Black Magic Forest Cake

My husband loves Black Forest Cake, so I made one yesterday knowing all the while it wasn’t authentic, but rather the “Black Forest” we’re used to — American style chocolate cake with cherry filling and fresh whipped cream. It’s probably nothing like what you’d get in Germany, but if you do a search for Black Forest Cake, it’s the type that comes up most often and interestingly, seems quite popular in India.

forest cake

This slice is actually a small version. Small version directions are in the notes.

So everyone has their own interpretation of black forest cake and it’s fun to see what’s out there. Most versions use a cherry brandy called Kirschwasser, while some leave it out and just use whipped cream and cherries. The richest of the cakes use all three plus a butter & sugar icing. A couple of years ago I tried one from and while Todd liked it, I thought it had too strong an alcohol flavor and reverted back to the Kirsch type cake.

After making this cake, I’ve decided I should probably make more black forests cakes and that they should take priority over German chocolate cakes since we like them better. But this is what I have for now – an easy stir-and-bake black magic cake filled with cherry filling and covered in whipped cream. I put some notes on the bottom to help you along should you decided to make this version.




Black Magic Forest Cake
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Black Magic Forest Cake is Black Forest Cake made with the old Hershey's Black Magic Cake and homemade cherry pie filling.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 12
Cherry Filling:
  • 2 (14.5-16 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (malt, white, cider -- any kind)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (7.9 oz)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, natural style
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee, warm or cold (not hot)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped Cream:
  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Make Filling First: Drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup liquid. Combine the 1/2 cup liquid, 1 cup sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils. Let mixture boil, stirring constantly, until it thickens to the consistency of thick maple syrup – my sauce never got extremely thick during the boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla, almond extract and drained cherries Let cool at room temperature then transfer to refrigerator and chill for about 2 hours or until ready to assemble.
  2. Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8 inch cake pans and line with circles of parchment paper (or wax paper). Grease again and dust with flour.
  3. Combine milk and vinegar in a mixing bowl and set aside for a few minutes to sour the milk.
  4. Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a second bowl. Mix well to mash out any stray lumps of cocoa powder.
  5. Add the eggs, oil, coffee and vanilla to the bowl with the milk/vinegar mixture and whisk well. Stir in the flour mixture and beat by hand about 50 strokes or until mixed -- batter will be thin and lumpy. There shouldn’t be big chunks of cocoa powder, though.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans and set the pans on a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Bake for 30 -35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean – stick the toothpick right in the center to test, this cake might seem done, but you won't know for sure unless you test it. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn from pans onto racks. Peel away parchment or wax paper rounds and let cool completely.
  7. Whipped Cream: Beat whipping cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar and vanilla and continue beating until peaks are stiff.
  8. Assemble Cake: With long serrated knife, split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs and set aside. For finer crumbs, you can pulse the cake layer in the food processor. These will be used as garnish.
  9. Place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with a little whipped cream; top with about 3/4 cup cherry topping. Top with second cake layer; repeat layers of whipped cream and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer. Frost side of cake with remaining whipped cream. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake or if you want, just use them on the top as pictured. Arrange a bit more filling on top in a decorative way. Chill cake until ready to serve.
For the small version in the first photo, halve the recipe and bake in an 8 inch pan. Split the cake, fill center with cherry filling and frost all over with sweetened whipped cream.

-- I used 8 inch pans because I wanted a tall cake, but 9 inch pans would work too. If you use 9 inch round pans, check the cakes at 25 minutes because they'll probably cook faster.

-- The cherry filling is a little runny, but tastes good. It will thicken up a little as it cools. Also, if you use 8 inch pans you'll probably have some leftover.

-- You'll also have plenty of whipped cream. I like making more than I need so I can pipe extra on top.

-- You probably know how to split a cake, but if you've never done it, here's a tip. Stick a skewer through the center of the cake and cut through with a serrated knife, resting the knife on the skewer as you cut. The skewer will guide you right through the cake.

-- Even if you only make cakes once in a while, a cake lifter is a GREAT tool. I use it all the time for separating cut layers and for moving cakes from rack to cake plate. They sell cake lifters in the cake decorating aisle of places like Michael's.


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  1. says

    This is a beautiful cake! I’ve never made, or eaten (as far as I remember) a black forest cake. I may have to try this sometime soon. I think I will make one alteration thought — adding a layer of chocolate ganache to both the middle and top (before the whipped cream) to give me that chocolate intensity I always crave. LOL

  2. says

    It may not be something you’d get in Germany, but this cake tasted great! I had some more today and it’s even better on Day 2. Lisa, the extra chocolate might be good, but I don’t think it needs anymore.

    Jill, the skewer trick really works! If you don’t have a skewer, a chopstick would probably work just as well.

  3. Louise says

    I can’t do it today, but I’ll send you Chef Tell’s Black Forest Cake recipe. I haven’t made it in awhile, and it’s different than the one above, but it’s excellent. It has a chocolate spongecake, kirschwasser, and all the right stuff. I’ll also send the recipe from “Grandma Rose’s Book of Sinfully Delicious Snacks, Nibbles, Noshes & Other Delights”. It’s also excellent. Chef Tell was an early TV chef who came from Germany. He ran into trouble, I believe with his Federal income tax or maybe drugs, and went to one of the islands for awhile.

  4. says

    My friends got me a black forest cake when I got home from running my first marathon. I loved it! Thanks for this recipe, now I can make it myself.

  5. says

    Yum! I love blackforest cake, but have never attempted to make it – maybe I wont be so scared now:) Hope Todd had a great bday!

  6. says

    ever since you tweeted about this I’ve been dying to see it. came out great, like everything you make.
    I can only imagine your grocery bill, I bet it’s like mine. LOL

  7. says

    And you say you’re not crafty or a cake decorator!?Just look at that cake! It’s beautiful!! Good to know you liked the taste of it too.

  8. HeartofGlass says

    This was my favorite cake when I was 12 or so–the restaurant where I used to order it made it with chocolate mousse rather than whipped cream. So. good.

    There are so many varieties with this cake, I look forward to further experimentation!

  9. Pam Shank says

    How beautiful your cake looks. I have never made one but I will after all the holiday madness.

  10. Robbie says

    What does a cake lifter look like? Thanks! I’m making your German Chocolate Cake again tomorrow – it’s been a huge success!

  11. Fat Fudge says

    I once made a Black Forrest cake for my nephew from a Maida Heatter book. It was really boozy! The cake was soaked with kirsch, the filling had kirsch and so did the whip cream frosting. I made it the day before I was going to serve it and it was still pretty strong. I told my nephew that it was a good thing he just turned 21, or else he couldn’t had eaten it!

  12. katherine says

    Do you think I can substitute pitted dark sweet Bing Cherries (in heavy syrup)?? It is the only kind I could find at the grocery store. Thanks.

  13. katherine says

    I made this cake for our Christmas Eve dessert. It was outstanding! I did eventually find tart cherries… at $5 a can. Kind of pricey, but well worth it for a special cake. Thanks for sharing the recipe. Looking forward to making it again.

  14. says

    Katherine, thanks for trying it! Sorry the tart cherries were so pricey, but it sounds like they were worth it in the end.

  15. Dani says

    mmmm, my sister and I just made THE MOST DELICIOUS black forest cake the other night for my dad…….oooooooooh so good.
    Funny thing is, it isnt “black” in any way – the cake is kinda light colored =)
    But this is a really good cake recipe, so if you’re gonna try another one soon, I’d really suggest this:
    We replaced the kirschwasser with maraschino cherry liquid, and used maraschinos for the cherries on top as well (and had to use half raspberry preserves, half cherry jam for the jam part of this)…I would also suggest reducing the sugar in the icing, as its a very sweet cake.
    But so good!

  16. Hannelore Hevesy says

    Hello Dani:

    The cake derives its name from the Black Forest region in southwest Germany where I’m from and it’s my favorite cake also. It’s a beautiful area and it’s called “Black” because the trees are predominantly pines and thus it looks darker than with leafy trees mixed in. I’ll try this version, it sounds great. I use some Kirschwasser but not too much so my grandkids can enjoy it too. The Kirschwasser (literally translates as cherry water) from Germany is traditionally made in the Black Forest region and “wasser” in this sense means “Schnapps” (kind of like a German Tequila). By the way, Schnapps is often used by the grownups to settle their stomachs and as for me, Mama always put it on my skinned knees as an antibiotic and it was truly an ouch thing, I’d rather enjoy it in the cake. Guten Appetit!

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