German Chocolate Cake

When I was a kid, my mom used to make me German chocolate cake with coconut-pecan icing almost every year for my birthday, and now that I’m an adult…I still really love it.  This version comes from our new favorite baking book, Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, the excellent book that gave us the recipe for our recent (and delicious) attempt at brewer’s blondies.  I can’t decide what I like most about this cake, because there are a lot of great things going on with it. From a moist, dense crumb packed with chocolate flavor to an icing that is sweet and sticky and loaded with coconut and pecans, it’s just decadent through and through.  I know I tend to wax hyperbolic and tell you that something is the best I’ve ever tasted – but this cake really is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think that this cake paired with a cup of strong black coffee might be one of the things they give you in Heaven if you’ve been good enough in your life.  The original recipe called for three 8-inch cakes, but since all we had were 9-inch pans, we made a two-layer cake and a few cupcakes.  The guys in the Baked book also kept their sides exposed, but we liked the icing so much that we ended up coating the sides, too.  The recipe also makes a tasty cupcake.

German Chocolate Cake
(adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

For the cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour.  Cake flour is a specialized flour with a lower gluten (protein) content than all-purpose flour.  Because of this, cake flour makes for a finer, more tender crumb.  We use the Swans Down brand.
  • 3/4 cup dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup hot coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter your cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the paper.  Dust with flour, knocking the side of the pan with your hand to discard excess.

Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the coffee and buttermilk.  The coffee here is present to accentuate the flavor of the chocolate.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy with the paddle attachment.  Scrape down the bowl and add the eggs one at a time, beating each egg until incorporated.  Add the vanilla and beat until it is incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the flour mixture and coffee/buttermilk mixture in three alternating additions, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the melted chocolate.  Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool completely.

Coconut Pecan Icing

  • 1 1/3 cups shredded sweetened coconut.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 300.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Spread half of the coconut across the pan and place in the oven until the coconut begins to brown; about 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, butter, evaporated milk, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  After the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from the heat and stir in the toasted coconut, the regular coconut, and pecans. Place the pan over an ice bath and stir the mixture until cool.

Assembly of the cake is up to you.  We started by leaving our sides exposed like the book said, but it looked a little messy for our tastes – of course, the guys in the book are professionals and have been doing this a lot longer than us, so it makes sense that theirs would look neater.  After tasting the icing, we liked it so much that we decided that we would make a little more and coat the sides of the cake as well.  I was a little worried that so much icing might overwhelm the flavor of the cake, but that was unfounded; the rich chocolate flavor of the cake was very assertive and complemented well by the icing.  Unlike some cakes that are very sugary all the way through, this cake has a very sweet icing on top of a less-sweet cake, and that works very well.  If covered, the cake holds up extremely well – we ate the last piece of this one three days after it was first baked and it was as moist as the first day we cut into it.  It’s a pretty labor-intensive cake, but it’s sure to please most anybody you serve it to, and you won’t ever find a cake mix that can replicate the flavor or texture.  Enjoy!

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8 thoughts on “German Chocolate Cake

    • You get a really good play between the evaporated milk cooking down with the sugar and butter – it makes this rich, creamy base that just goes to the next level with the coconut and pecans. It’s almost like a creamy caramel. Thanks for stopping by!

  1. Trac said it was probably the best caker she has ever tasted! The word ‘caramel’ in your previous respon got my attention can’t wait to try it!

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