Friday, May 29, 2009

Traditions of the Black Forest

Behold, one of the most beautiful postcards I've received so far - this scan doesn't really show the beautiful, deep colors on the card. I love these beautiful farmhouses of the Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, which were traditionally built with very steep roofs to prevent snow from accumulating on the house and making the interior cold. These houses also have an insulating corridor, which wraps around the entire house, between the exterior wall and the living area - this also helps keep the living area warm. The Black Forest had very difficult, snowy winters, which is why it was populated much later in human history. It is still much less densely populated than northern Germany. The particular house shown in this photo is called the Lorenzenhof, built in 1608, and part of the Black Forest Open Air Museum, which features many traditional German farmhomes, mills, storehouses, gardens, and chapels. You can take a very lovely virtual tour by clicking on this link

The Black Forest is a major tourist attraction in Germany. Beautiful natural landscapes abound; including some of the most beautiful lakes in the world (Lake Titisee on the right), rolling hills, and gently curving rivers. It's a great place for hiking and boating and exploring nature. The people of the region serve very hearty, delicious meals and some of Germany's best beer is produced in this region as well. Some very famous foods originated here, including kirsch, a cherry liqueur, as well as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, a.k.a. Black Forest Cake, which nowadays you can get in many restaurants all over the world. It's a delicious chocolate cake with layers of whipped cream and cherries, and I definitely recommend you try the incredible recipe I've included at the closing of this post. :)

An entry about the Black Forest wouldn't be complete without a mention of the cuckoo clocks that have helped make this region famous. Although the idea didn't originate in this area (most historians believe it arrived from Bohemia), the clockmakers of the Black Forest are responsible for turning cuckoo clocks into a valued art form, and have been doing so since the 1700s. I had no idea how much these clocks were associated with this region until I started doing some internet research on the Black Forest - imagine my surprise when I searched for "Black Forest" and every search result brought me something about cuckoo clocks! The Black Forest also has several clock- and jewelry-making museums which are highly recommended.

Here is the promised Black Forest Cake recipe. Enjoy!

Black Forest Cake
2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (20 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch, round, cake pans; cover bottoms with waxed paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake for 35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove to racks to cool completely.

4. Drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Combine reserved juice, cherries, 1 cup sugar and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool before using.

5. Combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar in a chilled medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.

6. With long serrated knife, split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs; set aside. Reserve 1 1/2 cups Frosting for decorating cake; set aside. Gently brush loose crumbs off top and side of each cake layer with pasty brush or hands. To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting; top with 3/4 cup cherry topping. Top with second cake layer; repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer. Frost side of cake. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake. Spoon reserved frosting into pastry bag fitted with star decorator tip. Pipe around top and bottom edges of cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake.


imajica said...

I love Black forest cake!! Though I didnt know there existed a place named Black Forest before I got cards from there :P See the Black Forest costume:) Oh I have just featured your card in my blog too! but I cant write as good as you do ;)

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