This cake has been on my want to do list for at least 10 years and for some reason I just never get around to doing it. As luck would have it, while I was back east visiting my friend Jill we happened to watch Young Frankenstein and they have a scene where they are eating it and talking about it. Well, that set my mind in motion. Also while I was visiting Jill, we were rummaging through a few used bookstores in search of cookbooks and I found the Cooking of Germany volume from the Time-Life series Foods of the World. I remember my aunt had this series and whenever we would visit her I would sit for hours reading it. I had almost forgotten about it when about a year ago, I started noticing volumes of it showing up in the used book stores around town. I have been lucky enough to find about 8 volumes so far. On this trip I found two. This recipe is from that series.
Over the years whenever I read or talk about this cake, the first thing I always hear is that it is “so hard” or “so much work”. Well, I am here to tell you that that is simply not true. It is a very simple chocolate cake, made with cocoa, filled with sweetened and flavored whipped cream and cherries and frosted with flavored whipped cream. The only difficult part about the entire cake is the chocolate curls and to my mind those are more time consuming and tedious than difficult. To be honest, by the time you press the curls into the cake they end up being chocolate shavings so you don’t even have to be that precise making the curls. Just make sure your chocolate is at room temperature and your vegetable peeler is sharp and it goes very smoothly.
To make the cake, clarify butter and set it aside.
Combine flour and unsweetened cocoa and set aside. Whip whole eggs, vanilla and sugar until tripped in volume. In several additions, sift the cocoa mixture over the egg foam and fold in gently. Once all the mixture is incorporated, add the clarified butter a few tablespoons at a time and fold in gently being careful not to overmix. Divide the batter evenly into prepared pans and bake until done, about 15 minutes. This recipe calls for three 7 inch pans which I don’t have so I baked it in two 8 inch pans and torted it.
The drenching syrup is a standard sugar and water syrup to which is added 1/3 cup kirsch. Since the cakes are so delicate I chilled mine for about 15 minutes after each addition of syrup just to let the cakes firm up a bit. Probably not necessary but since you handle the cake so much during assembly I didn’t want to take any chances.
For the cherries, if you are using fresh cherries, stem and pit them and then poach them just until they are tender and then pat them dry with paper towels. I poached mine in water with a little kirsch. If you use canned cherries then just drain and rinse them and pat them dry.
A word of caution here. These cakes are very delicate so make sure to spray your racks with non-stick spray and once you unmold the cakes, reinvert them so the tops are up. You may also want to transfer the cakes to cardboard rounds once they are cool to facilitate handling during assembly.
To assemble the cake, whip about 3 cups of heavy cream and flavor it with confections sugar and about 1/4 cup kirsch. Place the bottom layer on a serving plate and brush it with the syrup. Spread about a 1/2 inch layer of cream on top, then add the cherries. Place the next cake layer on top, brush with syrup and then more whipped cream and cherries. Continue with the final layer. Frost the entire cake with the remaining whipped cream. Press the chocolate curls all around the sides of the cake. Decorate the top with any decorative border and add more chocolate curls and cherries.
The cake has a very tender and moist crumb but delivers full chocolate flavor without being overpowering. The star of the show here is the cherries and they do deliver maximum cherry flavor with the hit of kirsch. All in all a wonderful cake which I won’t wait so long before I make it again.