Thursday, 17 January 2013

In Praise of Black Forest Gâteaux

Black Forest Gateaux

I have been absent from this blog for some time. A combination of work and lack of inspiration has kept me away - apologies for that. But finally I have been driven to write by a truly awesome cake experience.

I've always been a fan of unfashionable food: fondue - one of my favourites; cheese and pineapple hedgehogs - a party nibble of choice; and now Black Forest Gâteaux. I have to admit I've always been a fan in theory. The combination of chocolate, cherry and cream - I mean, what's not to like? But more often than not they're of the light and tasteless variety and never offer enough of a chocolate or cherry hit to be really satisfying. But recently I enjoyed a Black Forest Gâteau - or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte as they're known in German-speaking countries - so delicious I'm ready to spearhead a one-woman revival.


Strasbourg

Having spent the last eight or nine New Year's Eves in Berlin, this year Coffee Boy and I decided to head off to pastures new and avoid the firework-related war zone that the Hauptstadt becomes on December 31st. We caught the train to Strasbourg via Paris (where we enjoyed a lovely crepe and cider for lunch), and after a couple of very Christmassy days (according to the town's own literature Strasbourg is the Capital of Christmas - which was the first we knew about it!), we headed to Baden-Baden to see in the new year.

Baden Baden

As well as "taking the waters" by drinking the warm salty spa water, swimming in it at the town's Therme and bathing in it in our hotel room; we visited the beautiful casino (only for a drink mind, I really don't get gambling, and especially Roulette which were the most popular tables. As I watch the croupiers raking in the chips after every spin of the wheel the words "mug's game" spring to the forefront of my mind); and had the most delicious vegetarian feast on New Year's Eve itself. But there was no way I was going to visit the heart of the Black Forest and not try its famed gâteau.

Cafe Koenig window

On New Year's Day we were pretty much overjoyed to discover that Café König, the grande dame of Baden-Baden's cafés was open for business. We both went for a slice of the BFG and I, unusually, went for a coffee while Coffee Boy, bucking his moniker, had a hot chocolate. Whilst waiting for our goods to arrive we drank in the old-fashioned ambience of the place: all eighteenth-century-style sofas and armchairs, decorated chandeliers and the most important thing when searching for great cake in Germany, lots of smartly-dressed old people. 

Cafe Koenig interior

Despite the café being incredibly busy our food and drink arrived in a flash. My coffee was good and the hot chocolate was totally scrummy, but the Black Forest Gâteau - oh my god, it was fantastic. 

Cafe Koenig hot chocolate


It was immediately clear that the previous BFGs I'd tried were as nothing compared to the genuine article. This cake was breathtaking. Just so you don't think me over-the-top I'm going to give you a layer-by-layer breakdown of the gâteau (okay, maybe that won't help to dispel those thoughts but anyway). This might sound like overkill, but there was so much going on in this little slice of heaven it took me virtually until I'd finished it to work out what its constituent parts were.

Cafe Koenig Black Forest Gateaux

It all began with a biscuit base: and I'm not talking about some namby-pamby vaguely hard sponge, this was a proper thin biscuity bottom, kind of like a Graham Cracker consistency. That was attached to the bottom of the cake by a fine but tasty spread of cherry conserve. Next up came a thin layer of chocolate sponge - light but properly chocolatey - and this was followed by the most delicious chocolate ganache that had flavoursome morello cherries scattered within. Next came a layer of plain sponge topped with cream whipped with Kirsch liqueur, not too much but just enough for a little kick, and then a thicker layer of chocolate sponge. As we approached the top of the cake there was another layer of whipped cream - without the Kirsch this time, and the whole thing was finished off with morello cherries and tissue-paper-thin flakes of chocolate.

Do you see what I mean? This delight bore no relation to the Black Forest Gâteaux you might find in the freezer cabinet at the supermarket. This was amazing. But given the dominance of those supermarket-style slices I suppose it's no wonder that it's fallen out of fashion. Rather than a sensational combination of flavours delivered in a rich-but-not-too-heavy slice, we've instead come to associate Black Forest Gâteaux with the bland, over-processed, generic "afters" that you might eat at a seventies bad-taste party.

Cafe Koenig exterior

Well I say that stops now. Let's have a revival of Black Forest Gâteaux, but let's make it the good stuff. I may even try to make one myself if I ever find myself with a full day to spare. But if you can't be bothered I can heartily recommend Café König as a place to try it if you happen to be passing - and given the complexity of the cake it might be easier to make the trip than attempt the recipe. Anyway, one always needs an excuse for a little trip doesn't one? And there can be few better excuses than this.

10 comments :

  1. This post has just given me a lady boner. I need BFG. NOW!

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    1. Me too. Why didn't I bring a whole one home?!

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  2. MMMMMMMMMMmmmm this looks marvellous.

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    1. It really was Sarah. Oh for another slice...

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  3. Oh wow the cake looks and sounds amazing. A few different components to others I've seen but I'm sure it must be traditional! The whole shop looks fabulous

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    1. It was different to any other I've had before as well Katie but given how fantastic it was (and that I was in the Black Forest!) I'm prepared to accept it as the real thing.

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  4. Normally, I don't care for Black Forest gateaux - maybe because I've never had one in Germany and they're often made so poorly in the US. They're often extremely sweet and ooey-gooey. The one in your photo looks quite nice actually!

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    1. The main thing I don't like about most of them I've tried in the UK is that they tend to be somehow too sweet yet, at the same time, insubstantial. I'm also not a fan of the alcohol overwhelming the cake. Somehow this version just got everything right...

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  5. Wow. I totally agree about the average Schwarzwälderkirschtorte - such a pity because it doesn't seem that complicated to get it right. After reading your report I think it would be worth visiting Baden-Baden only to be able to taste that cake you had.

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    1. Anna, I can only say go! This BFG was so far above any other that I'd tried I'm almost tempted to head back for a Spring trip myself!

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