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The Blackforest Cake and How to Protect Forests and Wildlife

2023-03-09   ◆   3 minutes read

The Black Forest cake or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte comes from the dark, mysterious, and enchanted forest of the same name in Germany. A single bite suffices to get a full taste of chocolate, whipped cream, cherry filling and kirschwasser (more on this later!). Let’s take a look at how this cake is made and its shadowy origins. Also, speaking of forests, let’s take a closer look at Canada’s beautiful nature, and what we can do to better protect it. So put your shoes on, and keep reading! 

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Black Forest gateau topped with fresh cherries

What is a Black Forest Cake? 

Frankly, its description alone is enough to make our mouths water. A traditional cake consists of layers of chocolate sponge cake separated with whipped cream and cherries, while keeping the layers together. To make it most beautiful, it is topped with more whipped cream, chocolate shavings and maraschino cherries. It is common to add kirschwasser, a common German cherry liqueur, to the recipe, to give it some kick and to make the cake moist. In fact, there is a law in Germany that any cake named Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (“Black Forest cherry torte”) must contain kirschwasser (“cherry water”) or in short, kirsch. Sounds wunderbar (wonderful), doesn’t it?

Black Forest gateau Also the Crumbs Please
Black Forest gateau (Also the Crumbs Please)


While we would like to believe this cake was invented by magical forest trolls wandering in the forest, but its origins are actually less fairy tale-like. The first recorded mentions of the Black Forest cake can be found in some German cookbooks from the 1930s, and it rose in popularity after the Second World War. While no proof exists, it is believed that this cake was created all the way back in the 1500s, around the time chocolate was first brought into Europe. 


As for the name itself, some say it’s due to Germany’s Black Forest region being rich in cherries and kirschwasser. One theory claims that the name stems from the fact that the cake with the cherries on top  looks like the red pom-poms on a traditional German Bollenhut hat from the Black Forest. Another theory simply associates the dark and shady Black Forest with the dark chocolate colour of the cake.

Traditional German Bollenhut hats Deutschland 2014
Traditional German Bollenhut hats (Deutschland 2014)

Later on in the 20th century, Black Forest cake was introduced to Britain, but as kirsch liqueur was an expensive import at the time, it was omitted from the recipe in exchange for any other liqueur of choice. The Brits anglicised it to “Black Forest gateau” which is a much easier name to pronounce. By the 1970s, it appeared on every dessert menu and in every party. Today it is enjoyed worldwide, whether at kids’ birthday parties, eaten with an afternoon tea or as a hearty dessert after dinner. If you ask us, this combination of chocolate, whipped cream and cherry is a definite recipe for success! 

Schwarzwaldtårta (Smakminnen)
Schwarzwaldtårta (Smakminnen)

Black Forest Cake Types

As you might have guessed, this cake is especially popular in German-speaking countries and in Scandinavia. Interestingly, each country adapted the recipe to their own tastes and local ingredients, reflecting the uniqueness of their respective cultures.


In Austria, however, recipes usually ditch the kirschwasser and call for rum instead. In Sweden you can find a Schwarzwaldtårta, which translates to the same name. While the name is the same, it represents a different cake. The Swedish cake consists of layers of meringue mixed with finely ground roasted hazelnuts, covered by a thin layer of chocolate with whipped cream in between. The whole cake is also covered with whipped cream and decorated with thin dark chocolate and cocoa powder. 


Of course, innovation and creativity in desserts know no boundaries. If you’re feeling adventurous, all of the classic ingredients of the Blackforest cake can be used to create new “Blackforest-type” desserts of any kind, whether puddings, tarts, brownies and more. 


Here are some examples:

Black Forest trifle (Rainbow Nourishments)
Black Forest trifle (Rainbow Nourishments)
  • Black Forest trifle: The same components of its cake counterpart can be used to make a splendid trifle and give an elegant twist to your evenings. Save the cherries for last.
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Black Forest brownies (Barley & Sage)
  • Black Forest brownies: Who could refuse an amazing and fudgy brownie, topped with whipped cream and cherry? Not only is it pretty, but it tastes wonderful.
Black Forest pudding (BBC Good Food)
Black Forest pudding (BBC Good Food)
  • Black Forest pudding: Less similar to the original Black Forest cake than the other desserts above, this one takes away the sponge cake and replaces it with pudding, but doesn’t leave out the cherries. Whether cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants, or raspberries, the choice is yours.
Black Forest tart (The Scran Line)
Black Forest tart (The Scran Line)
  • Black Forest tart: A sweet cocoa pastry filled with fruits and chocolate and, you guessed it, topped with cherries.

Taking Care of Forests and Wildlife

The Black Forest cake would not be the same if it had not been inspired in some way by Germany’s legendary Black Forest. Forests are not only central to myths, legends and stories, but are also vital to millions of species living there, biodiversity, and to Earth’s beauty. Yet, due to industrialization, or even paradoxically green policies, forests are often threatened and endangered worldwide.


In light of this, there are things anybody can do, at their own scale, to protect and preserve forests:

  • Learn about wildlife: According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, learning about wildlife is the first step to protecting it. Getting outside and becoming an observer of life around you is a good way to begin. Try to incorporate nature hikes to a nearby park, forest, wetland, or woodlot into your regular schedule. Taking up a quiet hobby that keeps you outdoors, like gardening, hiking, or beachcombing, increases your chances of seeing and learning about wild plants and animals.
  • Buy products with a lesser impact on the environment. Look for products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or food grown without herbicides and pesticides. This supports farmers or manufacturers whose land is the most “wildlife friendly” and who take actions to minimize the impact. 
  • Reuse or recycle your plastic products and avoid products with disposable plastic packaging. Forests around the world are being contaminated by toxic non-recyclable materials. Animals have been known to die after swallowing plastic debris or becoming entangled in plastic six-pack holders.
  • Watch what you put down the drain or into the regular garbage. Careless disposal can cause harm to forests or wildlife. For example, spent batteries can release toxic, corrosive chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and nickel into the soil and water bodies, which endangers the environment and human health. These chemicals are extremely difficult and expensive to clean up.

We hope that you found these tips helpful, and that this blog made you feel like getting lost in a forest to eat a big slice of cake! To find some Black Forest cake  near you, use Dessert Advisor’s search tool now!

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About the author is an organization dedicated to the research of desserts, baked goods, and snacks. The community maintains one of the largest databases of dessert items and dessert places in Canada. 


With a mission to facilitate foodies’ search for their desired products, the site allows finding locations that dessert items are sold at, enhances knowledge on various treats (i.e., variety, flavours, health benefits, history, origins, etc.), and enables people to enjoy the wealth of life. is a proud member of the BBB Business Review


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