The first recorded mention of black forest cake was found in a cooking text from the 1930s.
If your special occasions have been incomplete without black forest cake, you understand the allure of this soft, creamy and addictive dessert. Also known as black forest gateau, it is made up of layers of chocolate sponge cake with whipped cream slathered between them. The whipped cream is dotted with cherries, as is the top of the cake.
The first recorded mention of black forest cake was found in a cooking text from the 1930s and it became more popular after World War II. A couple of stories detail the origins of the dessert. It is believed that the cake can be traced back to the 1500s, back when Europe first saw chocolate being available. The story goes that it was created in Germany's Black Forest, a region known for its sour cherries and kirschwasser (a brandy made with cherries).
Another theory says that the cake is called ‘black forest’ not because it was created there, but because the cherries used in the cake look like the red pom-poms on traditional German Bollenhut hats. Others believe that the name ‘black forest’ is symbolic of the dark, shady forest. To add to the stories of the origin of the cake, a confectioner named Josef Keller claims to have invented it in 1915. Kellers claims were never verified, but it has been established that the version he was serving helped popularise the dessert.
Soon after, black forest cake made its way to Britain. However, at that time, kirsch was expensive and thus omitted from the recipe. The name of the dessert was anglicised to black forest gateau. It had become a firm favourite by the 1970s, appearing on dessert menus at restaurants and parties in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1949, black forest cake was rated the 13th best known cake in Germany. Today, the cake is available in nearly every country across the globe, and rarely uses kirschwasser but its other ingredients remain intact. It is a mainstay at kids’ birthday parties and even adults enjoy a slice or two, either after meals or sometimes with tea or coffee. Topped with chocolate shavings, it may be a reminder of the Black Forest in Germany or not, but it remains one of the world’s most popular cakes.