Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Black Forest Cake (Page 746)

RECIPE #1042

  • Date: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 -- 10pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Teri and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My mom was in town this past week, and since she is a fan of all things dessert, I figured it was as good a time as any to make the Black Forest Cake in The Book. I started by melting chocolate with butter and water in a double boiler. I let it cool, then stirred in vanilla extract. I then ground almonds with sugar in the food processor. I added the almond mixture to egg yolks and beat it with a stand mixture until doubled in volume. I then beat in the chocolate mixture. In a separate bowl, I beat egg whites with sugar until stiff peaks formed, then I folded the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. I then folded in flour, crumbs from zwieback toasts, cocoa powder, and salt. I poured the batter into a springform pan, lined with parchment and buttered on the bottom. I baked it until a toothpick came out clean. Meanwhile I made a syrup by heating water and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolved. Then I added kirsch. Before assembling the cake I beat together heavy cream and sugar to form stiff peaks. To assemble, I sliced the cake horizontally into three layers. Then I put the bottom layer on a serving dish, brushed it with a third of the kirsch syrup, then spread it with a layer of sour cherry preserves, then a layer of whipped cream. I repeated this with the next layer. Finally, I put on the top layer, brushed it with the kirsch syrup, then spread the whole outside of the cake with whipped cream.

For some reason I didn't have high expectations for this cake. I am happy to say that I was wrong -- it was extremely tasty! The cake layers themselves were dry, but they absorbed the kirsch syrup beautifully, making the assembled cake lovely and moist. The almonds and zweiback crumbs gave the cake layers just a touch of texture without making them crunchy. It was really the flavors that made this cake though. The chocolate, cherry, and whipped cream flavors were perfect together. The cake was sweet without being cloying. The sour cherry preserves were delicious with the whipped cream. The whole thing just came together beautifully. Black Forest has never been one of my favorite types of cake, but this recipe changed my mind about it. Yum! My special gentleman even declared it one of his favorite cakes that I have made.

This recipe isn't online.

People always seem surprised to hear how much I travel for my job. Indeed, research mathematicians travel a lot! The funny thing about math travel though, is that although some of the locations seem exotic, you often end up returning to the same places over and over again. It has to do both with where there are math institutes, and where there are people in your field. For instance, in my field of study there are a lot of Scandinavians and Germans. So although I have been to Denmark, Norway (twice!), and Germany (many times), I have never been to Spain, or Italy, for instance. There just aren't as many people in my field in those countries. A frequent destination for mathematicians in all fields is a math institute in Germany, in the Black Forest. Although it has been explained to me on several occasions, I am still not completely clear on how a math research institute ended up in a tiny little town in the Black Forest, but it did, and there are many conferences hosted there. I have been there three times now, and it is a rather idyllic place. Conferences there share the property that they are held from Sunday to Saturday and on Wednesday the conference goes on an excursion. This excursion involves hiking in the Black Forest for 4, or 5, or 6 hours (depending on who is leading and whether that person gets lost!). The goal is to stumble upon another small town in the Black Forest, where everyone on the hike crowds into a restaurant and eats Black Forest Cake. This past summer I was on such a hike at such a conference, and indeed we ended up stopping for cake. I was sitting at a table full of German speakers, and they were have a boisterous conversation that I could understand none of. So I sat there peacefully eating my cake, savoring each bite. I remember it fondly.

When I ate this Black Forest cake last week, it brought back memories.

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