Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Lose yourself in the Black Forest

I RECEIVED an interesting email last week from an agitated lady in Omagh, who wanted to know why I never do any sweet recipes. I say ‘agitated’ but ‘irate’ is probably a better word.

“Hi Devlin,” Martha wrote without preamble. “I tried your black bean burgers last night and they were minging. And this wasn’t the first time either. Some fecken cook you are. Best black bean burgers, my backside.”

She didn’t divulge what this ‘first time’ was, although I assume she’d tried a previous recipe and it didn’t go to plan. Also, she didn’t use the words, ‘fecken,’ or ‘backside’ either.


She continued, “They fell apart when I tried frying them too. And they stuck to the pan. A hot mess. Next time why don’t you do a recipe that works. Maybe do a dessert for a change. Do you even eat desserts? You never do them. I like custard. Even you could open a tin of custard.”

Well, Martha, I have to say, it was a pleasure hearing from you. Many thanks for your email.

And yes, I can confirm that, despite my obvious limitations, I know how to correctly utilise a tin opener and in fact, I am quite adept at opening tins of all descriptions. Although, I much prefer the ring-pull mechanisms.

I am sorry to hear too that the black bean burgers didn’t work out for you. I do feel duty bound though to point out though, that I recommended BAKING the burgers in the oven, as opposed to frying. And did you use oil when frying? Maybe that’s why they so unceremoniously stuck and subsequently turned into that ‘hot mess’ you mentioned. My condolences.

I’m also glad that you like custard. I too have been known to enjoy a bowl of custard from time to time myself, weather and supplies dictating. Pray tell, is there anything in particular that you enjoy in your custard? Fish fingers? Garlic bread? Gin?

Sure it’s all good gas, eh Martha?

The good news, dear Martha, is I’ve considered your quasi-request and as such, this week it’s a sweet recipe, although it’s not a tin of custard as you can see from the pics. That wouldn’t stretch into much of a recipe, now would it.



1 tin of custard


Open, if you can, using tin-opener. Feed Martha with a spoon.

Instead, Martha, I decided on Black Forest sundaes, sans custard of any kind. I hope you like it. Best of all, while it’s deceptively easy to make but big on taste.


I have a soft spot for Black Forest gateaux in all its forms, having visited the actual Black Forest when I lived in Germany. At least I think it was the Black Forest, seeing as how it was a forest, and it was very dark therein. I also recall being mildly disappointed that there were no Black Forest gateaux on sale at the Black Forest. Although, I suppose that would be like a vexation caused by there being no Paris buns on sale in Paris. Do you like Paris buns, Martha?

As well, Kirsch is the traditional liqueur to use in this recipe but if you don’t have any you can use brandy or any clear spirit or, if little humans will be eating, don’t use any spirits at all.

Anyway, I recommend both fans and non-fans of black bean burgers give this recipe a try. And Martha, please note that I recommend BAKING the cake, as opposed to frying. Many thanks.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 big or 4 small sundaes and with left-over cake)

(for the chocolate cake)

100g of self-raising flour

40g of cocoa powder

1 tsps of baking powder

pinch of salt

150g of soft margarine

150g of soft brown sugar

dash of vanilla extract (about a tsp)

3 tbsps of whole milk

3 large free range eggs

(for the cherry sauce)

1 tin of cherries in light syrup

1 tbsp of icing or caster sugar

2 tbsps of Kirsch or brandy or clear rum (optional)

(for the sweetened cream)

250ml of double cream

1 tbsp of icing sugar

(to serve)

fresh cherries

dark chocolate shavings


Start by baking (not frying, Martha), your cake.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and as that’s happening, grease and line a cake tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into a big bowl and stir to combine.

In another big bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until pale and fluffy and then mix through the vanilla and milk.

Beat one egg at a time into the sugary mix until they’re all in and completely combined.

Dump the dry mix in and stir through gently with a metal spoon until well mixed.

Scrape the mixture out into the lined cake tin and then retire this to the oven for half an hour. After that time, check with a skewer – that it comes out clean – and then remove from the oven and allow to cool slight in the tin. After ten minutes or so, remove from the tin and place on a wire rack until it cools completely.

Now get the rest of the gear ready.

To make the sauce, drain the cherries, reserving the liquid, then set the fruit aside. Place the liquid in a pan with the spirit (if using), add the sugar and simmer for roughly five or six minutes, or until very thickened slightly. Dump the cherries into the pan and mix around to coat.

Whisk the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks form.

Cut rectangular slices from the cake and then cut into bite-sized cubes.

Now it’s time to assemble!

Place a handful of these cubes into a sundae glass (or even a mug if you’re stuck), top with some cherries ‘n’ sauce and then top with some sweet cream. Repeat as necessary but make sure to finish with a dollop of cream, some dark chocolate shavings and a fresh cherry.

Thanks, Martha. Only for you, it would have been another savoury dish this week – probably more beans!

Some fecken cook, I am.

And I didn’t use the word, ‘fecken.’

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