The Best Black Forest Cake in Baden Baden

Those people who love black forest cake, really love it. I know this, because I’m married to one. It’s something about the twinkle of booze against bitter chocolate, the light acidity of sour cherries and the sweetness of fluffy cream. It’s cake that has both give and chew. It’s a neat play on textures. And it’s very difficult to just eat one slice.

Each year for the past three for his birthday I’ve embarked on an experimental quest to recreate a version at home. There’s been a more classic 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.

And now we’ve come to the region itself- to Baden Baden, to look for the best.  In order to get the nod as an official example of the torte, these days a slice of cake must be created in the area and contain a good sousing of the local cherry stone-flavoured spirit- Kirschwasser.

In this southern German spa town, with its therapeutic waters, expensive shops, casino and quaint paved streets you’ll find both good examples and bad. I’m happy to report that we did the heavy lifting of tasting as many as possible, so you don’t have to.

Here it is; the search for the best black forest cake in Baden Baden.

Lowenbrau Keller

It’s best to start at the bottom. This is not a cake you need in your life. There’s a congealed edge to the fat skin of cream on the top- like bath foam that’s been left to dry overnight on the lip of a sink. The two layers of cake are dark and dry. The cherry studded chocolate mousse in the second bottom layer adds a certain textural novelty and softness, but even it can’t rescue the rest. This is a sad cake for desperate times. It’s  the sort of slice you’d expect to find at a authobahn buffet restaurant at 6 am on a Thursday, or be tempted to eat late at night when deeply intoxicated- before waking at the table with crumbs on your cheek and a stomach filled with regret.

Lowenbrau Keller
Gernsbacher Straße 9  76530 Baden-Baden, Germany

Cafe Hoffmann

This cafe, on the main shopping street of Baden Baden has a frumpy, twilight years sort of charm. It reminds me of the ‘cafe’ that was installed on the ground level of the nursing home in which one of my grandmothers spent her last years- it was just exotic enough to make the dementia patients feel like they were going out for an excursion, when really they hadn’t left the front door. It’s salmon pink and avocado hued, with portrait style chairs and a glass case of cakes and biscuits at the entrance.

There are small alcoves sheltering plastic potted plants and tinkling electric powered water features. But the cakes they serve are sound. The torte in question is a seven layer affair . The bottom strata is blonde biscuit, which adds a certain novelty of crunch. From there we progress upwards: dark chocolate, chocolate sponge, whipped cream studded with cherries, chocolate sponge, cream, sponge and a cap of cream, flecked with grated dark chocolate. The sponge is pleasantly sodden with liqueur and there’s a nice pop that comes from the cherries- though the quantity cream feels a little like overkill. Lucky for everyone’s arteries, here it’s served in a relatively slim slice.

Cafe Hoffmann
Lange Straße 39  76530 Baden-Baden, Germany

Kafe Konig

This gilded cafe is as much a part of the fabric of this town as licensed gambling. They both arrived in Baden Baden around 250 years ago.  Tortes and tea are available both on white wrought iron furniture in the shaded courtyard and inside in the twee, mirrored parlour. By 12 .15 pm on a Saturday it’s possible to snaffle a table for two for a light lunch and piece of cake.

By 1.30 pm, the inside is heaving. This place is popular for a reason. The torte is a stellar example. Like Cafe Hoffman it begins with a crisp biscuit base, this time dressed with cherry puree. Above that is chocolate sponge, studded with cherries, chocolate mousse, vanilla sponge, cream, chocolate sponge and then a cloud of sweet whipped cream, prettied up by waftings of dark chocolate. The winning aspects here are the inclusion of mousse and vanilla sponge. It’s a multitude of textures and tastes, though once again, it’s the excesses of cream which muffles the intensity of the chocolate and the kirsch.

Kafe Konig
Lichtentaler Straße 12  76530 Baden-Baden, Germany

Bischenberg Gausthaus

Sometimes to find the best, you need to go further afield. There are many reasons to embark on the drive along the Schwarzwaldhoffstrasse- the Black Forest high road. It’s a route straight from a Grimm fairy tale, gently curving and lined with tall pines. And it will also allow you to drive through Bischenberg.

Next to a paddock dotted with deer is a modest alpine style hotel. Out the front is a sign inviting you in for ‘kaffee und kuchen’. Follow your instincts. Pull over the car. Park. And get yourself a cup of coffee and piece of cake. The tortes here are home made, most days. Without getting too soppy about it, you can taste the affection in each layer. This may just be the pinnacle. The focus here is not on bells, whistles or adornments- it’s about chocolate cake and cherries. It starts with chocolate cake, then cherry cream, chocolate cake, vanilla cake, cream, chocolate cake, then a restrained gloss of cream. You can taste the kirsch. The cherries have a zippy acidity that pushes through the dairy. It’s as comforting as a lap rug and a cup of tea on a cold afternoon. It might be that up here the air is stridently clear, with just a faint whisper of smoke from the hotel’s fireplace. It might be the view over the valley, or the calming presence of the does frolicking outside the window.

But if you came to this part of Germany in search of the ultimate black forest cake experience- I hazard to say, I think this is it.

Bischenberg Gasthaus
Bergstraße 23  77887 Sasbachwalden, Germany

Baden Baden hints and tips

The actual town centre of Baden Baden is very compact, leaving little need for a car once you’re there- though if you wish to explore the area further one will be invaluable.

We stayed at the Aqua Auerelia Suites– a modern, clean hotel just opposite the therapeutic baths. It had large beds, free wifi and parking was available (at an extra cost of around 20 euro for the night).

The Caracalla therapeutic baths are a lovely way to pass a few hours- particularly in the evening, when they’re much quieter (they are open until 10 pm). Beyond the jacuzzis and warm mineral boosted waters,  up on the adjacent hillside there are also a range of sauna huts and external Jacuzzis. While you can rent towels and buy swimwear downstairs, you’re better off taking your own.

On a Saturday near the old Pumphouse you’ll find a lovely antiques market.

For rustic, traditional food Laterne is a solid bet. There’s a wide variety of pork-based dishes, as well as a rib sticking mass of spaetzle- cheese laden noodles, served with crispy onions and a side serving of salad.

To get to Baden Baden either fly into Baden Airport (the town is about a 20 minute bus ride away) or fly into Strasbourg (about 1 hr 20 minutes on the train).

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