RECIPE – Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Black Forest Gateaux (BFG)

Phew, having taken on the double challenge of 2 recipes from Heston’s In Search of Perfection tv series I am now done.

Heston’s perfect baked alaska & perfect black forest gateaux (BFG) have now been ticked off my to-do list. (See here for other Heston Blumenthal related posts)

Why the 2 of them in one go? Because the BFG has an excess of 12 egg whites leftover and I didn’t really fancy a 12 egg white omelette.

My attempt at Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Black Forest Gateaux

Doesn’t look very impressive from the outside but let’s take a look inside.

I’ve attempted a traditional black forest gateaux recipe before but once you’ve had BFG at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Restaurant in London, you can never go back. Life just isn’t the same after that. 😉

The layers (Top to bottom):

  • Cherries soaked for a week in Kirsch
  • Chocolate “spraypaint” outside
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Kirsch mousse
  • Flourless choc sponge
  • Choc ganache & sour cherries
  • “supposed-to-be-aerated-but-not-aerated” chocolate
  • Biscuit base

That’s all folks!

Total Ingredients (for all layers):

  • 12 fresh cherries
  • Kirshwasser – cherry brandy from Germany
  • 18 eggs total (1 egg, 17 yolks & 5 whites)
  • 310g caster sugar
  • 515ml milk (plus a bit extra if your biscuit base isn’t liquid enough)
  • 10g powdered gelatin (or 4 gelatin leaves)
  • 910g dark chocolate – My comment: 500g is for chocolate spraypaint – I’d say you could cover your cakes with half that amount – unless you’re trying to do indiv portions
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 500ml milk chocolate – My comment: If you’re not going to do the whole aerated choc thing, use half this to make a thinner layer
  • 215ml groundnut (aka peanut) oil – My comment: I would rather substitute with cocoa butter but wasn’t able to get my hands on any in necessary time
  • 70g unsalted butter – My comment: I would get a bit extra for chocolate ganache layer
  • 30g honey
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 60g plain flour
  • 5g baking powder
  • 95ml cream – My comment: I would get a bit extra for chocolate ganache layer
  • Small jar of sour cherries
  • Apricot Jam – only enough to cover the biscuit bases

Note: For Heston’s decorative cherries, he used sour cherries from the jar & dried, halved vanilla pods for the stems – I wasn’t going to waste vanilla like that, hence the Kirsch-soaked cherries substitute

Ordering:

Sequence that I did everything in (keep in mind, I had to be responsive to leftover ingredients in the baked alaska)

  1. Soaked cherries in Kirsch
  2. Kirsch mousse
  3. Chocolate Mousse
  4. Flourless chocolate sponge
  5. “Aerated” chocolate
  6. Biscuit base
  7. Chocolate ganache
  8. Assembled cake
  9. Chocolate “spraypaint”

Method:

Cherries

These are to decorate the top of the BFG and are not following Heston’s method.

  1. Put your fresh cherries in a small container & cover with Kirsch, then stick it in the fridge for a week
    Note: My housemate said the fridge smelled like turps, but only for a few hours. Cherries will also split if they are left to soak for too long.

Kirsch Mousse

The Kirsch & chocolate mousse methods are nearly identical. The only difference is the Kirsch is replaced with chocolate & salt

  1. Cream 5 egg yolks & 90g sugar (mix until pale & increased in size)
  2. Pour hot 250ml milk over & stir, then return to pan once mixed together
  3. STIR CONSTANTLY as you put it back on low-med heat until mixture thickens into a custard
    Note: If you don’t stir it constantly, or if you put it on too high a heat, it will turn into scrambled eggs – and you don’t want eggy lumps in your mousse
  4. Add 5g powdered gelatin & mix it until dissolved
  5. Put it in a bowl & put bowl in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process
    Comment: I used ship & iceberg shaped icecubes – just wanted to add that because it entertains me 😉
  6. If you’re using gelatin leaves, Heston says to add them at this point (after you’ve softened them in water for 10 mins)
  7. Whip 220ml cream very lightly (til just about pourable – Heston’s words), then add it to the custard
  8. Add 20ml Kirsch, mix thoroughly, then put it in a tray in the fridge to set
    Note: I added 30 ml Kirsch instead because I wanted a bit more cherry flavour
  9. If you’re not using the mousse soon – stick it in the freezer after it’s set

Chocolate Mousse

  1. Melt 150g dark chocolate over bain marie (put it in a bowl over a pot of simmering water – don’t let the bowl touch the water)
  2. Repeat steps 1-7 above for Kirsch Mousse
  3. Add melted chocolate & a pinch of salt & stir until incorporated, then pour into a tray & stick it in the fridge to set
  4. If you’re not using the mousse soon – stick it in the freezer after it’s set

Flourless Chocolate Sponge

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C
  2. Cream 7 egg yolks & 65g sugar for 10 mins until it’s pale and doubled in size
  3. Add 15g cocoa powder & 65g melted dark chocolate
  4. In a separate bowl, whip 5 egg whites on full speed, once it’s formed peaks, add 65g sugar
  5. Mix on low speed for about 10 mins til it gets a creamy texture
  6. Mix a spoonful of meringue into the chocolate mix
  7. Once combined, fold in the rest of the meringue & put it in a tray
  8. Stick it in the oven 180°C for 20 mins (Mine took double as long) – It’s done when you insert a skewer in the middle and it comes out clean
  9. Leave it to cool on a cake rackNote: I started nibbling away at the outside casing (it was going to get trimmed anyway) – delicious

“Aerated” Chocolate

To see Heston’s recommended process for the home cook visit youtube.

Heston recommends a gas siphon, sturdy tupperware to puncture & a spacebag.

I didn’t want to get a gas siphon because, what was I going to use it for afterwards? It’d be a waste of money, I say. I did however purchase a spacebag (2 large cost me $10, medium sized would have been fine) as I can use that for storage. I used a whisk instead to bubble up the chocolate but the results are (obviously) not as good with just surface bubbling & very minor bubbling inside the layer. I conveniently had a storage container with a valve so I didn’t have to damage it by puncturing a hole.

My tip: If you don’t want to use a siphon, halve the quantity of chocolate & oil and make a thin layer of chocolate. Then whisk with a hand mixer to get a few bubbles & vacuum seal it. You won’t get as great a result without a siphon, but the taste won’t be different anyways. Alternatively, buy already aerated chocolate or flake some chocolate.

  1. Melt 500ml milk chocolate in bain marie
    Note: I used half as much chocolate & oil as I was after a thin bubbly layer
  2. Add 65ml groundnut oil & stir until combined
  3. Pour chocolate mix into your container & whisk on high with hand mixer to get some bubbles
  4. Put on lid, stick it in the space bag and suck out all the air – make sure the hole in your lid sits under the vacuum nozzle on the bag
  5. Stick the whole bag into fridge to set – don’t unseal spacebag until everything is solid otherwise your bubbles will collapse

Before & after of aerated chocolate attempt

Biscuit Base:

This is pretty straight-forward, I did leave mine in the oven a bit too long though as I thought it would harden in the oven – it instead hardens once you take it OUT of the oven

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C
  2. Melt 50g of unsalted butter
  3. Combine all the ingredients together (1 egg, 30g honey, 30g icing sugar, 60g flour, 15ml milk (I added a bit more as my mixture came out less liquid than in the video), 5g baking powder, pinch of salt & 50g melted unsalted butter from above)
  4. Put it in a cake tin – you only want it about 3-4mm high
  5. Bake for 10 mins, then take it out, cut the base & return to oven at 100°C for 20 mins
    Note: Heston says cut it into 3, but I cut it into 2 as I decided I would make 2 cakes – you could make one large cake if you really wanted to, I suppose
  6. Leave on a rack to cool
    Note:
    As mentioned, I left mine in too long – don’t wait for it to harden.

Chocolate ganache

Now this is something where you want to increase the quantities as I found it wasn’t enough to go around. Heston says you need 95ml cream, 95g dark choc & 20g butter – I would say 150 cream/dark choc & 30g butter should cover it

  1. Heat cream until it’s boiled, then immediately remove from heat & pour over the chopped chocolate & butter – mix until everything’s melted & combined
  2. Stick it in a piping bag (or in my case, improvise with a sandwich bag which you then cut a corner off) in the fridge to firm up

Chocolate Spray Paint

Note: This part should be started AFTER you have your cake assembled, trimmed & frozen (assemblage detailed below).

Well this also didn’t turn out too well – good enough for me though. I had NO intention of buying an industrial spray painter (although it would have come in handy when making Adrian Zumbo’s Chocolate Mousse Cake). Next best thing I could think of was a $2 trigger spray. It came out more in a stream, then a spray – just don’t forget to remove the filter attached at the bottom of the hose.

  1. Melt 500g dark chocolate over bain marie, when melted add 150ml oil & mix until combined
    Note:
    I only made half this quantity as that was all I needed to cover my 2 gateaux.
  2. Construct a box to chocolate-proof your spray painting, or in my situation, I had a large storage container that I used
  3. Dip the hose of the trigger spray directly into your bowl of chocolate & start spraying away – the chocolate “spray” solidifies nearly instantly on touching the frozen gateaux
    Note: The mixture needed to be diluted more in order to get the spray effect. I did not want to use more oil otherwise it’d be basically oil – if I had my hands on some cocoa butter instead, I would’ve melted plenty of that into the chocolate to hopefully get it the right consistency.
  4. Back into the fridge/freezer until you’re ready to serve

Assemblage:

Depending on how many cakes you decided you’d attempt, make sure you cut & trim your layers into a rough size accordingly.

  1. Spread some apricot jam over your biscuit base
  2. Layer on your “aerated” chocolate or chocolate flakes
  3. Pipe on your chocolate ganache & spoon in a few cherries
  4. Layer on your chocolate mousse & brush over some of the cherry juice & Kirsh to soak into the sponge
  5. Add your Kirsch mousse on top
  6. Place your chocolate mousse on top of that
  7. Stick in freezer to harden
  8. Trim your gateaux – make it a nice rectangular prism (plus you can eat the trimming to get a preview of what the cake is going to taste like = totally awesome)
  9. Cut holes in the top for the cherries – Heston uses a melon baller, I dug in with a teaspoon – make sure the holes are deep enough to hold the cherries
  10. Spray paint your cake as detailed above in chocolate spray paint
  11. Put cherry juice into the cake semi-spheres and top with cherries
  12. Serve with a drizzle of cherry juices, flakes of chocolate, or whatever your preference

Mmm… tasty

Mouthwateringly good

So, was it worth the effort? I’d say yes – this cake was really, really delicious, I especially liked the flourless sponge & the mousses. Would I make it again? There are parts I’d definitely make again – and it really wasn’t too difficult to do anything considering I took shortcuts (didn’t aerate chocolate properly, didn’t use a spray gun).

The gateaux seemed a bit cherry-lite, so that’s why I dribbled the cherry juice all over the cake slices – I needed something to break up all the chocolate. It really was very tasty though and I wished I hadn’t given so much of it away.

Highly recommended that people try it as it takes time, but isn’t hard. 😀

My comment: I would get a bit extra for chocolate ganache layer

10 Responses to “RECIPE – Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Black Forest Gateaux (BFG)”

  1. You are amazing!

  2. Did you ever give this a second attempt? Any tips? Going to give it a crack tomorrow. Have made the aero choc properly and made the Kirsh mousse so far. Using proper griotines and vanilla stems but going to use the same spray method as you did.

  3. […] If you have three days to spare (seriously!) and a fully equipped kitchen-cum-laboratory, then here’s the recipe and a clip of the great man in […]

  4. LucyinAust Says:

    Thanks for your informative post. I’ve just made my own attempt at the recipe and it was really helpful to see what you’d done. I was surprised how easy most of it was – other than the vacuum and the paint sprayer it just needs normal kitchen equipment. I did have an issue with the difference between the recipe instructions and the picture in the book “In Search of Perfection” – the instructions say to pour the chocolate mousse around the frozen layers, but the picture is like yours with the layer of chocolate mousse chilled separately.

    I found my chocolate mousse (poured around) only just set to enable to not turn into a puddle (even the leftovers in the fridge never really set – and I added some gelatin).

    For anyone considering the recipe do have a go!

  5. I’m making this tomorrow for a friend’s birthday on the following day. Does this cake need to be frozen? or can it be in the fridge?

  6. […] Monitor Muncher – This guy is a massive inspiration to us, so we’d definitely recommend you read… […]

  7. sandra sweatman Says:

    Can it not be a more attractive shape? I love my round BFG’s making a huge one now but combining the best of several recipes.

  8. […] In Search of Heston, this elegant one from My Angel Cafe, and this helpfully photographed one by Monitor Munching. In addition to the no-hardware adaptations, I made one large sheet cake instead of three little […]

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