Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, a classic chocolate, whipped cream and cherry cake, is staging a comeback in the Black Forest, a wedge of southwest Germany where the dessert was invented in a humble confectioner's kitchen almost a century ago.
Stretching some 200km east of the Rhine, from
Karlsruhe almost to the Swiss border, the Black Forest is something of a
misnomer. It is definitely more green than black, unless seen on a snowy day
when the landscape appears monochromatic, and it is more a series of thickly
wooded hills, high pastures and valleys than one big forest. Scenic roads dip
and rise through the region, past farmhouses huddling on hillsides and
half-timbered towns with a rustic, fairy-tale-like prettiness. Nearly every cafe
serves Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) at 3pm sharp.
Ask the locals where to find the best Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (known as Black
Forest gateau in England) and they will probably rattle off the names of a few traditional
hilltop cafes, where you have to earn your Kuchen
with a brisk three-hour hike through woods of fir and pine, or sing the praises
of Oma (grandma) who makes her cake
with cream fresh from the cow. Other locals have embraced the new -- and highly
controversial -- Black Forest gateau that can be found in a tin, the brainchild
of baker Johannes Ruf who runs the Holzoffenbaeckerei in St Peter. He made the cake small enough to fit in a picnic basket, just big
enough to share.
No matter what the size, all are in agreement as to
the gateau’s core ingredients -- layers of moist sponge and sour cherries,
lashings of whipped cream, a dash of Kirschwasser
(cherry schnapps) and a dusting of chocolate shavings. Get it wrong and the
cake is gooey and boozy. Get it right and the dessert is light and spongy, the
sourness of the cherries perfectly offsetting the sweetness of the cream. For a
taste of the real deal, try the following spots:
Famous as the home of Germany's highest waterfall and
the world's biggest cuckoo clock, Triberg is a kitsch, quaint, storybook
village. The Sheik of Dubai and the BBC’s Hairy Bikers have made the pilgrimage
for the prized Black Forest gateau at Café Schäfer, baked by Claus Schäfer, the heir to Josef Keller’s original
1915 Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte recipe. “I only ever bake a couple of cakes at
a time and use top quality Kirschwasser,”
said Schäfer. “A little marzipan
adds flavour to the shortcrust pastry base, too."
The grande dame of Germany's spa towns, Baden-Baden
has been baden (bathing) ever since
the Romans discovered the therapeutic benefits of its waters. Today it is a
gentrified city of leafy avenues, belle-époque villas and delightfully
old-world cafés -- none better than Café
König. Alongside petit fours, éclairs and fruit tarts that look (almost)
too good to eat, sits the crowning glory, Black Forest gateau. Order a slice
and do as royalty and celebrities have done before you – savour it on the
chestnut tree-shaded terrace, watching the world go decadently by.
If you can never have your fill of cake, consider
timing your Black Forest trip to catch the annual Black Forest Gateau Festival. Celebrating
the Black Forest's most famous export with baking contests and brass bands, the
festival is held in Todtnauberg, a village with fine views of the region's
highest peak, Feldberg, on clear days. Even if you miss the fun, there is
always the option of -- whisper it very quietly -- taking home a Black Forest
gateau in a tin. They last for a year, you know.
Correction: A previous version of this article provided an incorrect translation for the phrase Kaffee und Kuchen. This has been fixed.
The article 'The king of Kuchen in Black Forest, Germany' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.