Black Forest Cake: Never, ever lie about cake.


This fall, my family and I had the good fortune to host a student from France for several days. It was a last-minute decision, and one of the best things we’ve ever done. Let me tell you a little bit about the experience – and YES, it involves CAKE!

Long story short, my Spanish-speaking daughter said that the French class was low on hosts, and could we volunteer to help them out for 10 days. After some quick rearranging of furniture, work schedules and such, Jean-Loup arrived with bag in hand, and the adventure began.

Luckily his English was much better than our French, and we quickly realized that he and Shannon were the equivalent of long-lost twins separated at birth. They read the same books, watch the same movies, eat the same foods. In the course of 10 days, there were only two things we discovered they didn’t agree on. Shannon likes dark chocolate, Jean-Loup prefers milk chocolate; and Jean-Loup doesn’t color his hair purple.

( I know, I know, I’m getting to the cake part!)

One of the things they immediately bonded over was a puzzle-based video game called Portal. The catch phrase for the game? “The cake is a lie.”

Basically, you perform dangerous tasks for an evil artificial entity who keeps promising you cake. Will you succeed? Will she really give you cake? Is the cake a lie? And most of all, what kind of cake?

Lo and behold, after long hours bonding, they found cake. Tall, chocolate, and cherry goodness, the bakery case bombshell, Black Forest Cake.

The Portal cake phenomenon has been going strong for 4 years now, spawning T-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumper stickers. “The cake is a lie” is part of the urban lexicon, and has come to indicate that your promised reward for hard work isn’t going to pay out after all.

Of course, we are bakers here and would never, ever lie about cake. EVER. It’s just wrong. I promised you cake, and cake you shall have. Onward, to Black Forest Cake!

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together:


*Or replace the buttermilk powder and water with 2 cups liquid buttermilk.

Using your paddle attachment, beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. The batter will be thin but not watery.

Divide equally between two 9″ round cake pans, greased and lined with parchment paper. Bake the cakes until a tester comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.

While the cakes are cooling, drain a jar of sour cherry pie filling, reserving both the syrup and the cherries. You can use canned pie filling, too, without the draining step; but we just really love the quality and great taste of this jarred filling.

Could you use frozen cherries? Sure, but you’ll need some type of syrup to soak the cakes, such as classic simple syrup.

To layer the cakes, use a sharp serrated knife that is longer than your cake.  Instead of slicing through the cake one side to the other, you’ll actually be slicing the cake, then turning, going a little deeper into the cake with each time around.

Think of it like slicing through a record on a record player, inch by inch as it goes around. This is easily done on a revolving cake stand or lazy susan, if you have one.

See how the longer knife helps you know where you’re cutting? Keeping the blade level will keep your layers level.

Once the cakes are sliced, whip together:

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons whipped cream stabilizer, optional* (if you skip the stabilizer, be sure to whip the cream to stiff peaks)
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Now we’re ready to begin layering. There is no pretty (read “non-messy”) way to do this, so have a nice wet towel handy and be prepared to go with the flow.

Place the bottom layer of cake on your serving platter and spread about 2 tablespoons of the syrup over the layer, spreading right to the edges.

Top with a layer of cream about 1/2″ thick; and about 1/3 of the reserved cherries. Repeat twice more, then top with the last layer of cake.

You can completely cover the cake with whipped cream, or you can leave the layers open sided. I rather like the look of seeing all the layers. If it looks a bit messy, take a little time to fill in some of the gaps with whipped cream, smoothing it out for a neater look.

I had some syrup left over, so I poured it into a disposable pastry bag and snipped off the end. A few squeezes and drizzles later and the cake looks fantastic!

*At this point Frank, our resident pastry chef, assures me you’ll all be clamoring for my beheading, as I didn’t use shaved chocolate on my cake. Well, I’ve always been the black sheep, so I beg you to love me for my flaws. :)

Chill the cake for at least a couple of hours, or overnight to allow the flavors to marry and blend.

My oh my, what more could you ask for? Tender cake, moist with cherry flavor, cool cream to cut the richness, and bursts of cherry in each bite.

As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this cake is very rich; and a small slice will go a long way. Le gâteau n’est pas un mensonge! (The cake is not a lie!).

With a very tall cake like this, I like to cut slices rather than wedges. There are tons of different cake-cutting charts online, but I just cut the cake in half (two half moons); then cut each half moon in half, and then cut slices. Awkward to describe, but try drawing it out on paper first and it will make more sense.

I’m sure one or more of the game-loving teenagers I know could use symbols and emoticons to “write” it out for us but *sigh* I’m still aflounder.

If you figure it out, let me know in the comments below!

Please bake, rate, and review our recipe for Black Forest Cake.

Print just the recipe.

MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team ...


  1. KAF_MaryJane

    Whoops, I realized I forgot to say that the kids didn’t just bond over video games. They went to museums, dances, a Halloween party, a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and so much more. They are hoping to visit in France over the summer too.

    This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship for all of us.

    ~ MaryJane

    1. Sabine Kurtz

      Hi MaryJane,
      Thanks for your nice description of your international experiences…very funny! Our eldest son who was sent to Arkansas for an exchange year with 15 never came back. He lives in the States for 16 years now. Meanwhile he has his little family and is very happy. So, if somebody likes to get rid of it´s children – send them abroad :-))
      Anyway, 2 little notes about Black Forest Cake which is orginal from my husbands area… The most important ingredience is `Kirschwasser´ (Cherry brandy) which makes the cake to what it has to be. In a good `Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte´ you have to realize this bit of alkohol!
      I know, if there are children…but the `Kirschwasser´ is a MUST for the adult version. And at last you´ll need dark (!) cherries because of their rich taste and soft consistence.
      If you ever stay in Germany – try it. Happy baking and greetings from Germany, Sabine

    2. MaryJane Robbins , post author

      Hi Sabine,
      Would you believe my French “son” has a mom named Sabine as well?! We still keep in touch via Facebook and I do hope to get to see him again someday in person. ~ MJ

  2. Aaron Frank

    What a great story! And a great cake. Could I make these as mini-cakes? That would go over better at our house right now.

    Does Jean-Loup realize that in France it is chocolate is legally defined as not having dairy? And that France and the UK almost went to war over this during the formation of the European Union?

    These would certainly work as mini cakes! ~Amy

  3. biobaker

    MaryJane, I just wanted to let you know that I love reading your BBB (Baking Banter Blog) even when I’m certain that I won’t make the recipe. I don’t like Black Forest cake (not a big fan of chocolate layer cakes in general and especially not syrup-soaked ones; yes, I know I’m weird) but reading the introduction and the recipe was great fun. Honestly, this is why I’ve stopped reading most cooking magazines (the ones that used to be stories and are now just “quick to make” or “best” recipes) and why I keep reading this and the Baking Sheet. So, at least on my account, please don’t feel as though you need to apologize for going “off topic!”

  4. DWgirl

    I love not only doctor who, but I also love Portal and Portal 2! Here is a paradox, the cake is a lie so have some pie the pie is fake so have some cake!

  5. thewheelman84

    The cake is no longer a lie!
    I knew I loved you guys. Great story and probably one of the most unlikely places to find a Portal reference.

    I haven’t done any cakes from scratch but maybe i’ll try this one.

  6. sandra Alicante

    I am fast building a long bookmark list of recipes to try out. Trouble is I love baking but not an expanding waist line (mine or hubby’s!)
    I am fortunate to have been to the home of BBG, the Black Forest itself in Bavaria. Beautiful place, so this brings back memories. Did I eat it there? No, too expensive but I do remember it being on the menu!

  7. April was in CT now CA

    I’m married to an adult video game playing child so when I saw the reference to the Portal game for some reason I got excited (and I don’t even play it! haha). We often use that phrase around here and it’s just fun. Black Forest (not a lie) cake is one of my favorites so can’t wait to make this!

  8. kitlaura

    Hi awesome bakers
    You guys are doing a great job, just looking at your pictures plus reading your recipe is enough to feast my appetite. Keep up your good work.
    Many thanks!

  9. kmbrlycoates

    Bwahahaha!!! My teenage son asked me 2 days ago for Black Forest Cake for his birthday because of Portal. I’ll be using this recipe, the timing is perfect! The cake is a lie:)

  10. lillabit2001

    What a fun story! It brings back memories of my sojourn to Germany to visit my AFS “sister” many years ago when I was in college. Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte (sorry I don’t know how to put in umlauts) was one of a number of yummy German specialties I tried while there (Sandra, the lovely Black Forest is in Baden-Wurttemberg, umlaut over the ‘u’, not Bavaria, which is also beautiful). If anyone wants to pop for a rather expensive bottle of Kirsch (or kirschwasser) they can use that instead of the cherry syrup. In Germany it isn’t Schwarzwaler Kirschtorte without Kirsch. But since Kirsch is not sweet, I think the cherry syrup sounds more to my taste! Thanks, MaryJane for the lovely recipe. It’s on my short list of goodies to try. I may have to create an occasion for serving it!

  11. "Paul from Ohio"

    A birthday will be celebrated here on Wednesday and that person loves Chocolate and Cherries and what a celebration surprise this will bring. Perfect timing – as so often happens with this blog. Thanks. If one has Cherries from a jar, I’m thinking they will “hold up” for more than a day or two, yes?
    Yes, the cherries should hold up fine. ~Amy

  12. danigirl

    I love Black Forest Cake and I will never forget as a young mother making it for our family and inviting another family over to share the evening. It was beautiful when I put the assembled cake in the refrigerator, but I must have been a little generous with the filling because when I went to serve it the very tall layer cake had several “slid layers”!
    We all had a great laugh over it. It was delicious, but I have since learned to put a bamboo skewer down the middle of the cake when it is chilling. When ready to serve pull out the skewer and “touch up” the hole.

  13. ebardes

    My story for the Black Forest cake goes back to a German exchange student that stayed with us many years ago. He wanted to make a birthday cake for me. The cake part went fine but when he got to whipping cream it was another story. He was not used to a stand mixer and was distracted. You know the results.

    His host sister had her temps and was learning to drive. He asked her to take him to the grocery for more heavy cream. He had kidded her so much as any brother would do to his sister about being a new driver, that she said “no way”. (she could not legally drive him anyhow). I ended up driving him. Now I don’t care for cherries but that cake became one of my favorites. When I make it today, I always think of him. The butter was pretty good also.

  14. epicharis

    Wow, what do I have to do to be hosted at a KAF baker’s house? I bet he’d never had anything in France that was half as good! (And like other commenters I never expected to hear a Portal reference here!)

    I quite like this version; the black forest cakes I’ve had always had the cherries at the bottom so when you scooped it up you already had a “sauce”, so to speak. Can’t wait to try it myself!

  15. fran16250

    Black forest cake is one of my favorite cakes, along with German Chocolate Cake. Unfortunately I am the only one in my house who will eat it. I do have a birthday coming in a few weeks so I maight just make it anyway. Its my birthday after all.
    Is there any substitute for whipped cream stabilizer? I have some egg white solids, could I use that?
    This looks like a great recipe, I WILL make it at some point or another. Thanks.
    Looks like you will have a lot of cake to eat!!! You could use some gelatin sheets or non-flavored gelatin powder instead. Or omit the stabilizer all together. Really fresh cream helps! Elisabeth

  16. daphnewoman

    I am so glad that you have Whip Cream stabilizer in the catalog. you had something similar a few years ago (maybe 8?) but discontinued it. I’m going to give this one a try!

  17. KitchenBitch

    I made this for the fireworks party at Gore MT NY (last night)..oh my it was a hit…we didnt even bring any left overs home..I did the recipe the way it was written..except I used fresh butter milk..also used the jar of cheeries(great in a cherrie cheese cake)..and sprung for the cherry flavoring…I used 4 pints of cream…oh yes be carefull using the whip cream stabilizer as not to whip it to much..I did chocolate curls for the finish…It was like eating a chocolate covered cherrie…shurly cant waite to do it again…



  19. "Mia H"

    Thanks, MaryJane! I’m so excited to try this! I’ve made many a so-so cake (and a decent number of cakes that were flat out bad). Your recipes are always so spot-on, so I’m optimistic that I can actually do this and have people enjoy it.

    And I LOVE the story. I even read it aloud to my mom (who laughed with me about the purple hair, probably remember the outlandish things I tried in my not-too-distant childhood). This is what blogs should be. Keep it up!
    I have every faith in you for a great cake Mia. If you have the enthusiasm for life that the purple haired are born with, you’ll be baking up a storm in no time. A big “Rock on!” to your mom too for letting you do it!
    ~ MaryJane

  20. Mateo179

    Question: Does this cake require eggs, or does it not?

    The blog doesn’t mention any eggs, but the recipe calls for four of them? Spouse can’t eat eggs, so I am always on the lookout for egg free recipes. I am not sure about this one though. Thanks!

    Great question! The eggs are needed for this recipe – the blog shows the chocolate batter after the 4 eggs have been mixed in. “Using your paddle attachment, beat in 4 eggs, one at a time. The batter will be thin but not watery.” We hope you find another egg-less cake to meet your needs. Irene @ KAF

  21. callorto3

    I love BFC but my son doesn’t care for fruits (or nuts) in baked goods. What a suprise when I was getting ready to make the traditional cheesecake he always wants for his birthday, and he saw a picture of BFC featured on the monthly KAF catalogues and asked me to make that for his birthday. The recipe was one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever tasted! It turned out beautifully. However, I don’t care for the taste of the whipped cream stabilizer so instead I use the recipe from The Cake Bible of 1 tsp cornstarch, 2 Tblsp powdered sugar with 1/4 cup heavy cream bring to boil, cool completed, add to 3/4 cup heavy cream whipped to soft peaks and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat to stiff peaks. The cream will stay fresh and delicious for days! Fran16250, this might be an alternate you could try. My son loved it and it’s now one of his new favorites! I haven’t tried it with the jarred cherries mentioned, so that will be what I use next.
    Isn’t it great when our kids surprise us like that? I’m so glad your son enjoyed the cake and thanks for sharing the whipped cream alternative. ~ MaryJane

  22. rice_chex

    Question about this recipe — I’m making the cake layers on Tuesday, to be frosted on Wednesday night. I won’t be serving the cake til Thursday evening. What’s the best way to store the cake layers in the meantime? In the fridge or at room temperature? Thanks!!
    I would keep the layers tightly wrapped at room temperature- refrigeration tends to dry cakes out quite a bit. ~Amy

  23. BakerB

    In the middle of making this and the cakes do not seem to be rising too high in the pan. I am using all fresh ingredients so not sure why. Even splurged and bought your cake enhancer! The batter was delicious! I hope they rise enough to make them worthwhile cutting in half!

    This type of cake tends not to rise a great deal as it is quite dense. How did the cake turn out once it finished baking?-Jon

  24. Linda

    I used to LOVE Black Forest Cake, before I found out that I have celiac disease. Is it possible to make this recipe gluten free?

  25. Priti

    Nice and healthy cake. If you are looking for an a eggless cake, choose Monginis cake shop. They provide fresh and quality cakes at affordable rates


Post a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *