I recently visited the beautiful Black Forest (Schwarzwäld) region in south-western Germany. It truly is a land of rolling emerald hills, quaint little gasthausen, kuchen and cuckoo clocks. As we only had a shameful two days to whizz through this gorgeous countryside, we kept to the south (Südschwarzwäld) and tried to take in the highlights, dashing in and out of the lively Freiburg, waving to the endless herds of cows and sampling herring, smoked ham and venison at the Höhengasthof Grüner Baum http://www.gruenerbaum-feldberg.de/, where we eventually set up camp.
Now, given the nature of this blog, I’m sure you’re expecting me to insist here that in fact, no trip to the Black Forest is complete without trying Schwarzwälder kirschtorte, Black Forest cake. This is a little bit true. However, I must confess that this cake is actually my all-time, least favourite cake. For me, there is a heck of a lot going on in a Black Forest cake. Given the choice, I will always pick savoury over sweet foods. However, my favourite sweets tend to be of the ‘English’ variety: scones, biscuits, cobblers and puddings. Crema Catalana and galaktoboureko, sweets from the countries of my parents, are far too creamy for this chica!
So, on this recent trip to the Black Forest, I decided to put aside my ill feelings towards this ‘bad party-in-my-mouth’ cake and try le originale Schwarzwälder kirschtorte (such a great name… just rolls off the tongue). And not just any kirschtorte, but a slice from the first café to make and sell this world-famous cherry explosion: Café Shäfer. This tucked away and very retro little gem exists in the cute-as-a-button town of Triberg, deep in the heart of the Black Forest. After reading through the write-up on this café in my guidebook, I thought it would be bursting at the seams with desperate tourists, vying for that photo and yet another place to tick off on their list. But nicht, it was quiet and virtually empty, except for two other couples. It seemed that on this fortunate day, all of the other tourists were having a grand ol’ time taking photos by the ‘largest cuckoo clock in the world!’. Café Shäfer, we discovered, was full of kitschy fun. Pink plastic tablecloths, a menu featuring vol-a-vents and other treasures from the 70s, oodles of strudels and kuchen. Delightful!
Part of me wanted to ditch this effort to consume my most-despised cake in favour of a cherry tart or baked cherry cheesecake, but nein, I had to stick to the plan. I reminded myself of the time I went to the Cinque Terre and almost stopped at the Quattro Terre, because my legs decided they’d had enough. A wise soul had asked me, ‘do you really want to go home knowing you only hiked four of the five towns?’. I had conquered all cinque of the terre, and I was going to conquer Schwarzwälder kirschtorte, if it bloody killed me.
Thankfully, this piece was shared between two of us, and I can safely say it was the best version of my most-despised cake that I had ever had. Because I’m not a fan of cream, I discovered that the Kirschwasser (cherry schnapps) is actually added to the cream, and not the sponge, as it is often done at home. This made the cream less dairy tasting and also left the sponge alone to simply be a sponge. It all tasted rather delicate, light, not too sweet and actually did melt in my mouth. There… I said it! And now that I have had the best and original version of this ‘disco’ cake, never again shall the combination of cherry, sponge and cream pass these lips, unless I find myself once again in Triberg!
Image by plusgood