Feb 25, 2013

Black Forest Cake. Vegan. Oil-Free. Gluten-Free.

Did I mention it’s sugar-free, too? Who says you can’t have your cake and nutrients, too?? Wow. Damn. Helll-llo. This was a first-try recipe for me. Did I get lucky or am I just learning how to work with my nutrient-dense ingredients? Or am I a “Sweet Genius?” I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m so happy. Black Forest cake was always one of my favorite desserts and now I can not only enjoy it again but I can be happy knowing that I am eating something that actually has NUTRIENTS. With no eggs, no sugar, no wheat, no oil… it just doesn’t get much better than this, folks.

Searching the internet for vegan desserts has always been futile for me. Just because something is “vegan” does not necessarily mean that it is healthful! Almost all vegan cake recipes I have found contain oil and sugar and wheat (which I usually try to avoid, but whole wheat is not a bad choice if you don’t have a sensitivity to gluten).

Okay, I must confess. I was trying for a brownie here! I never expected a rich, deliciously decadent cake instead. I used dates for sweetness and flax meal for egg replacement and there’s a whole cup of black cherries in there, too! If you try this recipe, don’t be alarmed at the color of the batter. Before it’s baked it looks like tar, it’s so dark.

I used a bit of Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour too and that, for some mysterious reason I still haven’t figured out, smells really weird before it’s cooked. So licking the bowl is probably something you’ll want to skip on this one

The history of this dessert has many stories, but perhaps the most popular version is that confectioner Josef Keller invented Black Forest cake, or as he called it, the Black Forest cherry in 1915 in his café Agner in Bad Godesberg. However, it is a known fact that the recipe for Black Forest cake did not appear in print until 1930

The typical Black Forest cake contains several layers of chocolate cake, with oodles of whipped cream and cherries in each layer, further decorated with additional whipped cream, chocolate shavings and cherries. Also, in traditional Black Forest cakes, Kirschwasser or kirsch, which is a clear colorless fruit brandy is also added. Why do I love Black Forest cake so? Maybe it’s because my grandmother was born in Baden-Baden, a city located at the foothills of the Black Forest in the southwestern part of Germany. But seriously, what’s not to love? And without all those empty calories and cholesterol, I’m in love all over again.

~ for the cake


  • 15 medjool dates, pits removed
  • 1/4 cup non-alkalized cocoa powder
  • 2 TBS flax meal
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ TBS baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup Bob’s All Purpose Gluten-free flour
  • ¼ cup brown rice flour
  • 1 10 oz. bag frozen black cherries (less 1/2 cup-set aside for topping)
  • 1 TBS vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Lightly grease a 9″ x 9″ square baking dish 
  3. Place dates in a food processor. 
  4. Add water and process until a paste is formed. 
  5. Add cherries and process again until smooth. 
  6. Add remaining ingredients. Process until smooth. 
  7. Pour into baking dish and smooth the top. The mixture will be quite thick. 
  8. Bake about 30 minutes or until the top is firm when lightly pressed. 
  9. Let cool.

         ~ for the icing


    • 1½ cups raw cashews
    • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk or other non-dairy milk
    • 2 TBS date sugar or any minimally processed sweetener
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract


    1. Place cashews in a high powdered blender.
    2. Add enough milk just to cover.
    3. Blend until smooth.
    4. Add remaining milk and all other ingredients and blend until smooth.
    5. Spread onto top of cooled cake.
    6. Refrigerate before serving, until icing is set—about 1 hour.
    7. Top with the cherries that you set aside. You can certainly use fresh cherries but the frozen ones are perfect for this because as they thaw they leak a bit of juice and it looks lovely on the top of the icing and adds more moisture to the cake as well.

    Makes about 8 portions. Enjoy!

    Healthy trails!

    21 responses to “Black Forest Cake. Vegan. Oil-Free. Gluten-Free.”

    1. Husband likes BF cake for his birthday – going to try this version for next one. Might try to layer it if I am brave…..any tips?

    2. Helyn says:

      Hi Rach,
      I've not tried to layer it but it would probably work. Just make a double batch and use separate pans (round cake pans would be fine). This will give you two layers. I would also use less milk for the icing… as little as you can get away with and still have the cashews blend well until creamy. That way it will be firmer and will stand up better to the weight of the top cake layer. In fact, if you soak the cashews for about 5 hours ahead of time, you won't need much liquid at all to blend them. And you can add the cherries to the center, too. Make sure to let the cake cool completely in the fridge before icing. Let me know how it turns out! Would love to see a pic of it, too! =)

    3. Dave Way says:

      I had high hopes but the high amount of baking soda gave it a strange chemically taste. Which I have seen in another recipe with lots of baking soda. I'm going to try substituting all baking powder next time.

    4. Helyn says:

      So sorry to hear you didn't get a good result, Dave! Perhaps I will experiment some more with this recipe, too. It was one of my first vegan baking attempts. Thanks for the feedback!

    5. Helyn says:

      P.S. I've also noticed that Bob's AP GF flour can have a strange taste. I don't use it anymore. Okay now I'm on a mission to revise this recipe! 🙂

    6. Dru says:

      I would love to try this in a bundt pan and drizzle the icing on it!
      Would I just double the cake recipe? Or should I use your wonderful Chocolate Pear bundt cake recipe replacing the pear with cherries? 🙂

      • helynskitchen says:

        Wow! That’s a great idea, Dru. You certainly could try it. With more batter in the pan, you may need to increase the baking time. Please let me know how it goes if you do it! xoxo

    7. Dru says:

      I sure will! I’m a little concerned about the baking soda leaving a chemical taste after reading Dave’s comment above. Any tweaks to the soda/powder amounts if I make a double batch of batter?

      Thanks for the gluten free baking ebook you sent out and for ALL your fabulous recipes! I’m inspired to try to make a healthy version of the classic Barcardi Rum Cake that friends/family loved at holiday time before I became a nutritarian.
      They were happy when I replaced a fudge pecan pie with your awesome chocolate bourbon pecan pie but are still pining away for that Barcardi cake! Haha!

      • helynskitchen says:

        Hmm, I’m going to have to make this again… my honey always complains (in jest) that I am always making new recipes and there are so many that I have made in the past like one or two times that he loves. haha! Anyway, try this for the double batch:

        1.5 tsp baking powder
        1.5 tsp baking soda
        + 1 tsp lemon juice

        That SHOULD work. The reason I used so much of the leavening agents in the original recipe was because it was so heavy with all those cherries that I wanted to ensure it would rise. But it may have been a bit overkill. PLEASE tell me how it works for you… I think I’m going to make this in the bundt pan, too. 🙂

        Bacardi Rum Cake??? MMMMMM…. okay, you’ve given me another challenge! xo

    8. Dru says:

      Thank you, thank you! That helps a lot! I will you let you know for sure how it turns out. Plan is for Christmas, but I also bought ingredients for chocolate pear cake to have as backup. (That was a hit on Thanksgiving and super easy to make that morning.)

      I get the same complaint (in jest too) because I’m working my way through all your recipes and keep getting requests for past favorites! 🙂

    9. Dru says:

      Helyn, Hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas! The cake turned out fantastic, and it was our dessert on Christmas.

      I doubled the cake ingredients (I was a little nervous about doubling the cherries to 20 oz., but had no problem.), made the tweak with the baking soda/powder/lemon juice per your instructions and I decided to bake it in my tube/coffee cake pan that is 10in dia. by 2.5in high. The cake rose beautifully to about an inch above the pan and I baked it for 45 min, until a cake tester inserted in middle came out dry. Cooled it for 15 min in pan, and it settled a little when cooling. I inverted it on a rack to finish cooling. I baked it on Christmas Eve day and stored it in fridge (without the icing or cherry topping.).

      I used the tube pan, so the cherries would sit on top better after drizzling the icing, but had a change of plans. I thought it would be easier to store any leftovers if the cake was plain. I put a slice of cake on each plate, topped it with a dollop of the icing, then a couple cherries and a drizzle of the juice. There were “Ooooo’s” and “Ahh’s” when i brought the plates to the table.

      Everyone loved the texture and thought the cherry flavor was very subtle. The cake was dense, yet light texture if that makes any sense! It was very moist, but clearly baked completely because there were no raw batter spots. Leftovers (without icing and cherries topping) were stored in refrigerator.

      I did notice today that it seemed even moister than it was yesterday. When slicing, it was hard to get clean slices where it was not a problem when serving on Christmas. I bet it’s like other healthy, vegan, unprocessed desserts I’ve made in the past, that without all the chemical “junk” in them they are best on the day they are made or the day after. This recipe was so easy, I could have made it the same day.

      We really enjoyed the cake and will make it again for sure!
      Thanks for another delicious recipe!

      • helynskitchen says:

        Hey, great, Dru! Thanks so much for the report. Yes, it is true that plant-based baked goods (ESPECIALLY and maybe even exclusively those made without any added oil) will not store as well as their unhealthy counterparts. I’m glad it was a hit, though! Happy New Year! xo

    10. Kate says:

      this recipe was AMAZING!! It was way beyond my expectations, I made a beautiful moist cake that didn’t make me feel like dying afterwards haha healthy and delicious, thanks Helyn!!!

    11. Sarah says:

      I don’t have access to fresh medjool dates nor do I know how large they are. Can you help me with a volume or weight of dates to use? I’m afraid to guess…

    12. Craig says:

      What could one use instead of cashews for the icing? thanks!

    13. Ashley says:

      Has anyone made cupcakes out of this recipe? I need a good cupcake to send with my son to school this week for a party. He loves chocolate and cherries. Please advise of any tweaks I should make. Thanks so much!

      • helynskitchen says:

        Hi Ashley! The only tweak for cupcakes/muffins would be to decrease the baking time to about 20 minutes. Hope they’re a hit! xx

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