This delicious vegan Black Forest cake is much easier to make than it looks! The cake is based on my vegan chocolate cake recipe. Paired with boozy Kirschwasser cherries and homemade vegan whipped cream.
Growing up in a German household Black Forest Gateau (aka. Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) was the cake for celebrating every occasion. from birthday parties to anniversaries and family get-togethers.
The combination of chocolate and cherry always takes me straight back to my childhood. I mean, there's a reason a no-bake black forest gateau made it onto the cover of my cookbook!
What to expect from this recipe
✔️ Easy to make and based on my trusty vegan chocolate cake recipe.
✔️ Fluffy, moist, and tender chocolate cake.
✔️ Full of flavor but not overly sweet.
✔️ Uses frozen cherries and can be enjoyed any time of year.
✔️ Perfect for special occasions such as Mother's Day, and anniversaries. It also makes an epic Black Forest birthday cake.
✔️ Completely eggless, dairy-free, and nut-free with a kid-friendly option.
🍫 Ingredients needed
Notes about the ingredients
Authentic German Black Forest gateau uses Kirschwasser. Kirsch is a clear, cherry-flavored liquor. You can also use sweeter cherry brandy, regular brandy, or Amaretto here. For a kid-friendly version, try extra cherry juice or apple juice.
Non-dairy milk is mixed with apple cider vinegar which creates a vegan buttermilk substitute. From my experience, soy milk works best for creating buttermilk, but you can absolutely use another plant-based milk such as almond milk or oat milk depending on your dietary preferences.
Sunflower oil keeps the chocolate cake moist, you can also use light olive oil, vegetable oil, or rapeseed oil.
Dutch-processed cocoa powder gives the chocolate cake a deep intense flavor. You can also use unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder is more acidic and will yield a different result in the cake, both in taste and texture.
I use frozen sour cherries for this recipe as I love the bright red color they give. You can also use dark sweet cherries or fresh cherries.
As the recipe calls for unsweetened cherry juice, I usually defrost the cherries over a sieve for a couple of hours and use the drained juice that they naturally leak out. This saves buying extra cherry juice, and you can always top up the juice with a little water if the amount doesn't quite add up.
🥣 How to make vegan black forest cake
Bake the cakes
This step can be done a day in advance. In fact, I recommend making it a day ahead to allow the cakes time to chill. If you're stuck on time, still allow 2 hours for chilling as this makes the chocolate cake layers so much easier to work with.
First, add all the dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. In this case, that's plain flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.
Then add all of the wet ingredients to the same large bowl, that's the vegan buttermilk, vanilla extract, sunflower oil, and hot coffee, and gently whisk until the mixture is just combined.
Pour the vegan chocolate cake batter into either 2 x 8-inch cake tins that have been lined with parchment paper.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Make the cherry filling
To a small saucepan, add a third of the cherry juice along with the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk the mixture really well to form a paste (otherwise known as cornstarch slurry). This will help to prevent lumps in the cherry sauce.
Add in the remaining cherry juice and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture thickens. Make sure you continuously whisk the mixture to prevent it from burning to the bottom of the pan.
Once thickened, remove the cherry sauce from the heat and stir in the Kirschwasser.
Lastly, stir in the cherries and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
Assembling the cake
Once your cakes are chilled, very carefully cut off the domes using a cake leveler or serrated knife. Use a pastry brush to gently coat the top of the cake layers with syrup from the cherry mixture.
Pipe or use an offset spatula to spread a layer of vegan whipped cream on top of the first cake layer. Follow this with a layer of boozy cherries.
Sandwich the cake with the second cake layer and add more cherry syrup and coconut whipped cream.
Lastly, this wouldn't really be a German Black Forest cake without some chocolate shavings. So we're going a step further with beautiful chocolate curls!
👩🍳 Recipe Success Tips
- Measure the recipe in grams, measuring with a kitchen scale will always give you the most accurate results. I have included cup measurements in the recipe card below also, but I highly recommend that you measure the recipe in grams. If you plan on using cups, check out how to measure flour without a scale on Ambitious Kitchen.
- Preheat your oven properly, as the oven temperature of your oven affects the texture, flavor, and browning of the cake. Make sure you allow enough time for it to heat to the correct temperature. I usually aim to preheat the oven a good 30 minutes or so before baking.
- Don't overmix the cake batter, this can cause the gluten to become overworked. This can lead to a gummy and tougher consistency.
- Chill the cakes for a day ahead, or at the very least 2 hours ahead of assembling the cakes. Chilled cakes are so much easier to work with!
💬 Frequently Asked Questions
This cake tastes best when served fresh on the same day it's made. If you have leftovers, they will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
Yes, you can freeze the cake in individual servings and defrost for 3 hours before serving.
Yes, you can swap out the liquor for extra cherry juice or water.
You can use 3 x 6-inch cake tins and make a three-tiered Black Forest cake.
Yes, you can make the cherry filling a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge in an airtight container. It will thicken once chilled, so before assembling the cake, add it back to a saucepan and gently heat it to thin out the sauce again.
Make sure the mixture is at room temperature before applying it to the cake layers.
🍒 More Vegan Black Forest Desserts
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Vegan Black Forest Cake
- 280 g (2 ¼ cups) plain flour
- 250 g (1 ⅛ cups) soft brown sugar
- 80 g (16 tablespoons) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 2 ½ teaspoons (2 ½ teaspoons) baking powder
- 1 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon (¼ teaspoon) sea salt
- 236 ml (1 cup) soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
- 2 teaspoons (2 teaspoons) apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons (2 teaspoons) vanilla extract
- 100 ml (3.38 floz) sunflower oil, or light olive oil or rapeseed oil
- 200 ml (6.76 floz) hot strong coffee, *see recipe notes
- 300 g (2 ⅕ cups) frozen sour cherries, or frozen sweet cherries (defrosted, see recipe notes) or pitted fresh cherries
- 150 ml (⅔ cups) cherry juice, *see recipe notes
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) Kirschwasser , or cherry brandy/brandy/Amaretto or cherry juice/apple juice for alcohol-free
- 30 g (2 ½ tablespoons) granulated sugar
- 15 g (2 tablespoons) cornstarch
- 1 batch vegan whipped cream
- 150 g (5.3 oz) vegan dark chocolate
- Preheat your oven to 180°C (356°F). Line the base of two 8" cake tins with a circle of parchment paper and spray the sides with oil spray.
- Add the plain flour, soft brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and sea salt to a large mixing bowl, whisk and set aside. To make the vegan "buttermilk" add the soy milk and apple cider vinegar to a jug, stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Add the vegan buttermilk mixture, sunflower oil, vanilla extract, and hot coffee to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk carefully to combine. Do not overmix the batter.
- Divide the batter into the lined cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check they are ready by inserting a skewer, it should come out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for 15-20 minutes and then carefully turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool further. Refrigerate the cakes in an airtight container until ready to use. Chilling the cakes for a few hours (or overnight) makes them easier to work with and decorate.
- Defrost the cherries and reserve the liquid juice if using (see recipe notes below).
- Add 50ml of the cherry juice to a saucepan with cornstarch and sugar and whisk until evenly mixed. Add in the remaining cherry juice and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula or whisk. The mixture will thicken.
- Remove the cherry mixture from the heat and stir in the Kirschwasser. Allow the mixture to cool slightly for 10 minutes, then stir in the cherries. Cool for another 10 minutes until it reaches room temperature.
- Make a batch of vegan whipped cream.
- To make the chocolate curls, melt the chocolate and pour it into a small plastic container lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 20-30 minutes, then remove the block of chocolate from the container and use a potato peeler to create chocolate curls in long movements while applying pressure. I recommend wearing latex gloves for this step as the heat from your hands will melt the chocolate. If the chocolate gets too soft, return it to the freezer for 10 minutes and repeat.
- Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the domes from the tops of the cakes if there are any to get them as even as possible. If desired, you can leave the dome on the top cake, just like I did in the pictures shown. Place a tiny amount of whipped cream on a cake turntable and secure the first sponge layer on top of it.
- Using a pastry brush, coat the first cake layer with some syrup from the cherry filling. Use a piping bag or offset spatula to spread a layer of the vegan whipped cream, followed by a layer of cherry filling. Place the second cake layer on top and coat with more syrup and vegan whipped cream followed by chocolate curls and some fresh cherries if desired.
Serving and Storage
- Refrigerate the cake in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days. It is nest served on the same day its made. Remove from the fridge for up to an hour before serving.
- Nutritional information is based on the cake without vegan whipped cream.
- Defrost the cherries over a sieve or colander on top of a bowl for a couple of hours and reserve the drained juice for the recipe. This saves you from buying extra cherry juice, and you can top up the juice with a little water if the amount doesn't quite add up.
- Measure the recipe in grams: As with all baking, measuring with a kitchen scale will always give you the most accurate results.
- Don't overmix the cake batter: this can cause the gluten to become overworked.
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