When I was younger my family lived in a house just on the outskirts of downtown, so growing up I was used to a somewhat "urban" lifestyle. Since we didn't have much space to garden, the concept of being able to grow our own food was very new to me when we moved to the country. We did however have two large healthy fruit trees- one plum and one sour cherry- sandwiched between our house and our neighbor's. I remember how exciting it was to climb up the tall ladder to pick the cherries and bring them inside to bake a pie with my mom and brother, encasing the tart gems in a messily patched together lattice crust.
Ironically, when we moved to the country and had the intention of growing many fruit trees, we were actually much less successful than we were in the city. The condition of our current soil being packed clay makes it extremely difficult to grow anything. Of all our stunted fruit trees, only a single little sour cherry produces. So in the summer I watch the tree very carefully over a course of weeks, picking each cherry when it turns its ruby hue and freezing it. Perhaps a little obsessive, I know, but I believe that a single one of these cherries cannot be wasted.
I knew I had to wait for the perfect occasion to bake something staring the summer bounty. I believe that Valentine's day was a fitting one for a cherry studded sweet and decadent dessert, like a black forest cake.
The cake itself is deep, dark and chocolaty. It is completely gluten, grain, sugar and dairy free, yet retains a moist texture because of the almond flour and honey. If you do not have access to sour cherries, you can use frozen bing and add more lemon juice, like 1/4 cup, for extra brightness.
With its intense layers of crumbly cake, snowy whipped mascarpone cream, and delectable ruby compote, this cake seems like it came right out of the forest in Germany for which it is named, a region renowned for its sour cherry trees.
Dark Chocolate Almond Cake (GF)
makes two 6-inch round cakes
2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup Dutch cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup dark chocolate, melted
1 tbs. vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 6 inch cake pans with nonstick spray and dust with cocoa powder. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the rest of the wet ingredients.
2. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool completely in pans before removing and cutting.
Recipe slightly adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook via Comfy Tummy
Sour Cherry Compote
makes enough for one 6-inch layered cake
2 cups sour cherries
1 cup bing cherries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
2. Pour cherries into a sieve and return juice to saucepan. Continue to simmer until it becomes a thick sauce. Take off the heat and mix in the cherries.
Mascarpone Whipped Cream
makes enough for one 6-inch layered cake
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. In a separate small bowl, lightly beat the mascarpone and powdered sugar together until smooth. Using a spatula, gently fold the sweetened mascarpone into the whipped cream until fully incorporated.
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Assembling the Black Forest Cake
1. When the cakes are cool, slice them in half. Place one half on a serving platter. Top with 1/2 of the sour cherry compote, then 1/3 of the mascarpone whipped cream. Repeat the laying process, using 3 halves of the cake and ending with the whipped cream. Top with fresh cherries, if desired. You can make mini cakes using the remaining cake half, or create an extra tall Black Forest cake.