Eat this

The much-ma­ligned Black For­est cake is a boozy, fruity de­light, even if its name (and his­tory) may not be quite what it seems…

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

Why the story of Ger­many’s most fa­mous dessert is all in a name

Ger­many is known for many great things. But its haute cui­sine – rather un­fairly – isn’t one of them. For trav­ellers, the ghost of too many beery schnitzels isn’t eas­ily for­given, even as lo­cal de­lights such as knödel (dumplings) of­ten go un­no­ticed.

One dish, though, has suf­fered more than most. If you lived through any part of the 1980s, you’ve tasted Black For­est cake – lay­ers of sponge, cream, choco­late and cher­ries with a big hit of booze. It won over British palates from the early ’70s on, scal­ing the heights of din­ner party chic be­fore hurtling on to ev­ery Berni Inn menu.

Tra­di­tional Black For­est cake only uses kirschwasser (a dou­ble-dis­tilled cherry brandy) made in Ger­many’s south-west. And it’s tough to get. A litre re­quires 10kg of cher­ries and sells for about £45. Each of the area’s 14,000 dis­til­leries pro­duces only tiny amounts, which is why it’s so spe­cial.

But the Black For­est is no stranger to culi­nary feats. In Baiers­bronn you’ll find two of Ger­many’s 11 three-star Miche­lin restau­rants. “It’s per­haps un­sur­pris­ing given its prox­im­ity to Al­sace,” writes chef and author of The Ger­man Cook­book, Al­fons Schuh­beck. “The cook­ing shares much with east­ern France.” Yet here’s the kicker: its iconic dessert may not even be from the re­gion.

Josef Keller was said to have cre­ated the dessert in 1915, 400km north of the Black For­est in Bad Godes­berg. He took its name from the liqueur, though oth­ers say it comes from its re­sem­blance to the tra­di­tional Black For­est dress of white shirts, black dresses and berry-like bol­len­hut hats.

But in the years since Keller’s death, the cake has come home. His ‘orig­i­nal’ recipe is now served only at Cafe Schäfer in the Black For­est town of Triberg. Pay it a visit or make your own ( see be­low for Al­fons’ own ver­sion) – just don’t for­get the kirschwasser.

Fruit of the for­est? Whether or not it comes from the re­gion, Black For­est cake cer­tainly doesn’t dis­ap­point

The Ger­man Cook­book (Phaidon, £30) by Al­fons Schuh­beck is out now

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