This cake is not healthy by any stretch of the imagination. It's sweet and rich and dense and moist and full of coconut and condensed milk and other diet-friendly accouterments (Haaaaa, I kid). But it is not an every day cake, anyway, so you may as well go all out.
But to friends and family reading this: unless it's a milestone birthday or you're going to the electric chair tomorrow, please please please take pity on me and don't request this for our next dinner party/birthday gathering/impromptu wine night. (Now is the time where some of my sassier friends write that email demanding that I make this for them...)
This cake is a true classic. And by "classic", I don't mean everyone makes it all the time so everyone should have a stellar recipe for it. Instead, I mean, it's a vintage recipe that, my guess is, no one other than me and southern grandmothers are making any more. But I want to change that! Having never tasted the real thing, I had no idea whether I was doing this right. But the reaction from the guest of honor and the rest of my office said it all. It looked something like this:
Yeah. This one's a winner.
There are three tricks to getting this face out of your dining companions with this cake:
(1) Use the right chocolate. You MUST use German's Chocolate. Do not use semi-sweet, do not use dark, and do not use unsweetened. German's is sweet chocolate. Not milk chocolate; sweet chocolate. Do not skimp here! It's tempting to do so, because German's can be hard to find. You can find it online, or at most major or European-style grocery stores. It looks like this.
(2) Make it ahead of time. Due to time constraints, I had to make this approximately 24 hours before it was actually served, which allowed the moisture from the icing to seep into the cake. Rather than ruining the cake, as I feared, it actually made the cake itself melt-in-your-mouth moist, and made the icing less runny. Double win. This is why I recommend you let the assembled cake sit overnight.
(3) Be patient. It is going to take a long time, and trying to speed anything up will completely ruin the cake. I'm not exaggerating. Don't make this cake if you don't have an entire afternoon to devote to it. If the instructions say stir over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, don't think you can crank up the heat and get away with stirring for 10 minutes. Just...don't. And undercooking any part of this is just as bad as overcooking. Oh, and before I forget: make sure to build in a lot of time for cleanup. This cake will use quite possibly every pan, bowl, stirring implement, counter top, and miscellaneous other surface you own.
Now that I've made this cake sound utterly tedious (it is), I'd just like to urge you to try it once, so you can see how dreamily all of this effort pays off. And if you're making this on a regular basis, and not a southern grandmother, please leave a comment letting me know! I'd be curious to know how extinct this recipe really is...
German Chocolate Cake
Cake recipe from Country Living
Filling recipe from Delish
For the cake:
1/2 cup boiling water
4 oz German's Chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, salted
4 large eggs, separated (yolks in one bowl, whites in another)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flaked coconut (about 7 oz)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
Preheat the oven for 350F. Thoroughly coat 3 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Dust with flour and tap out the excess. set pans aside.
In a medium heat-proof bowl, pour boiling water over chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combined flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the sugar and butter together on medium speed until light 3-5 minutes. Without stopping the mixer, add egg yolks, one at a time, until well incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low and add chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add flour mixture and buttermilk in five 1/4-cup portions, alternating, and ending with dry ingredients. Pour mixture into the flour bowl and set aside.
Thoroughly clean and dry the mixer. Beat egg yolks until they form soft peaks. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the batter, using a rubber spatula. When combined, fold in the remaining whites.
Divide batter equally between the three prepared pans and spread gently to level. Bake on the middle rack of the oven 27-28 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of each comes out clean. Depending on the size of your oven, you may have to do two cakes first, and then the remaining cake afterward; this is better to do than putting one cake on a bottom rack.
Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan and turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
White the cakes are cooling, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, butter, egg yolks and vanilla in a wide saute pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened and golden brown. This will take 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in coconut and pecans. Transfer filling to a bowl allow to cool to room temperature.
Finish the cake by placing one layer on a cake plate and top with 1/4 of the filling. Spread it evenly across the top and add another cake layer. Repeat, finishing the cake with the last layer of filling on top. I highly recommend refrigerating this cake overnight (stored in airtight container or covered in plastic wrap to prevent drying out) before serving to allow the moisture from the filling to absorb into the cake. It's pretty amazing. Bring the cake back to room temperature before serving.
Makes a 3-layer 9" cake. It's best to eat the cake within 24 hours, but you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
If you like cake, I definitely have you covered.
Lemon Layer Cake is a little bit less time- and labor-intensive than German Chocolate.
And this Carrot Birthday Cake has been described as "The best cake I've ever eaten, period."