This CHOCOLATE & MARASCHINO GATEAU is a party pudding, one to impress and it does take some time and dedication to make but, as they say,  it’s worth it. I’ve followed my mother’s own recipe (with a few tweaks of mine) which seemed appropriate with Mother’s day coming up soon.  It was her take on the famous Black Forest gateau and would always be an impressive ending to her dinner parties. We children were so disappointed if ‘they’ finished it all and there were no leftovers! I hope that she would have been impressed with my effort to reproduce it.


The red cherries are the sort you put into cocktails and have a maraschino flavour. Look for the ones in clear syrup rather than a red syrup as this makes the cream a rather odd colour. If you can get the maraschino liqueur to soak the sponge, so much the better. If not use a good sherry.

Serves 8/10

For the fatless chocolate sponge:

3 lge eggs at room temperature

75g caster sugar

2 teasp cocoa powder, sifted

75g plain white flour

For the filling and covering:

225g jar Maraschino flavoured red cherries in syrup, drained and cut in half

125 ml maraschino liqueur or sherry

125 ml water

125 ml syrup from the cherries

300ml double cream (+ more to serve)

2 pots chocolate mousse (about 4 tbsp.)

Chocolate shavings/curls to decorate

100g bar best quality, dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

5 cherries cut in half to decorate


  1. Grease and base line a 20cm/8 inch cake tin with sides about 7.5cm deep. Preheat oven to a moderate 160C, Gas 3.
  2. Using a standing mixer whisk the eggs and sugar until they are v, v thick and fluffy. This could take up to 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the sieved cocoa powder with the flour and, using a sieve, sprinkle about a third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and sugar. Fold in very carefully and gently using a thin spatula & a figure of 8 motion using the edge of the spatula to cut….rather than just beating it in. The aim is to mix the flour in without losing all the bubbles. Slide the spatula to the bottom of the bowl so there is no dry flour there. Repeat twice taking care to cut through the mixture with the edge of the spatula and keeping it as fluffy as possible.
  4. Gently pour the mix into the tin; it doesn’t really matter if there are small pockets of dry flour. Bake for about 40min, or until the sponge has risen, is firm to the touch and beginning to shrink from the sides. Leave in the tin for about 10mins, then slide a knife around the edge and turn it out onto your open hand and then turn it onto a wire tray to cool. It will probably sink a bit in the centre.
  5. To fill the gateau, select a flat serving plate. Carefully slice the sponge horizontally into 3 layers* and put the bottom slice onto the plate.
  6. Mix the Maraschino liqueur (or sherry), water and syrup and sprinkle about a third over the bottom layer. Aim to stop if it starts oozing out of the sponge.
  7. Whip the cream to the floppy stage (always stop whisking just before you get to the correct consistency as it always stiffens a little). If it is not floppy it will be difficult to spread it out and you will tear the layers. Spread 2 tbsp. of cream over the base and then 2 tbsp. chocolate mousse. Top this with half the cherries.
  8. Put the middle slice on the top and pour over a third of the remaining liquid, then add 2 tbsp. cream, mousse and the rest of the cherries. Put the top layer on and pour over the remaining liquid (you may need to add a little more if it looks dry)
  9. Spread the remaining cream over the top and sides of the cake using a wide palette knife, it doesn’t need to be smooth. Leave the cake to firm up in a cool place

To make the shavings/curls: Quick way -Put the bar in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Place it on a board with the short side against you (you need to wear an apron at this point!). Use a heavy, sharp knife and, starting at the top end of the bar, angle the knife at 45 degrees and scrape it towards you. Gather up the curls, with the knife and drop them onto the cake. Traditional way – if you want to try and get lovely large curls try this method –melt 50g chocolate and then pour onto an oiled, flat, hard surface such as marble. I use the back of a laminated chopping board. Spread it out thinly and leave to set. If you put a damp dishcloth under the board it will stop it slipping. Hold a sharp knife at an angle and push it away from you over the surface of the chocolate. If it shatters into crumbs the chocolate is too hard, leave it to soften in a warm room. If the chocolate just gathers up on the knife it is too soft so leave it to set a little longer. If the stars align and with a bit of luck you will get gorgeous big curls of chocolate. They look impressive but it does take a bit of trial and error to achieve this. Drop them straight onto the top of the cake in a messy pile.  Scatter over the reserved cherries.

Leave to set for about 4 hours before serving. Eat on the day it is assembled or freeze for up to a month.

*this is easier said than done so here are my tips –make sure the cake is completely cold, you can even put it in the freezer for about 15 mins which will help. Use a small, sharp knife to score around the edge. For accuracy have the cake at eye level and go slowly. Now take a large serrated knife and cut through each layer using light pressure on the top of each layer, with your other hand, to keep it stable as you cut.


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