Kirsch, also known as kirsch, is a clear cherry brandy made in southern Germany, France and Switzerland. As a cooking ingredient, it is best known as a central feature in Black Forest cake, a chocolate cake layered with cherries and kirsch-infused whipped cream. Kirsch is also used in cherries jubilee, some mixed drinks and punches, and cheese fondue. If you do not happen to have a bottle of kirsch on hand, there are substitutions for kirsch that will work well in any of these recipes.
Black Forest Cake
When you make Black Forest Cake, you want to intensify the flavour of the cherries that are sandwiched between the chocolate cake layers. Kirsch is the traditional ingredient with which to accomplish this. However, there are several cherry flavourings that make good substitutes.
Other cherry liqueurs, such as Peter Heering or Kirsberry (a mild Danish liqueur), will work well, as will creme de cassis, made from blackcurrants, or Chambord, a raspberry liqueur. Non-alcoholic alternatives to kirsch include any berry-flavoured syrup, cherry or berry preserves, cherry cider and even Italian cherry soda syrup.
You can make cherries jubilee as an impressive dessert for guests; it consists of caramelised cherry juice and sugar that is blended with kirsch, and sometimes another cherry liqueur, and flambeed. It is often served with ice cream. If you don't have kirsch on hand, brandy may be used as a substitute. In some recipes, brandy and kirsch are listed as being interchangeable; you can use same amount of brandy or kirsch in your recipe.
If you are making a classic Swiss cheese fondue, you will probably want to add a small amount of kirsch to flavour it. Since kirsch is what is known as an eau de vie, or clear brandy made from fruit, you can substitute another eau de vie for the kirsch. These might include Calvados, made from apples, or Quetsch, an eau de vie made from plums. Use 2 tsp kirsch or another spirit for each 1 1/2 cups of white wine and 4 cups of shredded cheese you add to your fondue pot.
Other Fruit Desserts
You can enliven a dessert of fresh fruits such as raspberries, strawberries or even bananas with a little kirsch. Put the fruits in a bowl and sprinkle them with a mixture of sugar and kirsch; the specific amounts will depend on the amount of fruit you have, but use enough to cover them well. Let the fruit stand for about an hour. You may substitute an equal amount of cognac or orange liqueur for the kirsch. Jam or preserves used in desserts such as filled crepes may be enhanced with a spoonful or two of kirsch; again, cognac or orange liqueur may be used instead of kirsch.
A Final Resort
If you do not have any liqueurs or syrups on hand, you may substitute extracts, such as cherry or even almond. Substitute about 1/8 teaspoon of extract for each teaspoonful of kirsch. However, the extract will work best in recipes in which kirsch is added to a cookie or cake batter, or to an ice cream or sorbet.