How to make the perfect Black Forest Gateau – Interview with Head Chef Kevin Robertson Wells

A Seventies classic, the Black Forest Gateau is a layered dessert rich with chocolate, cherries and cream. With a contemporary twist on this classic cake, Head Chef Kevin Robertson-Wells divulges his secret to making the perfect Black Forest Gateau.

Tips on:

The ‘make or break’ ingredients

Invest in high quality chocolate, Griottine cherries soaked in Kirsch and make your own cherry coulis to create a truly luxurious gateau.

Getting the perfect layers

Getting the perfect layers is important for three reasons. Firstly, the layered construction of the gateau ensures it stands up on its own and can carry the weight of the ingredients set between each round of cake. Secondly, the layering process creates the different level of flavours that result in a delicious and balanced mouthful with every bite. And thirdly, the layers create that WOW factor when you cut into the finished gateau, revealing the decadent strata of chocolate, cherry and mousse in each delicious slice.

The layers (bottom to top):

  • Dark chocolate sponge soaked in kirsch
  • White chocolate mousse
  • Griottine cherries
  • Chocolate sponge
  • Cherry jelly
  • Dark chocolate mousse
  • Chocolate spray
  • Topped with false cherries

The best type of chocolate to use

I highly recommend Callebaut (73% cocoa solids) dark chocolate. This is a chocolate that I’ve used for a long time as a chef because it works really well in a mousse – it lends a Black Forest Gateau the perfect amount of dark chocolate bitterness to offset the sweetness of the filling. I also use Callebaut white chocolate and the sweetness of this too is a great combination with the richness of the dark chocolate.

Using the right kirsch

We use the Kirsch Pur d’Alsace from France because of its high potency and 45% alcohol.  It has the smell and instant taste of kirsch which is classic in any black forest gateau.

Glazed or fresh cherries

I never use glazed cherries because they’re too sweet and the cherry flavour can get lost alongside the dark chocolate. Instead I use (1) fresh cherries to make a coulis for the jelly and (2) Griottine cherries matured in kirsch.

The hardest part

The hardest part of the gateau is the layering. We have to make sure each of the six layers is even and fits perfectly into the mould so that it looks impeccable when served. The layering is also crucial in getting the right balance of flavours for the best taste – layers with perfect symmetry result in a cake that not only looks attractive but tastes perfect; you get the heavenly combination of rich chocolate, sour cherries and fragrant kirsch in every bite.

Key things to avoid

Two key things to avoid are to not make the mousse too thick or the jelly too hard. This can offset the texture and moisture levels of the final cake. It takes two days to make this gateau but, judging on the great comments we get, it’s definitely time well spent!

Decoration – the final touches

Our original gateau was garnished with chocolate shards but our new and improved version includes something extra special: we top it with edible false cherries to create an impressive garnish! Although these cherries take a day to make they are truly worth the time and effort. Here’s how we do it:

  • First we make a cherry coulis and freeze it
  • Then we prep a cherry jelly, which is made with fresh cherry juice
  • Frozen balls of coulis are then dipped into the ‘cherry jelly’ and shaped into the form of a cherry
  • The stalk is made from a dried vanilla pod and the final touches are tiny hand-picked mint leafs

For the ultimate finish we serve the gateau with chocolate sauce and a delicate kirsch ice cream. But even when freshly sliced and served on its own, our glamorous gateau is truly a winning dessert – each of the flavoursome layers boast an intense flavour and a delicate texture that oozes decadence and indulgence.

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