How Black Forest Cake May Have Gotten Its Name

Some cakes have simple, straightforward names that either reveal what their flavors are or what their textures might be. But others have more creative names which hint at a more interesting back story, of which the Black Forest cake is one.

While Germany really does have a  Black Forest region, the Black Forest cake — or Black Forest gateau as it is known in Great Britain — isn't named for the region located in southwest Germany's Baden-Württemberg region, per Tori Avey. Instead, the dessert is named for a sour cherry brandy which was first crafted in that part of the country called Schwarzwalder kirschwasser. This is what is traditionally used to soak the cake with. 

The sour cherry brandy is not an optional add-in or an afterthought, though. Thanks to strict regulations passed by the European Union, if the specialty liqueur is not part of the recipe, the cake is not considered to be a proper Black Forest cake. Like other pastries with European origins such as Turkish baklava (per Yahoo), the Bavarian pretzel (per Bakery and Snacks), and Poland's St Martin's Croissant (per Matador Network), the cake was granted protected status by the European Union in 2013 per Channel 4. Today, the method and ingredients involved in making a proper Black Forest cake are protected under the trading bloc's food quality scheme.

Different versions of Black Forest Cake exist

A version of Black Forest cake might have made its debut during the 16th century when bakers were experimenting by adding chocolate to cakes and cookies, per What's Cooking America. But the first proper Black Forest cake didn't appear until the 20th century. There is some dispute over who exactly deserves credit for making the dessert. 

One version states that credit belongs to dessert chef Josef Keller, who made what he called a "Schwarzwälder Kirsch," or a Black Forest Cherry, in 1915 when he mixed together cherries, schnapps, and cream, per Deutsche Welle (DW).  But there is also evidence to show that a Black Forest gateau was invented by pastry chef Erwin Hildenbrand in 1930 (per DW).

How Black Forest cake is made depends on where you are, per Tori Avey. Whether in Britain or in the U.S., the chocolate sponge is soaked with sugar syrup flavored with cherry brandy and topped with whipped cream. Germans enjoy their Black Forest gateau as a chocolate cake made with cream and buttercream, while Austrians and Swiss frost their Black Forest Cakes with whipped cream to which a stabilizer like gelatin or corn starch has been added. While many of these different cakes may be styled as "Black Forest," unless Schwarzwalder kirschwasser is involved, they cannot be considered the real thing no matter how gorgeous it looks or how delicious it tastes.