This no bake black forest parfait layers together kirsch soaked ladyfingers, chocolate pastry cream, sweetened tart cherries, and whipped cream for a decadent dessert!
While there is no substitute for a traditional Black Forest gâteau, I’d like to offer you an equally delicious alternative that is much easier to make!
No Bake Black Forest Parfait
This Black Forest parfait takes the familiar flavors of Black Forest cake and layers them in dainty, little individual desserts.
Serve this make ahead parfait at dinner parties, dessert buffets, or simply keep them stocked in the fridge for sustenance during weekend tv binging sessions.
You can’t call it Black Forest anything if it doesn’t have cherries or kirsch!
What is kirsch?
Kirsh, better known as kirshwasser, is German for “cherry water.” It is a clear brandy made from cherries. It is similar to the more popular French eau de vie (translates to “water of life”) clear fruit brandy.
Kirsh is not sweet in flavor. However, it is quite aromatic and provides a nice pleasant (slightly bitter) kick to fruit desserts.
A splash of kirsh is often added to fruit salads. Interestingly, it is also often to added to cheese fondue.
DO NOT substitute cherry liqueur for kirsh. They are NOT THE SAME!
Fresh Morello cherries are tart. As such, they are often simply labeled as “sour cherries.” Traditionally, Morello cherries were used to make kirschwasser.
Morello cherries can be found fresh, frozen, canned, or jarred. (Morello cherry jam is a popular spread!) I highly recommend Trader Joe’s Dark Morello Cherries in light syrup (photographed above).
Eat them straight out of the jar and you’ll notice that these cherries are still slightly tart (despite being soaked in light sugar syrup).
Choice of Parfait Vessels:
Any transparent vessel will work. From margarita glasses and highball glasses to wide mouth mason jars and Weck containers, there are plenty of choices and possibilities.
Whatever you choose, make sure the vessel has a wide opening (mouth) for easy parfait assembling.
To serve the Black Forest parfait “family style,” the parfait can also be assembled in one large trifle bowl.
Black Forest Parfait Ingredients:
This parfait has five components: ladyfingers, cocoa-kirsch soaking mixture, chocolate pastry cream, Morello cherries, and whipped cream.
This recipe uses store-bought savoiardi ladyfingers. They are sweet, crispy, and rather dry. The dryer the ladyfinger, the more liquid it will be able to absorb. (Similar to why it’s better to use day old bread for bread pudding and croutons.)
The dry ladyfingers will soften much more quickly and efficiently if the cocoa-kirsch mixture is warm. If this mixture cools during assembly, I like to zap it in the microwave for a few seconds.
Cocoa-Kirsch Soaking Mixture:
A mixture of water, sugar, cocoa powder, and kirschwasser, this soaking syrup flavors the plain ladyfingers.
Chocolate Pastry Cream:
My go-to vanilla pastry cream is flavored with cocoa powder. Making the chocolate pastry cream from scratch is the most time consuming and laborious part of this recipe.
The Trader Joe’s jarred Morello cherries is drained from the syrup before use. The syrup may be saved for other uses, such as: sweetening iced tea or used a soaking syrup to revive dry cakes.
Mix together chilled heavy cream and a touch of powdered sugar for homemade whipped cream. Or, if you prefer, a store-bought tub of whipped topping (such as Cool Whip) is a suitable alternative.
Assembling Black Forest Parfait:
- Ladyfingers are lightly soaked in cocoa-kirsch mixture and then place at the bottom of serving vessel.
- Chocolate pastry cream is spread on top of soaked ladyfingers.
- Drained Morello cherries are distributed on top of pastry cream.
- A thin layer of whipped cream is spread on top to cover cherries.
- Repeat to add a second or third layer.
Made Ahead Parfaits:
These Black Forest parfaits can be assembled ahead of time and stored in the fridge covered for up to two days before servings. After two days, the chocolate pastry cream will start to weep and separate.
Ideally, these parfaits are best enjoyed within 24 hours of assembly.
Fans of the Black Forest flavor combo will also enjoy these cherry chocolate rolls!
No Bake Black Forest Parfait
- ladyfingers, as needed
- kirsch chocolate soaking syrup
- chocolate pastry cream
- 24.7 oz jar Dark Morello Cherries* in light syrup (12 oz drained)
- whipped cream*
- grated or shaved dark chocolate, to garnish
Chocolate Pastry Cream:
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup granualted sugar
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Kirsch Chocolate Soaking Syrup:
- 1 cup hot water
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 3 Tablespoon kirsch (Kirschwasser)
- 2 cups heavy cream, very cold
- 2 Tablespoons - 1/4 cup confectioners sugar, according to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
Chocolate Pastry Cream:
- Line a quarter-sheet baking pan with plastic wrap, making sure the sides of the pans are also covered. Set aside.
- Pour 1 1/2 cups milk into a large heavy bottomed sauce pot. Add 1/2 cup of sugar. Whisk together. Place over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to make sure the milk does not burn along the sides or bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together cornstarch, cocoa powder, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Add in remaining 1/2 cup milk and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth.
- Once milk has boiled, reduce heat. Slowly add a little bit of the milk into the cornstarch mixture. Whisk constantly to distribute the heat. Continue to add milk and whisk until only a couple of tablespoons of milk are left in the saucepan. Pour all the egg-milk mixture back into the saucepan.
- Whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the custard has thickened. Keep whisking and let the custard come to boil to cook out the cornstarch flavor. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter until smooth. Add salt and vanilla and whisk until combined.
- Pour the hot pastry cream into the prepared plastic wrapped sheet pan. Spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 10-15 minutes until the pastry cream has cooled to room temperature. Remove from freezer and transfer to an airtight container. Place plastic wrap directly on pastry cream to avoid condensation. Let chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Kirsch Soaking Syrup:
- Dissolve sugar in hot water. Whisk in sifted cocoa powder. Mix in kirsch. Set aside. (Reheat in microwave as needed during assembly.)
- Use a hand mixer (or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment) to mix together heavy cream and confectioners' sugar. Mix on medium speed until cream reaches stiff peaks. Use immediately, or cover and keep chilled in the fridge until ready to assemble.
- Gather desired serving vessels. Working with one ladyfinger at a time, dip in warm kirsch soaking syrup for 2-3 seconds on each side. (Do not soak for too long because ladyfinger will soften too much.) Place ladyfinger in serving vessel. If necessary, break ladyfinger into smaller pieces depending on size and shape of serving vessel.
- Spread layer of chocolate pastry cream on top to fully cover ladyfingers. Spoon about 5 pieces of drained cherries on top of pastry cream. Top with whipped cream.
- Repeat with second layer of soaked ladyfinger, pastry cream, cherries, and whipped cream. If desired, repeat with a third layer.
- If serving immediately, garnish top layer with shaved chocolate. Otherwise, cover and keep chilled in the fridge for up to two days. Before serving, garnish with shaved chocolate.
- I use these ladyfingers. They are available in large packages at Smart and Final and Restaurant Depot.
- Use homemade whipped cream or an 8oz tub of store-bought whipped topping, such as Cool Whip.
- Use Morello cherries or tart/sour cherries in LIGHT syrup. Those jarred or canned on heavy syrup will be too sweet for this recipe. Drain cherries before use.
- Kirsch/Kirschwasser is not the same as cherry liqueur. Kirsch is a clear colored cherry brandy.