first had in a military hospital in the Black Forest of Germany, way back in the 1950s! I decided I was up for the challenge, and making the complicated cake turned into a comic and rather obsessive adventure. But in the end the cake turned out beautiful and delicious. This is not exactly health food so you may wonder why it’s on this blog, but hey it has cherries in it, so there you go – it’s got produce!

I did a lot of research both in my recipe books and online until I found a couple of recipes that I combined the best parts of and tweaked a bit. The chocolate sponge cake came from my 1997 Joy of Cooking. It was enough to fill my 9 1/2 inch Bundt pan. The stabilized whipped cream recipe and cherry filling came from the NY Times.

Chocolate Sponge Cake: (I reduced the flour from 2/3 cup and increased the cocoa from 1/3 cup, and reduced the sugar from 1 cup. I also reversed the timing of the whipping with and without sugar, which made more sense.)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

6 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp instant coffee powder

3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350′

Butter the cake pan and shake a spoonful of cocoa to cover the butter. Although Joy of Cooking frowns on this step because they say that the sponge needs to cling onto the sides, the nice lady at the Spun Sugar store where I bought my pastry bag and tip, recommended I do so, especially on a Bundt pan. She was right. The sponge definitely clung to the sides but the butter helped it not to stick so much so it stayed in one piece when I freed it with a knife.

Beat eggs with vanilla and coffee powder on high for 3 minutes. Slowly add sugar at low speed, and then beat on high for 10 minutes until it is thick as softly whipped cream. This is called a ribbon.

flour and cocoa

Sift flour and cocoa 4 times, from one bowl to the next and back.

Then sift 1/4 of the cocoa mix over the ribbon and gently fold in. Repeat 3 more times.

Pour the cake mixture into the Bundt pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes clean and the cake springs back when gently pressed.

Cool cake over an empty wine bottle for 1 1/2 hours. If there is wine in the bottle you may drink it.

Run a plastic knife around the outside of the cake and the outside of the tube until you can loosen the cake. Let it cool on a wire rack.

When cake is completely cool, use a serrated knife to cut into 3 or 4 layers. I cut 4 layers, but the top one was mighty thin!

Cherry syrup:

20 oz frozen unsweetened cherries, defrosted. (I bought the last two 10-oz packages from Whole Foods. They were way in the back of the top shelf, hidden behind a bunch of packages of green beans. I was determined to get them, having already struck out at Trader Joe’s and my local produce market, so I climbed inside the freezer and knocked the green beans aside until finally the cherries appeared! An elderly man was shopping near me and gave me a rather quizzical look. And yes I picked up the green beans afterwards.)

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 cup sugar

Juice from defrosted halved cherries

1/4 cup kirsch cherry liqueur (kirschwasser)

Add sugar to boiling water and stir until dissolved to make a simple syrup.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is da954225-41b6-4263-9756-6cc59696ca53_1_201_a.jpeg

Reserve 12 cherries aside to top the cake. Cut the rest of the defrosted cherries in half, then put them in a sieve over the simple syrup until all the cherry juice drips into the syrup. Stir well.

The kirsch was hard to find, especially at a decent price (since this would probably be the only time I’d find a use for it.) And I couldn’t find a bottle smaller than 750 mL. Finally I ordered one from Bev Mo and joined their club to get a few bucks off. I sampled a spoonful of this 80 proof liqueur and got rip roaring drunk!. (I’m a bit of a lightweight you could say.)

Remove the syrup from heat and stir in the kirsch. Store the cherries in the fridge until the next day.

I also added a tablespoon of kirsch to the 12 cherries that were to go on top of the cake. They soaked it up overnight.

Brush the cherry syrup onto the cake layers. Except for the bottom layer, brush both sides of the layers.

Wrap each of the layers in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator overnight.

Making the stabilized whipped cream base: This was a new thing for me to learn: stabilizing the whipped cream prevents it from collapsing and melting away, especially between the layers and in the rosettes on top. The stabilized base itself tastes rather meh and is kinda rubbery due to the cornstarch, but once it’s whipped in with the regular cream you won’t be able to tell it’s there.

1 cup whipping cream

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1 Tb cornstarch

Heat cream over medium heat until warm. Sift in powdered sugar and cornstarch and whisk over medium heat until cream thickens.

Remove from heat and let cool. I did this the night before so the cream could get nice and cold in the fridge overnight.

The next day:

Making the whipped cream:

Whipped cream stabilizer made the night before

more cups of whipping cream (buy 1 quart total)

I put the bowl and beater in the freezer overnight to make it nice and cold.

The stabilized cream was rather heavy and gloppy. First I slowly beat the stabilized cream to loosen it.

I added about 1/2 cup of the plain cream and beat slowly until it was incorporated. Then I added the rest of the cream, about 1 cup at a time, beating slowly.

I beat all the cream on medium for 2 to 3 minutes until soft peaks formed. I can attest from licking the beaters that it tasted wonderful!

I reserved 1/2 cup of the cream for making rosettes, then split the remaining cream. I refrigerated half of it. Then I divided the rest into thirds, to spread on the layers.

Jammy cherries

Next I made jammy cherries. Not quite a jam, but thicker than the cherries on their own, to mix into the whipped cream between the layers. I again drained the cherries through a sieve, to collect the juice that had drained overnight. Just for good measure, I also drained the whole cherries that I had reserved to decorate the top. In all I got about 2 Tablespoons cherry juice. I sifted in one tsp. cornstarch and whisked well. According to the NYT recipe, I was supposed to add 1/4 tsp of almond extract, but when I opened my bottle of extract, it was empty! So never mind that. I brought the juice and cornstarch slurry to a boil, and added the split cherries, sitting constantly for 3 -5 minutes until it thickened. I removed it from the heat and let it cool.

Now it was time to unwrap the cherry juice-laden cake layers. Not a simple task since they seemed to be enfolded with each other’s plastic wrap. I flipped the layers onto a plate that I laid on top of the plate the layer was on. But still I had trouble separating them. I could only find 3 layers! Where was the fourth layer hiding?

Turns out the top layer was stuck under the second layer. I flipped both onto a plate, then flipped the top layer onto another plate. This was too much for that thin little piece of cherry juice-soaked cake, and it fell apart! After cussing it out, I managed to fit the F-ing cake layer back together like a broken jigsaw puzzle.

Now it was time to frost the cake with whipped cream and add the jammy cherries. I attempted rather fruitlessly to brush the crumbs from the bottom cake layer. I realized it really didn’t make much difference. I smeared 1/3 of the whipped cream on the bottom layer and I swear it looked like a pumpernickel bagel with cream cheese!

Next I added a third of the jammy cherries and mixed them into the cream. Things were rolling right along, and I was ready to flip the next layer on top of the filling.

Unfortunately the layer fell apart when I flipped it! I cussed the f-ing cake until I calmed myself down a with the maxim that whipped cream hides all problems.

I had better luck with the second layer, and then pieced together the top layer.

I covered the whole cake with the whipped cream I had reserved. Who would know that this cake was anything but perfect anyway?

Time to make the chocolate curls! I bought some nice dark chocolate bars to shave. At 72% cacao, organic and fairly traded to boot, they seemed perfect! Indeed after sampling, the chocolate was quite delicious and rich. I warmed the chocolate up about 5 seconds in the microwave which made the curling easier.

Unfortunately the bar came divided into squares, which fell apart while I was shaving it with a vegetable peeler!

Nevertheless, I persisted in shaving a bowlful of curls.

I sprinkled them all over the cake.

Next I piped the rosettes around the top of the cake. I’m not too good with spatial relationships, so had to move the rosettes over a few times to fit 12 of them in.

Can you say pretty please with a drunken cherry on top?

I took all the broken pieces of chocolate and melted them together in the microwave, about 30 seconds, then spread it in the pan.

I used first a metal spatula, then a bench scraper to roll the chocolate into curls. It worked a bit better when I spread it on the back of a baking pan, in terms of getting the best angle.

A lot of the cakes I looked at online had large chocolate curls in the middle. Of course since my cake had a hole in the middle, I had to be content with putting the curls in the hole!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is c36d62fc-de21-4591-9d5e-001818e3a180.jpeg

Ta-da! the cake was done! And I had chocolate all over my hands and even my face!

Time for my friend to blow out his candles

Here’s how it looked after we had our slices.

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes

These light and tasty pancakes are gluten free and flour free. I added a touch of ground coriander and nutmeg to emphasize the blueberry flavor. When blueberries are out of season this works with defrosted frozen blueberries. Just don’t use the blueberry juice that comes with the defrosting. You can add a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to the juice and microwave it for a minute to make your own blueberry syrup. The “flour” is actually made from rolled oats whirled in a blender. I adapted this recipe from a Weight Watchers recipe, so it’s pretty low in calories/ points, and would be lower if I hadn’t added the pecans in. But I couldn’t resist them, and the husband insisted on them, so there!

Serves 3 (about 9 medium pancakes)

Ingredients

1/2 cup low fat milk

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 cup oatmeal

2 1/2 tsp coconut sugar (can sub brown sugar)

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/8 tsp (a few shakes) ground nutmeg

1/2 cup almond milk (can sub low fat milk)

1 egg, separated

1 tsp butter, melted (can sub oil)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup fresh blueberries, halved

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Directions

Stir apple cider in milk and set aside to curdle.

Add dry ingredients to blender and run on high for a couple of minutes until oatmeal resembles coarse flour.

Separate the egg. Whisk the yolk into the almond milk along with melted butter and vanilla.

Stir in 1/3 of the dry ingredients into egg mixture, then 1/3 of the soured milk. Repeat two more times. Fold in the halved blueberries and pecan pieces.

Mixture will be watery. That’s ok, because it needs to rest for 5 minutes so the oatmeal can absorb the liquids.

Whip the egg whites until stiff, then fold them into the thickened batter.

Pour on a medium hot griddle or skillet with minimal butter. Flip as soon as bubbles form. They are so good that I don’t need syrup or butter.

Egg Foo Young

This is a easy way to add vegetables to your diet. It is flexible in that you can add whatever veggies are hanging in your fridge that you feel are appropriate. Mainly you need green onions (scallions) and bean sprouts. I added a couple slices of smoked turkey for extra flavor and protein, but you can add other meat or substitute tofu if you prefer. I used 1 teaspoon of oil, but if you like you can add a bit more.

Ingredients: Serves 2

Canola oil nonstick spray

1 tsp canola oil or vegetable oil

3 scallions

1 large or 2 medium stalks celery

1 peeled carrot

3 cups bean sprouts

Other vegetables you have on hand, including

1/4 cup red bell pepper

3 medium mushrooms

4 stalks asparagus tips

1/2 cup snap peas

1/3 cup frozen peas

1 cup fresh spinach

2 slices of smoked turkey or meat of your choice, if desired

6 large eggs

1 TB soy sauce, more to taste

Directions

Slice vegetables thinly, starting with scallions, carrot and celery. Set the green tops of the scallions aside. Heat a large nonstick skillet or wok and spray with Canola oil nonstick spray. Add 1 tsp canola or vegetable oil. Sauté the hard vegetables.

Thinly slice the red pepper, asparagus, snap peas and mushrooms, and add them to the sauté.

When vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, add desired meat, spinach and frozen peas, then add bean sprouts and stir until they soften.

Beat the eggs in a bowl with 1 Tb soy sauce and pour evenly over the vegetables.

As eggs cook, gently lift them over at the edges of the pan so that they cook evenly. Once they are cooked to your liking, plate and garnish with chopped scallion greens.

Roasted Cauliflower with Green Tahini Sauce

I like how this recipe uses the entire cauliflower, including stems and leaves. Inspired by Ottolenghi’s recipe in his cookbook “Simple”, I tweaked it to suit my time limit, by roasting the cauliflower in pieces instead of whole. I cut down on the fat by using olive oil spray instead of oil and butter. I added nutritional yeast to round out the flavor. I roasted a small potato I had hanging around the fridge, then cut it up and scattered it around the roasted cauliflower. It was a very satisfying vegetarian/ vegan meal.

Ingredients:

I large head of cauliflower

Olive oil spray

one or two small potatoes

1/4 cup tahini

1/2 bunch parsley with stems

1 small garlic clove

1 tsp Kosher salt

3 Tb lemon juice from a small lemon

1/3 cup water

2 Tb nutritional yeast

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375′

Fill a pot with enough salted boiling water that you can fit your cauliflower in without overflowing.

Place cauliflower head-down into the water and bring to a second boil. Let cook for 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove it to a plate and let it cool for about 5 minutes. It should easily be cut into pieces using a pair of kitchen shears or a knife. Use the entire cauliflower, including the stem and leaves.

Spray a roasting pan with olive oil spray. Place cauliflower pieces in pan and spray with more olive oil spray on both sides.

Pierce a small potato or two and place on the oven rack.

Roast for 45 minutes.

While the cauliflower is roasting, make the tahini sauce:

Combine the tahini, garlic, parsley and yeast in a food processor. Run for about a minute, scrape bowl and run again. Pour in water, lemon juice and salt and run the processor until it is smooth.

When cauliflower is nice and golden brown, remove from the oven and pull out the potato(es). Slice the potato(es) and scatter on the cauliflower. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and serve.

Chicken Fried Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower rice aka riced cauliflower is all the rage now, so in my bid to be trendy I created this recipe. It’s not quite rice, but it’s a decent substitute for those of us watching our carbs and waistlines. I used canola oil nonstick spray to fry the ingredients on a nonstick pan, and it worked surprisingly well.

The vegetables are flexible. I used what I had on hand in the fridge.

Ingredients (serves 3)

1 small head or 1/2 large head cauliflower

1 large carrot

Canola oil cooking spray

1 large egg

3 celery stalks

1 small onion

1 large wedge of cabbage

4 scallions

1/2 breast of roast chicken

1 Tb soy sauce to taste

Directions:

Cut a raw cauliflower into pieces small enough to feed into a food processor. I used the stems as well as the florets. Use the grater tool and you will have riced cauliflower. You could grate large chunks of the cauliflower by hand if you don’t have a food processor. Place the riced cauliflower between some paper towels to dry.

Peel and grate the carrot and set aside.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. Heat a large non-stick frying pan and spray it with canola oil spray. Fry the egg on one side and flip it to fry on the other side. Transfer to a cutting board and roll it up, cut it lengthwise, then into strips crosswise. Set aside.

Spray the pan again. Chop onion and celery and fry until onion softens and begins to brown. Add the cauliflower rice. Thinly slice the cabbage and stir it in. Chop the white parts of the scallions and stir them in. Add the grated carrots. Let the vegetables cook until they are soft and browned.

Chop the chicken and add it to the pan. Stir until chicken is heated. Stir in the sliced eggs and soy sauce. Chop the green parts of the scallions to garnish each serving.

Whole Berry Cranberry-Orange Sauce with minimal sugar

This cranberry sauce tastes just barely sweet with orange and a hint of ginger. It is as low in sugar as I could make it, sweetened with only 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/4 cup apricot jam (made with sugar), reduced apple juice and fresh orange.

This yields 1 cup sauce, since I used only half the 12 oz. bag of cranberries, which is enough for a small Thanksgiving party. Double the recipe if you have a larger party. You can make this several days ahead of the big feast. I made it on Tuesday.

Ingredients:

10 oz. bottle of apple juice (the little Martinelli bottle)

1 slice of fresh ginger, peeled

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (1/2 of a 12 oz. bag)

1 large naval orange

1/4 cup apricot jam made with sugar

1 Tb honey

Instructions:

Heat apple juice and ginger slice in a medium saucepan. Boil until it is reduced to 1/2 cup. Discard the ginger or put it in your tea for some nice ginger tea.

Pour out the cranberries into a colander and pick through them, discarding any that are getting old. Rinse and add to the reduced apple juice. Bring to a boil.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is add-quarter-cup-apricot-jam.jpg

Stir in 1/4 cup apricot jam and a tablespoon of honey. If you have other jams in the house, you can experiment with them.

Finely zest the orange on a plate, then add to the sauce.

Cut all the white bitter pith from the orange and cut up the orange into small pieces working around the core. Set the orange skins and core aside. Add the orange pieces and juice from cutting to the sauce.

Squeeze the juice from the peels and core into the sauce.

Cook a total of 20 minutes over medium heat, until the texture is thick as jam and about half of the cranberries have burst.

Store in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving.

Sesame Seed Baked Salmon Fillet

This salmon is moist and buttery with the delicious crunch of sesame seeds.

Ingredients: serves 2

3/4 pound salmon filet. I prefer wild Coho or Sockeye. Center cut is the most moist and tender.

Nonstick spray

Juice of 1/2 medium lemon

A few shakes salt

1 tsp melted butter

1 Tb sesame seeds, I like a mixture of black and white seeds

Directions:

Take salmon out of refrigerator and preheat the oven to 425′ Gather your ingredients and melt the butter. Spray a baking pan with nonstick spray or place foil over pan.

Squeeze lemon over salmon, then sprinkle with salt.

Sprinkle sesame seeds evenly over salmon until it is covered. Sprinkle butter over sesame seeds.

Bake for 5 minutes at 425′ Turn oven to broil and bake for 2-3 more minutes. Cut in half lengthwise to serve.

Getting Carried Away Making Rye Bread

“I had to make some kind of pun!” she said wryly.

Caraway rye bread, also known as Jewish rye, was something I grew up on, and I just make my first loaf. It has a nice crunchy crust and soft interior studded with flavorful caraway seeds. It’s delicious hot out of the oven or toasted buttered.

It’s delightful toasted and topped with avocado, cucumbers, tomato, red bell pepper, and lox.

I used the Joy of Cooking recipe as a guide, then added my own touches.

Ingredients:

1 cup warm water

1 Tb sugar

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)

2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb caraway seeds

2 cups unbleached white flour or bread flour, divided 1 1/2 and 1/2 cup

3/4 cup rye flour divided 1/2 and 1/4 cup

1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 – 2 Tb dry polenta or cornmeal

Instructions:

In a large bowl, add sugar to warm water and stir until dissolved. Sprinkle yeast on top of the water and place in a warm place with a dishtowel on top for 15 minutes until the yeast is foamy.

Add olive oil, caraway seeds, 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1/2 cup rye flour, and stir well for one minute. Gradually add 1/4 cup rye flour and 1/2 cup white flour, stirring until dough is moist but not sticky.

Sprinkle a pastry board with half white flour and half rye flour. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed to the pastry board. Roll dough into a large ball.

Oil a large bowl and roll the dough around the bowl so that it is covered with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for 30 to 45 minutes, until doubled in volume.

Transfer the dough to the pastry board and knead it until smooth and elastic again. Oil a 6 cup (8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch) loaf pan and form the dough into a loaf shape. Sprinkle some polenta (or cornmeal if that’s all you have) on the pastry board and roll the dough over it so it’s covered with polenta. Place the dough in the loaf pan and loosely cover it with plastic wrap in a warm place. Let it rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450′ and place dough in when it has doubled in volume. Set the timer for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350′. Bake for 30 minutes more. Place pan on a rack and run a butter knife around the sides of the pan to release the loaf, then turn it upside down to cool.

Cold Soba Salad

Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles that are delicious in a sauce made with Japanese condiments. I mix in a variety of salad veggies, and sprinkle with peanuts for a balanced vegan meal. I didn’t have any edamame on hand for the pictures, but they would make an excellent protein addition.

Soba noodles can be either made completely of buckwheat (therefore gluten free) or a combination of wheat, buckwheat and yam powder, like the package here. The vermicelli noodles are bound in mini packets by paper strips, making them easy to measure for a meal.

Ingredients: Serves 3 as a main meal

2 mini packets soba noodles

Vegetables: I used a rainbow of veggies that I had in my fridge, so feel free to improvise.

2 stalks broccoli

2 large radishes

1 persian cucumber

1 large carrot

1/2 red bell pepper

4 scallions, green parts only

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 cup frozen shelled edamame

Sauce:

1 tsp mirin

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 Tb soy sauce

1 Tb sesame oil

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp Sriracha (add more if you like more heat)

1/2 tsp finely grated ginger

1 tsp miso

1 Tb sesame seeds

salt to taste

Garnish:

2 Tb Nori Kome Furakaki

1 cup roasted salted peanuts

Directions:

Bring 3 quarts of water to boil, then add soba noodles. Lower heat to medium and cook according to package directions. My package only had directions in Japanese, which unfortunately I don’t read, so I found out 7 minutes made a noodle that was 2 minutes soft this side of al dente. Drain the noodles in the salad spinner basket and run for a minute under cold water. Fill the bowl of a salad spinner with ice water, then dunk the basket in the ice water and move the noodles around with your hands to eliminate the excess starch. Let them sit until they are cool, then remove the basket from the ice water and let it drain.

While water is heating and noodles are cooking, separate broccoli tops into tiny florets. Bring 2 cups of water in medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add shelled edamame and bring back to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Place broccoli florets in a steamer basket above the boiling water. Cover and cook for 2 minutes and broccoli is bright green.

While it is cooking, fill a large bowl with an ice bath. Remove the steamer basket full of florets basket and empty into the ice bath. Drain the edamame and put in the ice bath along with the florets. Leave them there while you prepare the other ingredients.

Peel the carrots and cut off the ends. Use a knife to peel the tough skin from the broccoli stalks. I used a box grater to grate them and the radishes.

Finely chop the green parts of the scallions, julienne the red pepper and cucumber, and separate the cilantro leaves. Thinly slice the cabbage with a large knife or mandoline.

Combine sauce liquids, ginger, miso, and sesame seeds, then mix the noodles until they are well coated. Add the Furakaki and prepared vegetables, tossing well. Add salt to taste

Just before serving, mix in the peanuts.

Shrimp Tacos – Tacos de Camarón

I marinated the shrimp in garlic for a couple of hours before cooking. I then pan fried them with the marinade, adding lime juice, salt and salsa at the end.

Ingredients: Makes 9 tacos for 3 hungry people

36 shrimp, size 41/50 (about 3/4 pound)

1 Tb EVOO olive oil

12 cloves garlic, finely chopped

A few shakes red pepper flakes

Several grinds black pepper

1/4 oregano

juice of 1 lime

pinch of Kosher salt

Salsa to taste

Directions:

If shrimp are frozen, defrost in refrigerator the night before, or place in a colander and run cold water over it for 7 minutes, shaking the colander every few minutes so they defrost evenly.

Peel the shrimp. I save the shrimp shells in the freezer to make shrimp broth in the future.

Mix the marinade ingredients in a plastic or glass container and add the peeled shrimp. Let the shrimp marinade for a couple of hours in the fridge.

Heat a heavy skillet until hot, then pour in the shrimp with the marinade. Cook over medium- high heat until shrimp are no longer translucent. Turn off the heat, then squeeze the juice of one lime over the shrimp. Add a couple of tablespoons of salsa and a pinch of Kosher salt. Stir well.

Divide shrimp (4 each) into fresh warm corn tortillas. For a sumptuous meal, make your own corn tortillas. Add avocado chunks, cilantro, torn lettuce, sliced tomatoes and radishes. Top with the salsa of your choice.