Forêt Noire is the type of food that tricks me into thinking I can handle what seems like a normal portion of it only to have me wave a white flag even before half of said portion is gone.
Congratulations are in order, dear dessert: you make a sorry excuse out of someone who is supposed to have mad cake-gobbling skills. Don’t throw yourself too wild a party to celebrate, because you’ll need all that precious strength to fight me off when I come back fork in hand for a do-over.
I could probably have taken more elaborate pictures, but I’ve been dreaming of putting the from-tiramisù-to-forêt-noire idea to the test for a while now and I went into shoot first, ask questions later mode. I’m too blissed out on cake to be apologetic for it.
The sponge cake (génoise) recipe was adapted from the one for the tiramisù recipe found over at Veggywood, who adapted it from Insomniac Chef, who adapted it from Candace Naomi Sakuda. I could go on all day crediting lovelies, but I think that’s it.
As always, I weigh most ingredients. I’m adding the equivalence between parentheses for those who don’t, just keep in mind this one was tested with weights only.
For the Chocolate Génoise:
Non-stick cooking spray
200 g (1 cup) evaporated cane juice (granulated sugar)
75 g (1/3 cup) nondairy butter (or use 1/3 cup vegetable oil, no need to cream with sugar)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch
190 g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
40 g (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder (or use 20 g unsweetened cocoa powder and 20 g Dutch-process cocoa powder)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup nondairy milk
For the Chantilly filling:
1 container (1 pound) refrigerated Healthy Top (Note that you can use whipped coconut cream in place of Healthy Top, as it doesn’t seem to be available anymore.)
2 tablespoons amaretto (or regular) agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A few drops pure almond extract
For dipping the Génoise:
For the cherries:
10 vegan maraschino cherries, patted dry (be sure they’re pitted and stemmed) OR reconstitute 10 dried cherries by soaking them in 1/4 cup hot water with a few drops pure almond extract until they plump up, about 15 minutes, then drain and pat dry
For decoration purposes:
Frozen dark chocolate bar to shave right on top of the cake
To make the génoise: Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm) baking pan with spray.
Using an electric mixer, cream together sugar, butter, extracts and cornstarch.
In a separate large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
Add dry ingredients to wet, along with milk, and stir just until combined and smooth.
Place batter into prepared pan, and spread it evenly with an offset spatula.
Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Carefully flip over a cooling rack, let cool completely.
Once cooled, cut into 24 lady finger strips/skinny bars. Be gentle, as the génoise will be fragile.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4) again. Carefully place all the bars on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake for another 15 minutes. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely.
In the meantime, make the Chantilly filling: Whip all ingredients together using a handheld mixer in a large bowl for about 3 minutes, until fluffy.
Important: Keep a little less than 1/2 cup of it on the side, in the fridge, to put a touch of decoration to the finished product.
I use a 10 x 7-inch (25 x 18-cm) ceramic dish to assemble the dessert, but an 8-inch (20-cm) square dish would be fine too.
Stir the optional Kirschwasser into the cooled tea. Place into a shallow dish. Briefly and carefully dip each fragile génoise bar into the tea, letting the excess liquid drip back into the shallow dish. Cover the bottom of the pan/dish with half (12) of the génoise bars.
Use half of the Chantilly filling, and plop it onto the layer of génoise bars, carefully spreading it evenly with an offset spatula. Randomly and lightly press cherries into the Chantilly filling. Dip each of the (12) remaining génoise bars into the cooled tea (again, letting the excess drip off), and cover the Chantilly filling with them.
Use the remaining Chantilly filling to cover the second layer of génoise bars, carefully spreading it evenly with an offset spatula.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Give the whole dish at least 1 hour in the fridge before covering it with plastic wrap, so that the Chantilly doesn’t adhere to the wrap.
Don’t forget to cover and place the remaining Chantilly filling back into the fridge, too.
When the time finally comes to partake, there are various ways to serve this: Cover the whole thing with chocolate sprinkles you will use a potato peeler or a chef’s knife to shave off a frozen dark chocolate bar, decorating the cake with the remaining Chantilly, using a pastry bag and the tip of your choice. Scoop out portions into dessert dishes. It’s a little less good-looking than what follows, but it does the trick.
For a cleaner portioning, you could do what I did up there and use a 3-inch deep, 4-inch wide plastic cutter to get 2 pretty servings from the middle of the pan (it takes some wiggling and careful prodding to plate it, but if my clumsy hands can do it, so can yours) and scoop what remains in bowls. Decorate with chocolate shavings and Chantilly clouds. Note that placing the cutters into the dish and then freezing it all for 1 hour makes it easier to transfer. Just be sure to give it some fridge time to thaw out a little once plated.
Or you could also make individual servings in pretty dessert dishes by doing the layering in there directly: no transferring involved, far less mess and less headaches.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.