The Black Forest Gateau recipe is one of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes, famous from the Fat Duck and the In Search of Perfection series. It’s demanding, expensive and difficult to make. But is it worth the effort?

Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection recipes don’t get much more challenging than his Perfect Black Forest Gateau recipe.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

It’s an insane endeavour, ideally requiring over £100 of ingredients and a further £100 of narrow-purpose “kitchen” gear, including whipping siphons, vacuum storage bags and paint sprayer guns.

Also, the quality bar for this dish is set pretty high. Unlike Heston’s Perfect Spaghetti Bolognese recipe, or the In Search of Perfection Bangers and Mash recipe, Heston’s BFG recipe has been a regular feature of the tasting menu at the Fat Duck. Here’s one they served to us when we were there:

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’ve also been lucky enough to receive a Heston Blumenthal Black Forest Gateau recipe Fat Duck birthday cake version that looks like this:

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

The BFG Fat Duck Black Forest Gateau birthday cake in cross section:

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

So that’s our challenge. Re-create Heston’s most technically demanding and intricate In search of Perfection recipe for Black Forest Gateau recipe, with a signature dessert from a 3 Michelin-starred restaurant as our benchmark.

We’re serving this at our usual 10pm Supper Club (making any Heston recipe means you won’t eat until that time of night) with a much simpler but equally famous main course, 72-hour rib of beef, served with Heston’s Mashed Potato recipe.

 

SUMMARY

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’ll be making the Heston’s BFG recipe as per the exact In Search of Perfection recipe book specifications. This actually results in you having 3 small loaf-shaped cakes, rather than one single one.

Here’s a picture of the finished BFG in the recipe book:

heston-bfg-a

And here’s a video of Heston making the Black Forest Gateau recipe on the In Search of Perfection TV show:

 

The cake and its component parts are in and out of the freezer quite a bit. Which means, like the Sarah Lee Black Forest Gateaux we grew up with, it’s fine to leave the other two in there once completed. You can defrost the remaining ones for dessert whenever you feel like having one (or until you next see your mate Adam, because he’s wanted to try this dessert since forever-ago). Just be sure to leave plenty working space in your freezer.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Recipes: Heston’s Perfect BFG Black Forest Gateau recipe

Special Equipment: Whipping siphon, Paint Sprayer gun, vacuum sealer or space bags, drilled Tupperware, 3 metal loaf tins
Special Ingredients: Kirsch, Amarena Cherries
Time: 2 – 3 days
Cost: £40
Serves: 12 – 24 (makes 3 cakes)
Difficulty: Dante Must Die

As with all Perfection recipes, Heston specifies some very specific, and very pricey, ingredients. We’d sort-of agree, but even we have to make some concessions to price and availability. Especially when there’s every chance we might screw things up.

Chocolate

Most people would argue for Valrhona, but in the In Search of Perfection show & book Heston rigorously tests a variety of luxury chocolates and discovers that Amedi chocolate blah blah blah.

Yeah, right. This recipe uses about one-and-a-half kilos of various strength chocolate. Like we’re gonna spend over £100 on it. You’re meant to use 500g just for the chocolate flocking in the final stage, and most of that will end up sprayed around the cake, not on it. Leftovers would get tipped into the recycling caddy, unless you had anything else in your house that needed spraying with chocolate.

heston-bfg-b

We got our chocolate from Lidl. The quality is absolutely fine and they have a good selection of the required strengths for Heston’s Black Forest Gateau recipe, and all at incredibly reasonable prices (no more than £1.09 per block).

Cherries

We also got our cherries from Lidl. In truth I’ve been buying jars of cherries in syrup whenever I see them for the past 4 years (yes, in service of this recipe). We’ve got loads jammed into the back of cupboards covering a wide range of Best-Before dates.

heston-bfg-c

We used these Amarena ones. They cost us £2.99 at Lidl but the fancy jar is similar to the Amarena Fabbri cherries that cost £14 in Harvey Nichols. They’re not in syrup but we also reckon that at a push you could use Opies Cherries in Kirsch – they certainly get the Kavey seal of approval.

Kirsch

A google search for the specific recommendation of Franz Fies Kirsch just turns up links to the company’s German website or other posts about making Heston’s Black Forest Gateau recipe. Since we couldn’t find that particular brand we thought we’d just get a bottle of really posh stuff from Selfridges.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

I took one look at the price, laughed out loud, and then walked out of the shop.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Heston’s favourite supermarket Waitrose had a much more reasonable alternative. We’ve put our trust in their head wines & spirits buyer and this seven-and-a-half-quid bottle.

Cream

Full stop every single report on the Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau BFG recipe tells us that it’s is a bit too chocolatey. This seems to be a common fault in Heston’s Chocolate recipes. Both of Heston’s popping candy cake recipes and the 2008 Fat Duck birthday cake needed loads of extra dairy to balance them out.

heston-bfg-d

The description of Heston’s BFG recipe and the accompanying photos contradict each other. The recipe tells you to make the top and sides of Heston Blumenthal’s Black Forest Gateau out of chocolate mousse, with just a thin layer of Kirsch cream above the flourless chocolate sponge. Same for the TV show, the Kirsch cream is just one thin slab, like the sponge or the aerated chocolate layers.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

However, in every photo you’ll see, and “all” the Black Forest Gateaux we’ve been served at the Fat Duck have a thick, white layer of subcutaneous cream to balance out all the dark chocolate richness. We’ll be doubling the recipe’s quantities for the Kirsch cream layer, and copying this thick cream outer-buffer. Hopefully making for a more balanced and enjoyable dish.

 

REPORT

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau BFG recipe is best broken down into multiple recipes which can all then be assembled together. Some can be tackled a day or more ahead, and then the rest assembled on the day of serving. We split this over 3 days, with final presentation on the 3rd.  (Technically 4th, due to “errors”).

Guys, if ever there was a Heston Blumenthal In Search of Perfection recipe where it was appropriate to play Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi’s theme for Pacific Rim, it’s this one.

Here goes.

Step 1: Aerated Chocolate (Day 1)

The aerated chocolate layer in Heston’s Black Forest Gateau recipe is the most durable, so it’s probably the best to start with. Also, if it fails you can just make twice as much flourless sponge to replace it (Heston’s recipe allows this).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’ve tried to make this many times in the past and we swore that if we didn’t get it right for this recipe we’d throw away our siphon and never do it again.

The science behind it is sound enough. Melt chocolate then make it fizzy using a whipping siphon. Vacuum seal it and it’ll make the bubbles in the chocolate expand and you’ll end up with a kind of home-made Aero.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

So, melt some chocolate…

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

…add groundnut oil to thin it (this will help it move through the siphon and make the set chocolate softer and easier to cut).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Then pour it into a warmed siphon. Charge with nitrous oxide and keep in warm water to prevent the chocolate from setting.

Warning: we had to stop at two nitrous oxide charges. Our siphon has a little pressure-release hole on the plastic drum that holds the charger. The same drum your palm is wrapped around as you screw the charge into the siphon. On the second charge there was a blow-back of excess gas – ice cold stuff that froze a patch of skin on my palm. The scar is only minor, but you really ought to wear protective gloves if your siphon is similar.

(Also, my mate who works in lab didn’t appreciate the panicked and confusing call I subjected him to, rambling on about frostbite and that scene where the T-1000 shatters. I think I might also have mentioned Timecop).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

With the chocolate aerated you can now spray it into your plastic container. The fizzy, wet chocolate will splutter out in a way that will inspire anyone with a soul to think of the Viz Profanisaurus. It’ll have a foamy appearance, as it’s now full of very tiny bubbles.

We’ve spent £20 on space bags over the years and they’ve never worked for us. This time round we’re going to use our food-saver vacuum sealer, which will pull the air out and seal the bag completely.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’re using three small containers rather than one big one. Because we don’t have any food saver bags large enough to fit our biggest tupperware container in. And our experiment to fuse two separate bags into one giant bag didn’t go well at all.

We also skipped drilling holes in two lids, and instead tried stretching clingfilm across the top. This was another economically-motivated step: we didn’t want to ruin three good containers by cutting holes in their tops.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Working this way isn’t ideal because you can’t guarantee you’ll fill each tub equally, and some bubbles may start to pop as you seal the other tubs. One of our cheaper tupperware containers was almost folded in half by the force of the vacuum sealer (probably less rigid because it didn’t have a lid). A lot of panic and comedy ensured trying to sort this out, but the chocolate ended up being squished flat between the crumpled container and the plastic bag.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Heston’s Black Forest Gateau recipe tells you to now put these in the fridge, but we sent them straight to the freezer in the hopes that they’d set a bit quicker and preserve more of those bubbles.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

In the end two of our three slabs worked out. With the containers having a greater combined surface area than the one big tub Heston suggests the chocolate was more spread out, so this layer ended up thinner than we’d have liked (though this turned out to be a good thing, of our many accidents the only good one).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Our bubbles were kinda small, but they were definitely there. Success!

Step 2: Madeline Biscuit Base (Day 1)

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Making this part of Heston’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe feels odd.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Whisking one lonely egg is fine, but the amount of icing sugar you then put in turns the mixture into a cement-like paste. Insanely thick.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Then in goes a token amount of flour and some honey.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

A good slosh of milk will thin the mixture down, essential as you’ll need it to be at least pourable to get it into the baking tin.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

After ten minutes in the oven you need to cut the biscuit (ours was more of a sponge) into three.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

You’ll still need to trim your madeleines later on, but it’s easier if you do this bit now before they go really crispy. No jagged edges on the finished cake.

Now turn the heat right down and carry on cooking. They’re meant to only need ten minutes, but even after 30 at the lower heat our Heston BFG recipe base had turned out wonderfully sweet, delicate and creamy. But it wasn’t at all biscuity.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We reckon this might be due to the impreciseness of our oven at the lower end of the temperature scale.

No time to repeat this bit though, we need to press on with the next step on Day 1 before we can go to bed.

Step 3: Flourless Chocolate Sponge (Day 1)

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’ve made this bit of Heston’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe a few times now, and it’s actually a lot more simple than you might expect. Start by separating loads of eggs.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Seven yolks and five whites, to be precise. The white’s we’ll get to later, but for now blend the yolks with half the sugar until thick and creamy. I always get bored of doing this before the optimum level of whipped fluffiness. This time I held my resolve and after just five minutes our crappy whisk attachment had done the job.

There’s a lot of different chocolate layers in Heston’s Perfect BFG recipe, so it’s a fair bet you’ll be looking at lots of photos of bowls of melted chocolate during this report. Here’s one now:

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

This recipe is already hard work, let’s not make it any worse by arsing about with bain maries and the like. We’re melting our chocolate in the microwave.

heston blumenthal at home salted butter caramel rolos recipe hawksmoor rolo salt chocolate recipes

I was a bit nervous about doing this (being still mentally scarred from badly burning chocolate in microwave as a child) but, let’s face it, we’ve got a couple of kilos of chocolate in the house at this point so we might as well risk it. If you use 15 second bursts and keep stirring then the microwave technique works brilliantly. We recommend it.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Once you’ve let it cool this melted chocolate, along with some cocoa powder goes into the fluffy yolks.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Next up, whisk the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

And then just combine, pour into a lined tray, then bake.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

20 minutes later you’ll be rewarded with airily light, moist chocolate sponge. If there’s no other part of Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau recipe you try out then at least have a go at this bit. It’s a fantastic sponge recipe.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Ensure your sponge, madeleine base and aerated chocolate are all securely sealed in tupperware before going to bed. You’ve worked hard on these, and you’ve got a big day ahead tomorrow.

Step 4: Chocolate Ganache (Day 2)

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

So here’s yet another way to melt chocolate – dump on a load of piping-hot cream.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Heston advises this technique, but we don’t. Unless your chocolate has been chopped up very finely then there always seem to be a few un-melted lumps (We don’t chop our chocolate, just bash it against the side of the counter until it feels appropriately broken).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Our rescue trick is to fill the now empty cream-pan with a slug of kettle water then pop the bowl over it. Stir on a very low hob until the mixture is completely smooth.

At which point you’ll want to add butter, liquid glucose and a pinch of salt. This might seem needlessly complicated but apparently this is to give your ganache the perfect silky texture. You can also use this recipe to make actual chocolate truffles.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

The ganache needs to be piped onto the cakes in neat little lines. But when it comes out of the bowl it’ll be warm and very runny. A mug or glass is useful to hold the piping bag you’re decanting the ganache into.

Don’t be an idiot and use one of your fancy piping bags with a hole already in the bottom. Otherwise you’ll just have to face the humiliating sight of your ganache running straight through the bag and filling up the inside of your pint glass.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Use a food sealer bag instead, when you’re ready to pipe snip a tiny bit of one corner off.

Note: When it came time to pipe this ganache onto the cakes we barely had enough. We’d definitely recommend you make 50% extra for your own Heston Blumenthal Perfection BFG, we will for our next one. If we ever make another.

Step 5: First Assembly (Day 2)

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

There’s eight total layers to the Heston Blumenthal Black Forest Gateau recipe, so it’s quite comforting to be able to assemble over 50% of them here. Take comfort, you more than half way there now.

Heston’s recipe and measurements for the Perfect BFG are all quite specific. There are some very exact sizes of cake pan you need to use in order to get the layers a particular shape and thickness. This is because Heston’s Black Forest Gateau is meant to be assembled inside some equally specifically-sized loaf tins.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’re deliberately using these foil trays instead of loaf tins because:

  1. We priced up those loaf tins and it’s about thirty quid for the three of them we’d need. And we’ve quite frankly spent enough good money on this recipe. (Which is, let’s face it, just a moderately posh chocolate cake)
  2. I wasn’t confident about my ability to get the frozen cakes out of the tins without some slapstick mauling. We figured we could avoid this by having foil trays that we could simply tear open.

The tins need to be lined with clingfilm, which will help the cakes keep their shape and make them easier to lift out when frozen. To be honest if you’re using foil you could probably skip this step of Heston’s BFG recipe.

Remember the cardboard wrapping all those bars of chocolate we’ve been melting came in? Well now’s the time to test your Blue Peter skills as we’re going to cut a couple of them up into templates to make sure your layers will fit.

Heston Blumenthal’s

Just keep snipping away until you have a cardboard rectangle that’ll easily go inside whatever tin you’re using. If you’re following our advice and going with a surrounding cream layer then make sure your templates leave a gap that’ll accommodate this.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Now use your templates to cut the Madeleine Biscuit, Aerated Chocolate and Flourless Sponge layers of your Heston Blumenthal Black Forest Gateau to size.

Heston Blumenthal’s

Start by laying down the Madeleine Biscuit which, in something of a curveball manoeuvre, needs to be spread with apricot jam. (And don’t smear the jam on the clingfilm, like that condescending Independent journalist did). The jam acts as a glue to hold the next layer in place.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Place your aerated chocolate neatly on top. Can we all pretend we can’t see that crack in the bottom corner? Thanks.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Your now-cooled ganache should be piped on next, in two neat lines with cherries in between.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Or you can splodge it on haphazardly with a teaspoon like I’ve done in this second picture.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Finally press your trimmed sponge on top of the ganache, pushing down slightly to flatten the ganache.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

This is a good time to drizzle the sponge with a mixture of cherry-syrup and Kirsch (if done earlier the cake can be sloppy and difficult to handle).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Now stand back and admire your handiwork. Five beautifully lined up layers of Heston Blumenthal’s Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe, with a neat space around the edge for the Kirsch cream to go into.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Step 6: Kirsch Cream (Day 2)

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’re making twice as much of this Kirsch cream as the recipe calls for to ensure we get our chocolate / dairy balance right.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

It begins with yet more bloody yolk and sugar whisking. Honestly, Heston’s BFG recipe is as much egg as it is chocolate.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Heat this in a pan along with milk and Kirsch.

Now, cream whipping. Heston being Heston, you can’t whip the cream as you normally would. Instead you’re meant to take it to some half-way house of being “pourable, like yoghurt”. Whipped, and yet not whipped.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Now, I have replayed the bit of the In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau episode where Heston makes his Kirsch Cream layer many, many times and I still can’t quite see the exact consistency we’re aiming for. I whisked it up until it was “thick but pourable” which luckily happened to be about the same time as I got bored of whisking.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

You now need to combine the lot in a pan, add gelatine and warm it to a quite alarming 85°C. I was really uncomfortable doing this because of all the egg yolks. 85°C seemed like the kind of temperature that’d pretty much scramble our eggs.

Sure enough, a test-slurp revealed a weirdly savoury-tasting custard. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it didn’t taste like a dessert either. This would turn out to be irrelevant later.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

There was so much of this cream that we had to decant it into our largest mixing bowl for pouring.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

When pouring the cream into your cake tins be sure to leave enough space for the chocolate mousse layer of your Heston Blumenthal Perfection BFG. Which I didn’t really do here.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Unsurprisingly, we had some cream left over. Not a whole lot though, so making double was a good call. Your three filled trays now need to go into the freezer, not the fridge. You’ll want them frozen for the chocolate flocking layer to work. Between 2 and 4 hours should do it.

Step 7: Chocolate Mousse (Day 2)

A curse upon Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau Chocolate Mousse recipe, and all its generations!

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Let’s not even bother with a photo of a bowl of melted chocolate. But, surprise-bloody-surprise, we’ve got to whisk egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

There is then some further kerfuffle involving milk and warming the entire business to that disturbing 85°C temperature again (I’d swear he says 80 in the video, I’ll have to check).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Anyhow, you need to add this lot to more of that “lightly whipped but still pourable cream”. However, unlike the Kirsch cream, there’s no gelatine to hold this mix together.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We whipped it as lightly as we thought we could get away with, then mixed in chocolate and poured the lot on to our partly frozen moulds.

Now, in the video when Heston scoops out his cherry indentations with a melon baller you can see the mousse glooping and splodging at his touch, so it’s obviously quite soft and fragile. We didn’t expect it to be this sloppy though.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

After an hour in the freezer the mousse was still more or less liquid. Maybe it’s a fault of our fairly basic appliance but we had to set this in the freezer completely overnight before it was solid enough to work with.

Step 8: Second Assembly (Day 3)

In an ideal world this cake could be finished in 2 days. Or one very busy one. Our floppy mousse problem (which would rear it’d head again later) made this more like 3-and-a-half.

In this step you’re going to do loads of minor yet vital jobs that’ll put the perfect finishing touches to Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau recipe.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

First we need to get the thing out of those foil trays. Easy enough, they’re disposable foil so just tear them off. You are allowed to roar heroically and theatrically as you rip the foil open, but I can report from experience that gasping and whining when you cut your finger on the sharp foil edges may undermine the effect.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

That done you need to trim the cakes into more presentable rectangles. I won’t deny that after squaring off the cakes I was pretty excited by how close they looked to the real thing. I’m easily pleased.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

At least they looked close to the real thing for about 4 minutes. That floppy mousse on top started to wilt and a bit of rapid edge-planing was required. That done the un-sprayed Perfection Black Forest Gateaux went straight back into the freezer where they couldn’t get into any more trouble.

As each BFG goes in and out of the freezer it’s a good time to create those melon-baller indentations that you’ll be sitting cherries into. You’re meant to scoop them out, but we found gently pushing down worked better in our case.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

The excess mousse squirts up through the hole in the centre and the edges create a mound (like a meteorite crater) that prevents you from having to dig too deep. Handy for us since our mousse layers weren’t as deep as we’d have liked.

HINT: Heston’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe tells you to create eight indentations for the cherries on top of your finished BFG. If you’re making all three cakes like we are (which you might as well because otherwise you’ll just be throwing even more food away) then we’d say this is a good point to count how many cherries are remaining in your jar. Don’t make more indentations than you have cherries!

Next use a skewer to drill a core into the cakes and drizzle down even more of the concentrated cherry syrup from the jar. If you haven’t got any, or used cherries in kirsch, then we reckon cherry jam thinned with a little water would probably work.

Get these cakes immediately back in the freezer now. You don’t need them to be frozen solidly right the way through (although obviously ours were following the overnight setting) but you absolutely must have the surface frozen for the next step. The Chocolate flocking

Step 9: Chocolate Flocking

Here’s another step we hated.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

To finish his Perfect Black Forest Gateau’s presentation Heston Blumenthal makes the loathsome and unreasonable request that you spray it in melted dark chocolate mixed with a little bit of groundnut oil.

Granted, this’ll give your BFG a really cool chocolate-suede finish, just like flocking. But you need to melt half a kilo of chocolate and buy a £40 paint sprayer gun to do it.

A word on paint spray guns. We’ve seen attempts made at Heston’s Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe using assorted manual spraying devices. In principle these should work just as well as a forty quid power tool and it’s an intelligent and effective way of not wasting stupid money on making a fancy chocolate cake.

The problem lies with the viscosity of the melted chocolate. Even a powerful pump-action manual sprayer might not generate enough force to effectively spray the melted chocolate. What you need is a powerful electric motor. And even with our £40 sprayer we’ve still had the chocolate spraying out in one thin jet-like line rather than a fine mist.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

In fact we’re already on to our second paint sprayer, having attempted Heston’s chocolate flocking spray painting a few years before. A warning to the curious: these paint guns need careful maintenance. Oil them before and after use and when not in use if at all possible.

Aside from the aerated chocolate this is easily the most wastefully expensive layer to make. Obviously there’s the cost of the paint spray gun itself (which you’ll never be able to use for painting for obvious hygiene –and flavour– reasons). Then there’s the fact that Heston asks you to melt a full 500g of chocolate to make this layer of the Perfection Black Forest Gateau work. Combined with 150g of groundnut oil that’s 650g of ingredients, of which only a tiny fraction will be required to create the thin suede-like membrane of chocolate flocking.

The flocking effect works because the droplets of fine chocolate spray mist will freeze instantly upon contact with the frozen surface of the cake. If you can build up a thin but even coating of this you’ll have your chocolate flocking effect, just like they use at the Fat Duck.

In practice this is a lot harder than it sounds. And it already sounds quite difficult. Our spraying was meant to happen on Sunday evening but didn’t take place until Monday night due to the 2-hour freezing palaver with the chocolate mousse.

The garden is the best place to do this messy job, but by the time we started it was pitch black outside (and well after bedtime) so there wasn’t enough light to work by. Even if there had been the power tool noise of the paint spray gun would’ve woken up the whole neighbourhood -and I’d have been drummed out of town to live somewhere wretched, like Goldborne or Formby.

As it was the noise still woke the entire household up (and next door were throwing me dark glances for weeks afterwards). This wasn’t helped by the fact that our spray gun had seized up. In the end I had to dig out one of those useless syringes from the Worm Pizza experiment / fiasco and inject tiny amounts of cooking oil into the piston mechanism until it released.

This involved a lot of noise, both from the machine as I fruitlessly depressed the trigger, and from me as I swore my head off in frustration. It stopped working again halfway through.

Since we couldn’t do this outside I set up a big shielded work area using protective work area using an old cardboard box.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Let’s pretend this is an ideal world, where you can just melt some chocolate and stir in some groundnut oil. The load your paint sprayer and get to work.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Each cake should be kept in the freezer until it’s ready for spraying for maximum crispness. You really need to stand well back in order to get an even misty coating on your cakes. Actually you need to stand far enough back that you risk spraying the rest of the kitchen as well as your cake, which is what I managed to do. By the time I’d finished the whole place looked like the set of a 9½ Weeks reboot starring Veronica Moser.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

In spite of a jam halfway through and the chocolate mist turning into a thin jet that created some ugly splatters we managed to get through this step. Heston advises 30g of groundnut oil per 100g of chocolate. We survived by adding around 40g per 100g of chocolate. And by using the darkest 80% chocolate that we could get our hands on, the stuff that goes really runny when you melt it.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We’re worried that we’ll end up using this technique again, if only to justify the cost of purchasing the paint sprayer gun. However, we’d really recommend you make a Japanese mirror glaze, then sprinkle on finely grated chocolate if you’re after some slick presentation. In fact we’d say do whatever you can to avoid having to do chocolate flocking.

Step 10: Final Touches

Once the chocolate flocking has set (and in our case, the frozen-solid cake defrosted over the course of 4 – 6 hours in the fridge, just like a Sarah Lee Black Forest Gaeau) then you’ve only a few more steps before you’ve completed Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau recipe.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Plonk a cherry into each of the melon-baller indentations then shove a dried vanilla stalk into the hole in the cherry where the stem used to be.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

You’re meant to twist the vanilla pods to emulate the gnarled effect of cherry stalks and dry them overnight. Our vanilla pods were a bargain off ebay, but they dried themselves out long ago, so we just snipped a few bits to size using some scissors. (HINT: If you have to scrape out the pods for this and are left with unused vanilla seeds you can put them into a jar of vanilla bean paste, if you have one handy).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

You’re also meant to bake an entire sheet of extra Madeleine biscuit base on which to serve Heston’s Black Forest Gateau (technically three sheets, one per cake). Please, feel free to go back and bake a whole extra load of those, then cool them and paint them with melted chocolate using a dedicated wood-grain roller, just like Heston suggests.

We’d had enough by this point, so we just carved up some chocolate to sprinkle round the edges and served the thing on a wooden board. (Incidentally, it looks like once you’ve served the cake you’re meant to just bin the biscuit base).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

We also skipped spraying Kirsch into the air with an atomiser. Heston says this will bring the magic and aroma of the Black Forest to your dining room / kitchen. To us it just felt like throwing good ingredients into thin air.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

And, finally, after days of work and hardship, Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe is complete.

VERDICT

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

It feels odd calling Heston’s Perfect BFG a “cake”, since apart from the Madeleine base there’s barely a gram of flour in the entire thing. As you’ve seen us mention (repeatedly) the whole Heston Blumenthal Black Forest Gateau is made mainly out of chocolate, eggs, sugar and cream.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

If you watch the full episode of the In Search of Perfection TV show Heston and Fat Duck head pastry chef Jocky Pietrie try a preposterous combination of layers and textures to create the Perfect Black Forest Gateau recipe.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

The combination they’ve hit on works incredibly well. Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau is so rich and chocolatey that it needs those fluffy mousses and airy flourless sponges to prevent it being overwhelming.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

That extra dairy buffer we created by doubling the Kirsch Cream proved to be essential. Perhaps it’s just our preference, but it seemed to be the main thing that balanced out Heston’s Black Forest Gateau. Besides, if adding more cream is good enough for the Fat Duck then it’s good enough for us (though I assure you our BFG isn’t good enough for the Fat Duck, you can see how badly ours had deteriorated by the final serving).

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

Given that there’s only a few cherries in the middle and on top Heston’s Perfection BFG has more cherry flavour than we expected, but this is entirely down to pouring the syrup from the jar onto the cake. It works.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

The truth is though that I’m the worst person to ask for an opinion on Heston’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe. People who knew what we’d gone through to make it were quick to heap praise on our creation when they tried it, anyone else just said it was a very nice chocolate cake.

But, after 4 years of toil to get this right, and even with it’s droopy mousse and spongy base, this doesn’t taste like chocolate to me, or like cake. It tastes like victory.

heston blumenthal in search of perfection perfect black forest gateau recipe cherries franz fies kirsch recipes

NEXT TIME

Hahaha! “Next time”.

Further Reading

Heston-Blumenthal-In-Search-of-Perfection-All-16-recipes-cooked-finished-complete

Click here for all 16 of Heston Blumenthal’s In Search of Perfection recipes

Independent – Man Vs Gateau, an article more dedicated to cheap shots and fulfilling a word count. But at least it’s a complete account of the entire process of making Heston’s Perfect Black Forest Gateau BFG recipe from In Search of Perfection.

Monitor Muncher – This guy is a massive inspiration to us, so we’d definitely recommend you read his report, if you plan to make Heston’s Black Forest Gateau recipe yourself it’s more or less essential.

The Big Fat Undertaking – Speaking of inspiration, Auldo from the Big Fat Undertaking is more or less a superhero. He’s cooked every single recipe from the Fat Duck cookbook (about 44 dishes in total). Like all his other write-ups, this is a fun and detailed report that is well worth your time to read.

Mmmm, Sugar – A stunningly beautiful and exceedingly accurate recreation of Heston’s Black Forest Gateau recipe. These masterful guys had a much easier time of it than we did.

Kitchen Flask- Huge respect to these guys for their accurate layer technique and step-by-step report. I can only dream of being able to pipe as well as they do.

Would you have a go at making Heston’s In Search of Perfection Black Forest Gateau recipe and do you think it’s worth the effort? If you’d like to share your thoughts -or just hurl a range of insults at us for wasting our time and energy on a fancy dessert- we’d love you to use the comments section below.