Nick Malgieri
Nick Malgieri

Schwarzwaelder Kirschtorte

The lovely cake pictured comes from the Heini, the best pastry shop in Lucerne where brothers Bruno and Hans Heini have been running the business since taking over from their parents who founded the shop (now shops) in the 1950s.  Great for a casual breakfast or lunch, you’ll also find an enticing array of cakes (Heini’s specialty), pastries large and small, cookies, breads, and chocolates.  A must-stop on any visit to Lucerne.

Makes one 9-inch cake, about 16 servings

Chocolate Almond Sponge Cake

9 large eggs

1 tablespoon water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) blanched almonds, finely ground in the food processor

3/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs

1/3 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder, sifted after measuring

1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spoon flour into dry measure cup and level off)

Kirsch Syrup

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup Kirsch

Cherry Filling

2 pounds sour cherries, canned or frozen, drained

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons Kirsch

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Whipped Cream

3 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate shavings and confectioners’ sugar for finishing

One 9-inch spring form pan, 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of buttered parchment or wax paper

  1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
  2. For the cake layer, separate 8 of the eggs and combine the yolks, the remaining whole egg, and the water in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk by hand to break up the egg and yolks and whisk in 2/3 cup of the sugar.  Place on the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip the mixture on medium high speed until light in texture and color, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir the almonds, breadcrumbs, cocoa, and flour into the yolk mixture, one at a time.
  4. In a clean dry mixer bowl whip the egg whites with the whisk attachment on medium speed until they are very white, opaque, and beginning to hold a very soft peak.  Increase the speed to medium high and whip in the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a stream, continuing to whip until the egg whites hold a firm peak. 
  5. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it and gently fold in the remaining egg whites with a large rubber spatula.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. 
  7. Bake the cake for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until it is well risen and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges dry.
  8. Invert the cake to a rack to cool, lift off the pan and remove the paper.  Let the cake layer cool completely.
  9. For the Kirsch syrup, bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Cool the syrup and stir in the Kirsch.
  10. For the cherry filling, combine the cherries, sugar, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally to avoid stirring and breaking up the cherries.  Cook until the cherries have exuded their juices.  Remove the pan from the heat temporarily.
  11. Whisk the Kirsch and cornstarch together in a small bowl and stir in a couple of spoonfuls of the hot cherry liquid.    Return the remaining cherries and liquid to a simmer and stir in the cornstarch mixture, continuing to stir until the filling has thickened and the juices are clear.  Use a spoon to remove sixteen of the best looking cherries from the filling and reserve them for decorating the cake later on.  Scrape the rest of the filling into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it until it is cold.
  12. For the whipped cream, combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form.
  13. To assemble the cake, slice the cooled cake layer into three equal horizontal layers with a sharp serrated knife.
  14. Place the bottom layer on a cardboard and moisten it with a third of the Kirsch syrup, using a brush.  Spread the layer with half of the cooled cherry filling.  Spread about a Quarter of the whipped cream on the cherry filling.
  15. Top with the middle layer and repeat with the syrup, remaining cherry filling and another quarter of the whipped cream.
  16. Place the top layer on the whipped cream with the part that was the flat bottom of the cake layer uppermost and moisten with the remaining syrup.  Spread the whole cake evenly with another quarter of the whipped cream, using an offset spatula.
  17. Use the remaining whipped cream to pipe 16 rosettes at the top border of the cake, using a 1/2-inch star tube (Ateco #864).  Top each of the rosettes with one of the reserved cherries.
  18. Use a metal spatula to press the chocolate shavings against the side of the cake and sprinkle about a tablespoon of chocolate shavings on the top center of the cake.  Dust the chocolate shavings on top of the cake with a little confectioners’ sugar.