Materchef’s Black Forest Cake (or if you cook it my way: Michelle’s Snap Crackle Pop Cake)

(disclaimer-I was superbly bummed that for this cake, I did not have my sweet lens, as it would have compensated for the indoor night-time lighting)

I nearly backed out of doing this Masterchef cake at the last minute. It all looked too hard AND expensive: asking for a ton of fresh cherries which are hard to find this season and so very dear!

How did we come to be creating the Masterchef Black Forest Cake at all? Well its Shannon’s fault. The other day I asked our friend Shannon what kind of birthday cake he wanted me to make him for our small group dinner the next week. Of course I expected the usual ‘anything chocolate’. But one comes to realized that you should never expect the usual with Shannon. His reply was more along the lines of: ‘I have a vision. In this vision there are layers and there is creamy stuff inside.’

Solo Girl and I looked at each other and thought the same thing….the BlackForest Cake from the elimination challenge a couple weeks ago fit the bill entirely! Layers….check. Creamy stuff…..check. And the judges were looking for the satisfying crunch of a wellmade hazelnut praline mousse in a couple of the layers. So I assured Shannon we would bake him a extra special Snap Crackle Pop Cake.

And of course I barely gave it another thought till Monday night when I raced out to get the ingredients. After a cursory read through the recipe, I quickly some mental alterations to the recipe. First was the fresh cherries. Out they went and I instead bought two massive and perfectly respectable jars of cherries.

And after learning the Masterchef chocolate sponge would need a dreaded sugar thermometer, I sat down and Googled ‘Easiest Chocolate sponge cake’. Well, wouldn’t you?
I made all the components of the cake the night before.

These components were:

*the cakes use THIS recipe if you aren’t wanting to do the hard yards!
*the marscapone cream
*the the hazelnut praline mousse
*the cherry glaze
*the candied cherries
*the cherry compote

1. The cakes turned out fantastically, probably not super spongey, but light and delicious. I got ahead of myself and siced them into 5 layers instead of 6 before checking the recipe, which actually required 6 layers………..

2. The marscapone cream was fantastic. I have never used it before. It is like the thickest cream you can imagine. Mixed with a little vanilla bean paste and icing sugar, it tasted divine!

3. The hazelnut praline mousse…..I am so proud of myself for making this. I made the hazelnut praline which was a feat in itself. I still cannot believe that sugar melts when placed dry in a saucepan over low heat. Once it was cooled I processed it till crumbled andthen thought that was it. I didn’t read what else was required until a half hour before our visitors came!!!!! The chocolate custard came together perfectly though and the the finished product was to die!!!!!!!

4. The cherry processes. Did I already say that I decided not to put in real cherries? 🙂 Well, after the cherry compote didn’t thicken, I decided to combine the 3 cherry processes into one single uncomplicated process. I made a simple yet delicious cherry syrup using equal measurements of the cherry juice and plain sugar ( I had run out of caster sugar by this time!). Brought it to the boil and then let it simmer for a minute. Then I poured that glossy sticky syrup all over the entire amount of cherries (squeezed slightly to rid them of excess juice) required in the recipe.
Below is a collage of the layers as the recipe stated they be made.
You will find the recipe after!

Please make this Black Forest cake at least once in your lifetime. It is EXTREMELY edible, though you will require a small posse to help you get through the whole cake, and ingesting two pieces in rapid succession may make render you unable to stand up straight for a full day. Oh and I actually preferred it after it had been in the fridge overnight, absorbing all the flavours into the cake!

Ingredients:
For the chocolate sponge:
7 eggs
250g caster sugar
200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the candied cherries:
1/2cup semi-candied pitted cherries, ¼ cup juice reserved
1/4cup caster sugar

For the cherry compote:
1/3 cup caster sugar
600g pitted fresh cherries, halved
1 tbs brandy

For the cherry sugar syrup:
90g caster sugar
¼ cup cherry juice

For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse:
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned
300g chopped dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
300ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the mascarpone cream:
500g mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbs icing sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache (which is absolutely divine, don’t miss this part even if only for the finger-slurping bowl it will provide you afterwards. So good!) :
150ml cream
200g chopped dark chocolate
shaved chocolate
fresh cherries

Method:
1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C fan forced. Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.
2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.
3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks. Place in the blast chiller for 10-15 minutes until cake has cooled completely.
4. For the candied cherries, preheat oven to 120°C. Place cherries on a lined baking tray. Lightly dust with the sugar and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Remove and cool. Coat with remaining sugar. Set aside.
5. For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the brandy and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Strain, reserving liquor.
6. For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool.
7. For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely, in blast chiller for 5 minutes. Break praline into pieces. Place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
8. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl. Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Strain into a clean bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard. Add the vanilla and allow to cool. Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.
9. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.
10. For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.
11. To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup. Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.
12. Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup. Spread over half of the mascarpone cream. Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers. Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle. Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer. Repeat each layering process on the board (you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream.
13. Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated. When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with shaved chocolate, fresh cherries and candied cherries.

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