Beloved Fort Worth bakery and restaurant Swiss Pastry Shop produces more than a dozen varieties of cake and nearly two dozen types of pies, but the undisputed king (or is it queen?) of them all is undoubtedly the Black Forest cake — or the "Uncake," as the bakery sometimes refers to it. A far cry from the rich and sugary, chocolate-and-cherry-laden confections found in grocery store bakery cases everywhere, the version that Swiss Pastry Shop has been churning out for 42 years now is an ethereally light affair of crisp, airy almond meringues layered with whipped cream and a shower of chocolate shavings. (As the bakery points out on its website, the Black Forest cake was gluten-free before gluten-free was cool.)
Bakery owner and first-generation Swiss-American Hans Peter Muller says his father first began making the cake back in the 1960's, when he emigrated from Switzerland to work as a pastry chef at Fort Worth's Ridglea Country Club. In 1973, he opened Swiss Pastry Shop on West Vickery Boulevard and they've been sold out of the bakery case there ever since. Muller began working at the bakery washing dishes and peeling potatoes when he was just 10 or 12 years old. He says it took him 15 or 20 years to get his cake-making skills fast enough to earn his father's approval, though judging by the seemingly effortless way he assembles them today, you'd think he was born with a spatula in his hand.
The bakery makes and sell an average of 50 Black Forest cakes a day during the regular season, but in the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas they sold the maximum number of cakes they could possibly produce, which is a staggering 450 per day. "It's a cruel mistress," Muller says of the ever-popular cake. "It demands absolute attention. I worked seven days a week in November and December just to fill orders, and even then we still had to turn people away. That was all we could make."
"People call us all the time and ask us to ship it to them in New York City or wherever, and I wish I could but we just don't have the technology," Muller says. He's talked with a manufacturing company about designing custom foam shipping cartons that could be outfitted with dry ice to enable the cakes to be shipped across the country, but fears it would make the cakes — which start at a very reasonable $20 for a two-layer eight-inch — prohibitively expensive. For now, folks will just have to make the drive to Fort Worth to get a taste of the cult-favorite cake.
Now, a step-by-step look at how the iconic Black Forest cake is made:
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, Black Forest cake involves a lot of sugar.
- Sugar and almond flour are blended together by hand.
- The sugar and crushed almond mixture awaits the mixer.
- Egg whites and sugar are beat to glossy peaks.
- The finished meringue mixture.
- Meringue rounds are shaped with a spatula; no stencils or weighing.
- Spreading meringue rounds.
- Meringues after six to eight hours in a low oven.
- Trimmed meringue ready for assembly.
- Meringues and sweetened whipped cream are layered.
- Generous amounts of whipped cream are slathered on.
- Real chocolate sprinkles are patted onto the cake's sides.
- Finally, a shower of shaved couverture chocolate courtesy of a $15,000 chocolate shaving machine.
Swiss Pastry Shop's Black Forest cake is available in six different sizes from 8-inch to full sheet; individual slices are also available daily. Just don't ask them to ship it to you in New York City (or anywhere, for that matter).