Recipe- Cherry, Vanilla & Black Pepper Black Forest Gateau


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So once again the nation is gripped by Bake Off fever as another 12 amateur bakers take their place in the signature white tent. In unison the nation raises it’s rolling pins, lines it’s pans and no doubt sales of KitchenAid mixers goes through the roof. The first week saw the bakers tackle “Cake” – A maderia cake; Mary’s Walnut Cake and a Black Forest Gateau. Of these three, it’s the Black Forest Gateau that has a special place in my heart. Along with apple pie it’s the other shining beacon of childhood memory that still hasn’t waned. My mother took great pleasure in baking these for special occasions when guests visited. The menu was ritualistically devoid of any variance and reliably (repeatedly?) consisted of :


Melon Boats: a wedge of honeydew melon, diced sideways and garnished with a slice of orange and glace cherry. Unbeknownst to the guests I could tell their social standing in my mother’s eye from this starter alone. The presence of the cherry meant you were in my mother’s “good books” and the meal would be a welcome flex of her culinary muscle. The lack of a cherry wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just meant your visit would be embraced with civil tolerance and laced with healthy side order of platitudes. “‘Tis a far way from shiny cherries they were raised.”

Main course

Mixed Grill: this is basically a fancy fry-up. For dinner you say? Who was I to argue with my mother? The plate’s contents stretched well beyond the realms of your average breakfast fry-up to include pork chops; steak; chips and, if my mother was feeling particularly whimsical, calves liver. Like I said- I didn’t argue.


Black Forest Gateau: this was the piece de resistance; the bee’s knees; the dog’s…you get the picture. Well it was, in my eyes. The cherries had to come from a tin (with obligatory bashed edge); the sponge had to made with Cadbury’s cocoa and soaked in syrup from said tinned cherries; and the cream had to whipped to the point of being cloud-like, but not too much, and finished with a liberal sprinkling of Cadbury’s Flake. It really was the stuff of childhood memories!

I digress. It’s because of this Black Forest Gateau and it’s inclusion in the first episode of The Great British Bake Off that I drew inspiration for my first recipe in what I’m calling my #TheGreatBeaardedBakeOff (see what I did there?…)

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Cherry, Vanilla & Black Pepper Black Forest Gateau

200g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper

280g caster sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

80g unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

240ml semi-skimmed milk

2 tablespoons good quality chocolate extract, I use Nielsen Massey

300ml double cream

2 tablespoons qood quality vanilla extract, I use Nielsen Massey

1 tin (425g) black cherries, retain the syrup

1 vanilla pod, seeds scrapped

200g fresh black cherries, pitted

50g caster sugar

3 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

To decorate

cocoa to dust

8 fresh cherries, with stalks attached

1 egg white, lightly whipped

caster sugar

Frosted cherries

  • Brush 4 of the fresh cherries with the whipped egg white.
  • Roll in caster sugar and leave to dry on baking parchment until needed.

For the cherry compote filling

  • Combine all the pitted fresh cherries; sugar; water and lemon juice in a saucepan and heat over a medium heat.
  • Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes until the fruit has broken down to a pulp.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool. (The compote filled pan can be placed in cold water bath to speed up cooling time).
  • Set aside and continue.

For the cherry syrup

  • Pour the syrup from the tinned cherries into a pan.
  • Add in the vanilla pod seeds and vanilla pod.
  • Heat gently for 10 minutes and then allow to cool.
  • Remove the pod, set aside to cool.

To make the chocolate sponge

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160c (fan)/350F/Gas 4.
  • Line 2 x 8inch cake tins with cake release spray and baking parchment.
  • In a stand food mixer bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and black pepper. Use the paddle
    attachment and mix until the mixture resembles dry sand in texture.
  • In a separate jug/bowl combine the eggs, milk and chocolate extract and lightly whisk to combine.
  • With the mixer on a low speed, pour the liquid ingredients in a steady stream until about 100ml remains in the jug.
  • Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue until all the ingredients are well combined.
  • Scrape down the bowl sides and add remaining egg mixture, then continue to mix on a medium speed until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour finished batter into the 2 prepared tins.
  • Bake on the middle shelf for about 20 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean when pushed into the centre of the cakes.
  • Allow to cool in the tins for 10 mins, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • In a clean bowl of a stand mixer, combine the double cream and vanilla extract.
  • Whisk until light and fluffy.

To assemble the gateau

  • Slice each sponge layer in half, either using a knife or cake slice wire.
  • Place the bottom layer on a stand or plate, brush liberally with the cooled cherry syrup, and spread with the cooled cherry compote.
  • Place a second sponge layer on top, brush liberally with the cooled cherry syrup, and spread with half the whipped cream and topped with the tinned cherries.
  • Place a third sponge layer on top, brush liberally with the cooled cherry syrup, and spread with the cooled cherry compote.
  • Place the final sponge layer on top of this and pipe/ spread with the remaining whipped cream.
  • Dust with cocoa.
  • Arrange the 4 frosted cherries and 4 fresh cherries on top.
  • Slice, serve and enjoy!

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