Incredibly moist and rich vegan black forest cake filled with fresh sweet cherries and a delicious dairy free whipped cream, and topped with a vegan ganache! Based on the traditional Black Forest gateau (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte), you won’t believe this black forest cake is vegan!

black forest cake on table

If you love black forest cake, then you’re going to absolutely love this vegan version. In fact, you probably won’t be able to tell that this is actually a vegan cake recipe! I actually based this recipe off of my grandma’s that she used to make my grandpa. My grandma is Italian, and my grandpa German, and they both appreciated celebrating each others’ cultures.

My twist: this Black Forest cake is completely dairy free and refined sugar free, and can be made gluten free as well! Yet with a thick layer of coconut whipped cream, fresh cherries, and a deliciously rich layer of vegan chocolate ganache, you’ll have everyone fooled with this cake 😉

What is a black forest gateau?

German Black forest gateau is another name for black forest cake, or in our case, a vegan chocolate cherry cake!

Black forest gateau actually originated in Germany, and is essentially layered chocolate cake soaked in cherries and kirsch, topped with whipped cream and ganache and more cherries. The chocolate cake used for Black Forest cake is slightly different from a classic chocolate cake. However, I used my vegan chocolate cake recipe as the base because it’s quite similar to a devil’s food cake, which I thought would be really delicious here.

slice of vegan Black Forest cake

I also personally omitted Kirschwasser, as I don’t really drink alcohol. However, if you want to use Kirschwasser, I give the option, but I typically make my treats alcohol free (unless I’m cooking with wine…in which case, I channel my inner Ina ha!).

Ingredients & Substitutions

Just because this chocolate cake is vegan does NOT mean we need any fancy ingredients. Trust me, this cake is actually very straight forward. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Flour: you can also use gluten free 1:1 baking flour here as well.
  • Cocoa Powder: we’re going for a rich vegan chocolate cake here, so we’re using a decent amount of cocoa powder here! While cacao powder has amazing health benefits to it, all natural cocoa powder is still full of benefits, and will actually help your cake rise much better!
  • Unsweetened Applesauce: this replaces eggs in vegan baking. You can also swap in dairy free yogurt.
  • Granulated Sugar & Brown Sugar: You can also swap in coconut sugar for a refined sugar free option.
  • Dairy Free Milk with Apple Cider Vinegar: the secret trick to making vegan buttermilk! Using buttermilk in cakes is crucial, and the same technique applies to vegan cake baking.
  • Espresso water or coffee: this makes the chocolate SO rich. If you don’t want the caffeine, then you can use decaf!
  • Coconut Whipped Cream: we’re making our coconut whipped cream from scratch. You can also just use a simple vegan buttercream. More on that in the assembly section!
  • Vegan Chocolate Ganache: this is one of my favorite things to make. Vegan ganache is so easy and straight forward, you’ll love it!
  • Cherries: well, it wouldn’t be a vegan chocolate cherry cake without the cherries! You can use fresh cherries or frozen cherries to make the cherry filling, but I do recommend using fresh cherries to decorate the cake. See the notes section in the recipe card below.

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we can begin to bake!

slice of vegan Black Forest cake being removed

How to make a homemade vegan black forest cake

The only real trick to making a vegan black forest cake, or any black forest cake for that matter, is making sure that you’re chilling your cake in between frosting and topping, as the whipped cream will soften.

Whipped cream is a bit different to work with rather than a vegan buttercream. It’s much softer and not as sturdy, so chilling the cake in between frosts is crucial to ensure your cake doesn’t collapse and the whipped cream sets.

Follow the steps in order to making this black forest gateau, and you will be golden!

The cherry layer

You can use frozen cherries if not in season ( I grab two 1 lb. bags of frozen cherries, and save any leftovers!). 

Bring the cherries and the water to a boil in a large pot, and then reduce the heat and cover. Let the cherries cook with the water for about 12-15 minutes, and the sift in some arrowroot powder.

Give the cherries a swirl to make sure the arrowroot powder is evenly distributed and absorbed, then pour about 1/2 cup of the cherry water (this is the cherry reserve) in a cup for later, and store the rest of the cherries in the fridge for about 1-2 hours until cool.

Vegan Chocolate Cake

For the chocolate cake, it’s essentially my vegan chocolate cake recipe, soaked in cherry reserve (or kirsch if you’d like!).

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt, then set this bowl aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the vegan butter, sugar, applesauce or dairy free yogurt, and cocoa powder. 
  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, along with the vegan buttermilk mixture, and mix everything until the flour is almost combined, being careful not to over mix. Add in the coffee, and continue whisking until just combined.
  4. Pour the chocolate cake batter evenly into three 8″ cake pans that are greased with either coconut or olive oil. Bake then let the cakes cool, level them out with a knife (this helps for making sure the cake doesn’t tip when it’s stacked!) and then brush about 1/4 cup of the cherry reserve onto the tops of each of the cakes to soak in.

Let the cakes cool completely before you begin making the coconut whipped cream!

Coconut Whipped Cream

Now for this layer, you have two options: use coconut whipped cream for a more traditional Black Forest gateau, or you can use a whipped vegan buttercream for a much easier assembly (especially if you want to frost the entire cake, like I did!). 

I have a whole blog post on how to make coconut whipped cream linked here.

vegan coconut whipped cream

Vegan Chocolate Ganache

Vegan ganache is actually a lot easier than you think, but it will always give that more sleek and professional feel.

Simply separate the vegan butter and the chocolate into two separate heat-safe bowls. Microwave the butter until it completely melts and then pour it over the chocolate.

Continue to stir until all of the chocolate is melted and keep it near the stove or the oven to keep warm.

Assembling a Black Forest Cake

Place the first chocolate layer on a cake stand or cake dish.

Add on the coconut whipped cream, and create a frosting dam for the cherry filling. This means piping a border around the edge of the cake layer top to prevent the filling from spilling out. Then spoon in the cooked and cooled cherries. Place the second layer of cake on top and repeat. Place the final layer of cake on top. 

You can either leave this as a naked cake if you’re using coconut whipped cream or you can frost the entire cake. Then chill the cake in the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to prevent the whipped cream from heating too much.

Pro Tip:

If you’re new to baking, it might be easier to use a whipped vegan buttercream instead. You can use 1/2 cup – 1 cup less powdered sugar for a less sweet frosting. This is especially useful if you want to frost the entire cake as I did (I used buttercream in the photos to frost the cake, but when I use coconut whipped cream, I leave my vegan Black Forest cake as a naked cake!). 

When ready, you can spoon the slightly cooled ganache on top of the vegan black forest cake and spread it over the edges. Place the cake into the fridge or freezer for 5-10 minutes to allow the ganache to set. Remove from the fridge and finish with leftover whipped cream and fresh cherries!

slice of Black Forest cake eaten

Final baking tips and tricks:

Spoon & level your flour: If you don’t have a kitchen scale (which I recommend above all else), you can still make this cake. However, please be very careful about measuring! Using the spoon & level method will ensure that you don’t use too much flour, which will lead to a gummy cake texture.

Ensure that all ingredients are at room temperature. Again, using ingredients with varying temperatures will yield a gummy cake texture.

Chill your cake in between frosting with the coconut whipped cream. This is because the coconut whipped cream is not as sturdy as buttercream. It’s also crucial that your cakes are COMPLETELY COOLED before frosting!

Make this into a 6″ layer cake or 8″ layer cake. I’ve baked this black forest cake as a two layer 8″ cake, a three layer 6″ cake, and a three layer 8″ cake (pictured).

Use any type of dairy free yogurt: if you’re soy free and nut free, I recommend coconut, which also goes well with the coconut whipped cream.

Swap in gluten free 1:1 flour if needed for gluten free. I recommend using Bob’s Red Mill in the blue bag.

Add in the cherry Kirschwasser if you want more of a traditional Black Forest Cake. However, since I don’t drink alcohol really, I choose to make the non-alcoholic version.

slice of vegan black forest cake on a plate

This cake honestly brings me straight back to memories with my papa, so I just adore this healthier version of a homemade black forest cake! I hope you do as well 🙂

I was personally shocked at how moist and decadent and yet rich this chocolate cake was, especially for being vegan! It took all of my will not to go blab and ruin the surprise on Instagram stories!

I hope you love this cake as much as I do 🙂 Speaking of Instagram, I can’t wait to see your recreations of it over there if you send me a message or tag me, as well as on Pinterest!

Make sure to leave a comment down below, as well as a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ so that others may find this recipe!

Happy cake baking 🙂

Want to save this recipe for later? Add it to your favorite recipe board on Pinterest!

Black Forest cake Pinterest pin

If you make this recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and a rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. This helps others to find the recipes! As always, I absolutely love to see your beautiful creations on Instagram and Pinterest, so be sure to tag me there as well!

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slice of vegan Black Forest cake

Vegan Black Forest Cake

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: thebananadiaries
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Assembly: 45
  • Cook Time: 50
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 16 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: German
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Incredibly moist and rich vegan black forest cake filled with fresh sweet cherries and a delicious dairy free whipped cream, and topped with a vegan ganache! Based on the traditional Black Forest gateau (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte), you won’t believe this black forest cake is vegan!


Ingredients

Scale

Vegan Chocolate Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cup (300 mL) vegan buttermilk, room temperature 
  • 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour or gluten free 1:1 baking flour*, sifted
  • 1 cup (95 g) all natural cocoa powder, sifted
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (350 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (110 g) brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted vegan butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (220 g) unsweetened applesauce or dairy free yogurt, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240 mL) hot water + 1 tsp dissolvable espresso powder (or 1 cup (240 mL) brewed coffee, decaf if desired)
  • 1 batch coconut whipped cream or 2 batches vegan buttercream frosting
  • 1 batch vegan chocolate ganache

Cherry layer:

  • 24 ounces (3 cups) fresh or frozen pitted cherries (plus more fresh cherries for decorating)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional, omit if nut allergy)
  • Optional: 4 tbsp Kirschwasser (omit if alcohol free)

Instructions

  1. Make the cake first: Preheat the oven to 350F and grease three 8″ cake pans with coconut or olive oil and parchment paper. Measure out all ingredients. Make the vegan buttermilk. 
  2. Make the batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment or a large bowl and a hand mixer, cream the vegan butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and bottom of the bowl as needed. Then add in the applesauce and vanilla extract, and mix again on medium speed until combined. Add in the cocoa powder, and mix again until completely integrated. To the mixture, add in about half of the flour mixture, along with half of the buttermilk. Mix on medium speed until the flour starts to combine with the wet. Add in the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, and mix again just until there are no more dry streaks. Slowly pour in the hot coffee, and mix on medium speed until the coffee has just mixed into the batter.
  3. Bake the cakes: Pour the batter into the three cake pans evenly. Place the cakes into the oven and bake for 33-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. If using three 6″ cake pans, the cakes will bake a bit longer. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow them to cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then carefully transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 45 minutes.
  4. While the cakes are baking:  Make the cherry filling. Place pitted cherries (fresh or frozen) into a medium saucepan, along with the arrowroot starch, maple syrup, vanilla extract, optional almond extract, and water. Stir together, then turn the heat on to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and cover. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken. Save about 1/2 cup of the cherry reserve for the chocolate cake. Then spoon the cooked cherries into a bowl, and place the cherries into the fridge to chill.
  5. Brush the cherry reserve onto the cooling cakes: Use a pastry brush or spoon and brush about 1/3 of the cherry reserve on top of each cake layer to soak. If you’d like to add in Kirschwasser, you can add in 4 tbsp of Kirschwasser into the cherry reserve before brushing. Then cool the cakes entirely.
  6. Make the vegan chocolate ganache: Make the ganache before the frosting to allow it time to cool. Prepare the ganache according to the post instructions. Then set aside to cool while you prepare the frosting. 
  7. Make the coconut whipped cream or whipped vegan buttercream: Once the cakes have completely cooled, begin to prepare the coconut whipped cream frosting or buttercream. Follow the instructions for either. I recommend using the coconut whipped cream if you want to leave your Black Forest cake as a naked cake. Use the vegan whipped buttercream frosting if you want to fully coat your cake. 
  8. Assembly: 
    1. Place 1 cake layer on the bottom and add 1/3-1/2 cup of frosting evenly all around. Then pipe a frosting dam for the cherry filling. Spoon half of the cherry filling into the frosting dam. Then place the second layer on top, and repeat. Place the third cake layer on top, then place the cake into the fridge or freezer to chill for 5-10 minutes. 
    2. Remove the cake from the fridge, and frost the rest of the cake if you’re using the vegan buttercream. Place the cake into the fridge again for 5-10 minutes to set the frosting before the chocolate ganache. 
    3. Drip the ganache on top of this layer and spread it around evenly so that it can slowly drip down the sides. Place the cake into the fridge for 5 minutes to let the ganache set.
    4. Remove the cake from the fridge and pipe remaining frosting on top, along with fresh cherries!
  9. Slice and serve! Serve the cake fresh, and store any leftovers in an airtight container and in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

Notes

Gluten Free: you can sub in a cup-for-cup gluten free blend. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill gluten free baking flour!

For gluten-free flour measurements: Please use 3 cups of gluten-free flour or 420 g.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 381
  • Sugar: 30.8 g
  • Sodium: 271.7 mg
  • Fat: 12.6 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5.9 g
  • Carbohydrates: 64.6 g
  • Fiber: 5.1 g
  • Protein: 6.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 1.1 mg