SHF#32: German Chocolate Cake, my sweetest thing

June 25, 2007 at 6:40 pm | Posted in cakes & tortes, events, layer cakes, sweet things | 21 Comments

german chocolate cake

Hmmm….two cake products in one week.  I am good to myself, aren’t I?  Of course I will have to be punished with an extra trip to the gym.  I couldn’t help it though.  I’ve had German chocolate cake on the brain ever since I read the theme of this month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by its founder Jennifer, The Domestic Goddess.  Since childhood it has been my dream dessert.  I just love the combination of chocolate, pecans and coconut.  I would always ask my mum to make me a German chocolate cake for my birthday (and she always would). 

I still request it every April 3, but R has yet to deliver the goods.  It’s not for lack of trying though.  You just don’t see it sold very often.  This past birthday, he did call every German bakery in Sydney looking for it (how sweet!).  No one had any idea what he was talking about, because it isn’t German at all.  An Englishman man named Sam German developed a type of sweetened chocolate used in the traditional recipe, which likely originated in the American south.

I don’t make this very often, and that’s quite on purpose.  Maybe it’s a bit masochistic, but I want it to remain something desired and special.  Looking for a recipe, I decided to go with one from Baking Illustrated by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine.  Although I hadn’t made this version before, Chris Kimball and the gang never let me down.  Their version uses cocoa powder rather than German chocolate, so it was easier for me to find all the ingredients here in Sydney.  In the recipe, the coconut/pecan goo goes in between the layers and on top of the cake, leaving the outside of the cake exposed. Since R and I would have this cake around for a couple of days, though, I decided it would probably stay fresher if I sealed up the sides.  Luckily I had some leftover cream cheese frosting from my coconut cupcakes to use up.  I just added some melted dark chocolate to the frosting and iced the cake with it, using up all of the filling between the layers.  Then I decorated the cake with some toasted coconut chips.  Yum!  I can’t wait to have another slice tonight!

german chocolate cake

German Chocolate Layer Cake with Coconut Pecan Filling – makes 12 servings
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated

for the cake (two 8-inch rounds):
1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 oz) unbleached AP flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 cup non-alkalized cocoa, such as Hershey’s
2 t instant coffee or espresso powder
1/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
2 t vanilla extract
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature

for the filling:
4 large egg yolks
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 t salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.  Grease and flour two 8″ round pans lined with parchment rounds. Combine cocoa and instant espresso powder in a small bowl.  Add boiling water and mix until smooth.  Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the buttermilk and vanilla.

Using a mixer, beat butter until smooth (about 30 seconds).  Gradually add the sugar and beat until light & fluffy (about 5 minutes).  Beat in eggs one at a time, combining well after each.  Scrape down the mixing bowl.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and 1/3 of the cocoa mixture to the batter.  Repeat twice more, scraping as needed, until ingredients are just combined.

Divide batter evenly between the pans.  Bake 23-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on wire rack.  Turn out of pans and cool completely before assembling.

For the filling: Whisk yolks, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Beat in the butter, and then gradually add cream and vanilla.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 180°F.  This will take about 15-20 minutes, and the mixture will be puffy and slightly thickened.  Transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature.  Stir in the coconut and pecans before assembling cake.

To assemble: Cut both cakes in half horizontally so you have four layers total.  Spread 1/4 of the filling on top of each layer, stacking as you go.


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  1. Such decadence.

    • This cake is delicious! I’m making it as a request for the second time for my husbands birthday. I don’t understand why the layers are so shallow though, difficult to cut in half they are so narrow–don’t know if I’m doing something wrong?! help?

      • Hmmm…if they are coming out moist and tasty, then I’d suggest not cutting them in half and just assembling it as a two-layer cake. There’d be nothing wrong with that!

  2. Chocolate, coconut and pecans?? I have never seen this cake before but I can tell it would become a favorite in no time. 🙂

  3. that looks wonderful.. German Chocolate cake is a favorite here.

  4. I have heard of this cake before, but never know it’s this beautiful! You have such a great blog!

  5. This looks so BEAUTIFUL! I like the idea of using frosting to keep it fresh (and make it more decadent)! My mom and I have been talking a lot of cake via trans-Atlantic calls recently and German Chocolate cake has come up quite a bit. She made German Chocolate cupcakes for her 57th birthday last week. I’m definitely going to forward this post to her!

  6. I only found out about German Choc. cake whe I moved to the US but fell in love with it…anything with coconut!!

  7. Yum! I love that the filling is on the inside, versus all over the outside as icing. Fabulous!

  8. gosh…brilliant….wish i had the talent….

  9. Thanks all! I’ve bit a bit sad over the last couple of days, as our cake is now gone. On to something else soon…

  10. Great looking filling on that beautiful cake!
    Welcome to the Daring Bakers, too!

  11. That is really a great cake. That one piece is making me drool.

  12. Hello, this is my first time visiting your blog. I found it through the Foodie Blogroll.
    This cake looks amazing! I would love to eat my way through a piece of it.

  13. That looks amazing! The first picture is so nice, it could be the cover of a cookbook!

  14. Your cake looks fabulous! I have a German Red wine choc cake (Rotweinkuchen) recipe that you might like:

  15. you don’t mention anything about the frosting on the outside of the cake. what is it exactly?

    • hi janet. actually i do talk about the icing in the post (in the paragraph above the seecond picture). it was some leftover cream cheese frosting from some cupcakes i’d made the week before. i just added melted chocolate to it and used it to ice.

  16. This is not German Chocolate Cake. My husband brought home something similar for my Birthday after being ‘hounded’ that I never get my favorite “German Chocolate” on my day. This is DARK Chocolate Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting with a little German Chocolate Cake Frosting. Call it what it is! I am not a dark chocolate cake lover, and was very disappointed. It is misleading.

    • I’m not misleading anyone. You can see the picture, read the discription and read the recipe. If it doesn’t look or sound like what you want, then just don’t make it.

  17. I’m making it now, can’t wait to try it. I liked the batter so it must be good. YUMMY.

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