It’s that time of year again. Each year, in honour of his birthday The Hungry One comes with a simple request.

‘Black Forest please’.

It’s a simple devotion to a flavour profile that most people who know him, know about.  Black Forest is a taste (and a place) that’s close to his heart.

It was just a few months ago now in Baden Baden, Germany that he embarked on a semi insane quest to find the best at the source. It  took him through nine slices of torte in two and a half days.  He reasoned that someone had to dig out where to find the best Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in the black forest. And it might as well be him.

In the end the pinnacle was found at a small guest house, on the Schwarzwaldhoffstrasse. It’s a curving high road, straight out of a Grimm fairy tale, gently curving and lined with tall pines.

Bischenberg Gausthaus’ rendition was a layered affair that starts with chocolate sponge, then cherry cream, chocolate cake, vanilla cake, cream, chocolate cake, then a restrained gloss of cream. You could taste the kirsch. The cherries had a zippy acidity that pushes through the dairy. It was as comforting as a lap rug and a cup of tea on a cold afternoon.

In the past few years there have been other attempts to create the perfect combination of cherries, cream and chocolate at home.

There’s been a more textured layered affair– with a dense brownie base, cherry mousse, kirsch soaked dried cherries, praline cream and fresh cherries. The next year the flavours came out to play in a dark chocolate and cherry tart, with an ice cream rumpled with brownies, cherries and nuts.

And in the book I combined two of his great loves; strudel and this Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte in a sour cherry and dark chocolate, Black Forest Cheese Strudel.

But this year, when he took a bite of his birthday cake and closed his eyes- despite being surrounded by a raucous crowd of ten at a table, I knew I had locked onto something special.

A warning; this is not a subtle dessert. It’s a pudding that demands you pull on your running shoes the next morning. But what it manages to offer is everything that a hungry man on his birthday would want. There’s variety in texture, in the crisp biscuit base and gentle pops of toasted nuts and soft cherries in the filling. There’s vanilla cream, made dense and yielding through cheesecake, which with the sneaky addition of a little gelatine can still be trusted to hold itself in place when  sliced. There’s chocolate- at the bottom, in the middle and on the top. And there’s a booze-stained slick of cherry jelly for a crown.

His summation of the experience was this; ‘Black forest cake is always better the day after it’s made, so the flavours develop and the textures soften a little. A cheesecake just skips it to where it should always be’.

I knew when I married him that the Black Forest Birthday Challenge is one that will continue for many, many years to come. This quest for the best probably won’t ever end. But for now- I’m happy to call this one as a winner.

Happy birthday darling. xxx

(Nb,despite his proven ability to devour a whole cheesecake on his own, in this instance he did share his cake nicely with his friends. We scoffed the pudding after an Argentinian steak house inspired feast; there was molten provolone with fresh oregano, beef sirloin with an orange spiked chimichurri, sweet potato fries, an heirloom tomato salad- and just because we both like it – a groaning portion of truffled cauliflower mac and cheese). Though I did sneakily leave one small slice left over from the party so he could have some for breakfast the next morning. If you can’t eat cake for breakfast for your birthday, then really, what’s so good about turning one year older? And while the cheesecake doesn’t need a day to mature, he’s happy to report that the flavours certainly didn’t suffer from spending a little extra time getting to know one another).

 

Black Forest Cheesecake

Serves 8-10

 Shopping/foraging

Biscuit base

250 grams chocolate cookies, blitzed in a food processor, or crushed in a bag with a rolling pin until they are rubble
125 grams butter, melted
20 grams of  dark chocolate, grated

 Cheesecake

250 ml thickened cream, whipped
500 grams full fat cream cheese, at room temperature (this will make it easier to whip and help prevent lumps)
3/4 cup of caster sugar
1 tbsp gelatine, dissolved in 1/2 cup of boiling water, then cooled to room temperature
425 gram jar or tin of morello cherries, 1/2 of the liquid reserved
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp cherry brandy
75 grams of chocolate covered hazelnuts, or chocolate covered almonds, roughly chopped
30 grams of dark chocolate, grated
15-20  fresh cherries

Here’s how we roll

1) Take a 23 cm springform cake tin. Flip the base and put it in upside down to normal to ensure there is a flush angle between the bottom and the sides, rather than a ridge (this will make it easier to get the cake out). Grease the base and sides.

2) Mix together the chocolate biscuit rubble and the melted butter.

3) Press the butter/chocolate mix evenly into the bottom of the cake tin and all the way up the sides.

4) Place in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. Once it is firm grate chocolate over the bottom of the base and return to the fridge while you make the filling.

5) Whip the cream until soft peaks form.

6) In another bowl whip the room temperature cream cheese together with the sugar until well combined.

7) Fold together the cream cheese and the cream. Then fold in the the room temperature gelatine/water mix (don’t place that in the fridge- it will begin to set into jelly)

8) Lay half of the drained cherries over the bottom of the chocolate dusted biscuit base.

9) Add half of the cheesecake filling. Sprinkle with the roughly chopped chocolate coated nuts.

10)Pour in the remaining cheesecake filling and stud the top with the remaining cherries .

11) To make the glaze combine the cherry juice in a saucepan with the cherry brandy/kirsch and bring to a simmer. Sift in the cornflour and stir over a medium heat, stirring well until it has thickened into a jam-like slurry. Leave to cool to room temperature.

12) Pour the cherry topping over the top of the cheesecake and place in the fridge to set for at least three hours- up to a day.

13) To extract from the tin loosen the edges of the springform and run a butter knife around the edge to gently separate the biscuit crust from the tin. Just before serving top with fresh cherries and grated dark chocolate.