Heston Blumenthal’s Black Forest Gateau

So some of you know that I spent a crazy three days of the Easter weekend making Heston Blumenthal’s Black Forest Gateau (BFG) from his In Search of Perfection series and some of you don’t. But that’s ok, ’cause now you all do 🙂

So how did it all come about you ask? Well, I first met Suzanne from Essjay Eats through the wonders of Twitter (I know, I know, I was very anti Twitter once upon a time, but now I’m a big fan) and she said she really wanted to try making the BFG. As it had been a few months since my last big baking challenge making Adriano Zumbo’s V8 cake (before the blog), I jumped at the chance for another baking challenge.

As it is quite long, I won’t re-hash the recipe, but if you are interested in seeing it, here is a link. Essentially, the recipe involves making six layers, assembling them and finishing it with chocolate spray.

Between us we had most of the ingredients and equipment, other than the cream siphon and spray gun, which we were able to buy and borrow respectively. For the rest of the stuff we went on a shopping expedition to Simon Johnson and The Essential Ingredient. As the chocolate Heston suggested was either not available here, or far too expensive for the quantities we needed, Suzanne consulted Duncan for alternatives and we ended up using a mixture of Lindt Ecuador, Callebut, Weiss ebene noir and Monsieur Truffe Grenade.

So day one rolls around, we’ve got everything we need set out and we’re ready to get our bake on!

“Which layer do you want to do first?” asked Suzanne.

“The aerated chocolate,” I replied excitedly.

“Me too.”

Woo! We were on the same wavelength! So here’s a run down of the layers.

Aerated Chocolate

Wow, this was the COOLEST THING EVER! Well that is until I got to spray chocolate later on… If you’ve never made aerated chocolate before, you should definitely give it a go, even if just to make aerated chocolate – it doesn’t have to form part of a cake. The whole idea of using a cream siphon to aerate chocolate and then a vacuum cleaner to further aerate it is a bit crazy, but it totally works, as the photo below will attest to! Aero Bar, eat your heart out.

Some tips for this one – whilst this layer wasn’t ‘hard’ to do, it is fiddly, so it is best to have all your ingredients/equipment ready to go (i.e. vacuum cleaner plugged in, vacuum bag open and ready to go) so you can work quickly. Also, keep the cream siphon sitting in some warm water so that it will keep the chocolate warm and liquid when you pour it in. I’d also suggest leaving this for a few hours in the fridge to set. We didn’t leave it long enough before checking and some of the chocolate moved, resulting in an uneven surface that we then had to try and even up.

Madeleine Biscuit Base

This layer was pretty straight forward. We followed the recipe exactly on this one and the end result was super yummy (we got samples :D). I did however get a bit of ribbing for my inability to cut straight! You be the judge 😀

Flourless Chocolate Sponge 

This layer too was pretty straight forward – we didn’t deviate from the recipe and it produced a wonderfully light and fluffy chocolate cake.

Chocolate Ganache

I hate to sound like a broken record, but this layer was also pretty straight forward. We made it on day one and left it in the fridge overnight, bringing it out a few hours before assembling to allow it to soften so it was easy to pipe.

Kirsch Cream

So here is where the major change to Heston’s recipe came into play. Initially we followed the recipe exactly but when we tried it, we failed to taste either the kirsch or the cherry flavour. We had a bottle of Berentzen Fruchtige WildKirsche but decided that the 20ml as suggested by Heston wasn’t enough, so we free poured and added about 200ml in the end. We still weren’t 100% satisfied with the flavour and given we had added extra liquid we decided to add extra gelatin that we disolved in the juice from the jar of cherries rather than water to try and strengthen the cherry flavour.

The recipe failed to mention what strength gelatin Heston used, so we assumed it was titanium and, as we only had gold, we adjusted the recipe and used six sheets, plus the two extra sheets mentioned above. We still weren’t completely satisfied with the taste, but decided there was not much else we could do to the cream and that point and would try to add cherry and kirsch flavour elsewhere. 

Chocolate Mousse

This layer we made on day two but it was evident as soon as we started to use it that the quantity the recipe makes would not be enough to do what the recipe directed – to ‘pour the chocolate mousse down the sides of the tin until it reaches a level 1cm above the kirsch cream layer’. We had enough ingredients to make to make about an extra 50%, but if you are planning on trying this recipe, I would suggest making three times the quantity!

Day two started with Suzanne putting together the cakes while I looked after the cherries. After our disappointment with kirsch #1, Suzanne bought a small bottle of Weis kirsch which we decided to use with some cherry jam, cherry juice and the leftover vanilla seeds from making the faux cherry stalks to simmer the cherries in and make a beautiful cherry sauce and add some flavour to the cherries.

So then it was time for the assembly line to begin!

It began with the Madeleine biscuit base which we topped with cherry jam rather than apricot jam as Heston suggested to add some more cherry flavour. This was topped with the aerated chocolate. We then piped the edges of the cake with ganache and filled it with the cherries we had simmered earlier. LOOKING GOOD!

That was then topped with the flourless chocolate sponge that I had brushed with some of the cherry sauce we had made previously. The kirsch cream went on top of this and finally the mousse was poured over the top.

We were advised that it would be best to freeze the cake for a day before spraying so that was the end of day two. Phew! We could finally see the fruits of our labour coming together.

Day three saw us take the cakes out one by one and, using the extra special melon baller (believe it or not, it cost $20!!) bore holes in the top for the cherries to sit in before spraying.

To avoid my house looking like something out of Willy Wonka, I set up a temporary spray booth on the bench using a plastic tub, a couple of lids and lots of newspaper!

We placed each cake on some baking paper and then on a wire cooling rack for ease of turning and then got to spray the cakes. Now, this is officially the COOLEST THING EVER! I thought making aerated chocolate was fun but it had nothing on spraying chocolate. Words can’t adequately describe how much fun this was! In hindsight I should’ve put the newspaper inside the tub as well as it was a bitch to clean!

And then it was time for the finishing touches – the cherries and stalks and ta-da, the finished product.

Here’s a close up of the AMAZING sparkly finish the chocolate spray gave the cake.

After all the obligatory photos were taken it was time to cut into and eat. YAY!

In one word: YUM.

In many words: YUM, YUM AND MORE YUM!

Overall verdict – this cake was lots of fun to make. I’m not sure the aerated chocolate added much to the cake because it kind of got lost in amongst all the other layers. There was talk of re-arranging the layers to remove the aerated chocolate and incorporate a second layer of ganache/cherries. It would also be great to try it with with Franz Fies kirsch Heston used – do you know anyone heading to Germany soon willing to bring me back a bottle? There would be cake in it for them 😀

Sorry if this has been an EPIC post, but it did take three days to make!


27 thoughts on “Heston Blumenthal’s Black Forest Gateau

  1. Pingback: How to Make Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau recipe from In Search of Perfection : In Search Of Heston

  2. wtf were you doing with the mousse? it’s quite clear heston mentioned that you should leave it in the fridge to set, not pour it over the cake and produce a bit of a messy result…

    • Perhaps you’re reading a different recipe to the one we used. The one in the book we used (from In Search of Perfection) quite clearly said to pour the mousse over the cake and up the sides and then freeze.

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  6. Thanks for your great photos! Very helpful when I made my own attempt!

    I found the same issue with the chocolate mousse not being enough – I think because the version they have a picture of in the book has the kirsch mousse around the whole cake, not the chocolate mousse (it is just a layer). So the instructions don’t match the pictures – and the ingredients don’t quite add up. I added extra whipped cream and dissolved some gelatin in the custard part of the chocolate mousse as I was very worried it wouldn’t set – and it only was just stable.

    I found it relatively easy to make over two days (I did skip the aerated and sprayed chocolate) … I made all the layers (except choc mousse and ganache) and froze them together … then poured the mousse over the next day … froze it and served. I had placed it in the fridge for 3 hours before serving and sat it out for 20 minutes but mine was still frozen in the middle (I did one large cake) but I’m not sure if it would have coped with less fridge time without turning into a puddle.

    Absolutely delicious – but I will admit that mine was not as good as the real one from his restaurant (not using Amedei chocolate and fancy kirsch probably let me down!).

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  8. Spectacular effort. This recipe is one of the best cakes I’ve seen. Well done for trying it and putting it up here! Stuart

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  10. I must say that I was against Twitter at first too, but look at the results of those chance interactions. Looks super amazing. I would so loved to have tasted a slice. My friend raves about how it was his favourite dish at Fat Duck. Great work.

    Did you only make one or two cakes? I would have made four. 🙂

  11. wow… 3 days!?!

    I love watching the show but think… man I would NEVER go to that much trouble.. but OH how I’d love to taste.

    I want to aerate chocolate now 😛

    You guys deserve the biggest pat on the back ever!

    • Haha, yes 3 days! But they were’t full days if that makes you feel any better 🙂

      It was lots of fun – i’d definitely recommend making it with someone, so much more fun that way.

      And yes, everyone should know how to aerate chocolate 🙂

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