I used to think that I didn’t like black forest cake, but it turns out, I just don’t like bad black forest cake!
Growing up, I had only been exposed to the soggy versions containing bitter chocolate cake, too-sweet cherry filings, and never enough of that whipped cream frosting for my liking.
I’m glad I decided to give these black forest cupcakes a fair chance because they perfectly balance bittersweet chocolate with real cherry flavour, and definitely have enough homemade vanilla whipped cream frosting to keep me happy.
My favourite part of developing my own version of any classic recipe is to research and understand the history behind the food, and I was surprised to find out that Black Forest Cake is supposed to contain cherry flavoured liqueur, specifically Kirsh made in the Black Forest mountain range in Germany.
It is supposed to be a bitter, boozy cake enjoyed strictly by adults after a traditional German supper, with just a light touch of sweetness from the homemade whipped cream.
Because I wanted to skip the cherry filling in my version, I made a few of these black forest cupcakes “for grown-ups” by pouring a generous tablespoon (or two) of cherry liqueur over a few of the cupcakes before topping with the whipped cream frosting, and left the rest of the cupcakes without alcohol.
Now, I made my cake batter and frosting from scratch, but you really can take a few shortcuts with this recipe:
- Use a cake mix but substitute out some of the wet ingredients for a bit of cherry juice, cherry extract, or even cherry pie filling
- Use a pre-made whipped cream or whipped cream-type topping for the frosting
I had zero interest in shaving chocolate for the toppings, so I used pure chocolate sprinkles and some fresh cherries to garnish. Even a dollop of cherry pie filling would be cute.
For a twist, you can also fill the cupcakes with a bit of cherry pie filling by coring the cooked and cooled cupcakes with this coring tool and spooning in a bit of filling, but I prefer stiffer fillings in cupcakes since most people tend to bite right into them and not use a fork (and as a result might drip some of that filling onto their clothes).
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ cup hot water - or, if not using cherry liqeuer to finish, 1 cup sweet cherry juice
- 2 cups flour (bread flour, preferably)
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter
- 1½ cups sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 2½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅔ cup sour cream
- Kirsch (cherry liqueur), optional
- Frosting Ingredients:
- 1½ cups heavy whipping cream
- 6 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- If not using cherry liqeuer: In a pot set over medium-high heat, bring your cherry juice to a slight boil, whisking often, and then simmer over low heat until the liquid is reduced by half. Use in place of the hot water.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the hot water (or cherry juice) and cocoa powder until smooth.
- Melt the butter in a a small saucepan over medium heat and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
- Pour the butter-sugar mixture into a large bowl and mix until cooled, about 3 minutes.
- Add the eggs to the butter mixture, one at a time, then the vanilla, and cocoa mixture, stirring well with each addition.
- Sift the remaining dry ingredients together, and add half to the butter mixture, then the sour cream, and then the second half of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
- Spoon into prepared cupcake liners and bake 15-18 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Pour 1-2 Tablespoons of Kirsch (cherry liqueur) overtop of each cupcake while still hot.
- Pour cold whipping cream into a large bowl and beat on medium for 4 minutes (until it starts to thicken). Slowly add icing sugar, increasing the speed of your mixer to high, until stiff peaks form. Fold in vanilla just before turning off the mixer.
- Spoon the whipped cream frosting into a piping bag with a #1M decorating tip and decorate cupcakes once cool.
- Top with shaved chocolate curls or pure chocolate spinkles and a cherry.