Tuesday, August 6, 2013

German Chocolate Cake

After two weeks of seriously decadent recipes, I was planning to do something healthy this week... But you know what they say about the best laid plans. Actually, I think they just say "the best laid plans...", but whatever that implies is what I am implying here. Got it? Good.

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.

The reason I say this is not an everyday cake is because it takes several hours to prepare. I made it for our office manager's retirement party - it is her favorite, and this flavor is difficult to find in bakeries because you need special chocolate, and because it takes forever and a day to make - but she's worth it. The years of effort, attention and patience that she gave the company and its employees really held the office together, so she deserves as many of these cakes as she wants.

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." 

Follow Buttercream Fanatic on Facebook // Twitter // Bloglovin // RSS


  1. Gorgeous! This cake looks perfect! I'd love a slice (or two :)).

  2. LOL that picture of Rachel Ray is hilarious but I know exactly what you mean with that look - my dad's birthday is coming up this October and he loves german chococlate cake. I think this would be the perfect cake to make for him! Pinning this!

  3. What a GORGEOUS cake, and how sweet of you to make it for your friend! I'm loving the exposed edges that are all the rage these days, too ;)

  4. Oh, perfect! I hope he (and you) likes it!! You're a great daughter for making him this :)

  5. Thanks, Ashley! Truthfully, I intended to frost it all the way around but decided that the icing was so rich that I'd dial back a little bit. This way was the perfect amount of frosting in my opinion!

  6. Anne ~ Uni HomemakerAugust 6, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    Life is short so it's OK to have decadent recipes every now and then. :) This is a gorgeous cake! A slice of this and some milk and I'm a happy camper. Delicious Nora!

  7. German chocolate cake was my dad's absolute favorite, and we'd have it on his bday every year. I still think of him everytime I see a recipe. Yours is a classic! And you are right: It's worth every minute!

  8. I love how cakes like this bring up such fond memories! That, I think, is really what is worth the effort.

  9. Warm Vanilla SugarAugust 8, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Aww, so nice of you to make this for your manager. I love German chocolate cake, but as you said, it takes forever! It's definitely worth it on special occasions and I'm so glad you found on to make it for!

  10. Oh wow, you really outdid yourself, Nora! This is one impressive cake, and the filling looks perfectly rich and divine...just the way I like it (: Wish I could've been there, just so I could have a bite! haha. I also really appreciate how detailed your instructions are. I'd love to try out something this grand and decadent for a special occasion sometime!

  11. How stunning! It looks absolutely delicious! I can see why it was such a big hit. This is one cake I never made but I'm inspired now.

  12. Thanks, Monica! This was onnnnne rich cake because of that filling. This really is a wonderful occasion cake, though, both for its decadence, and because I don't think a lot of people have it on a regular basis. Next time, I'll save you a slice ;-)

  13. I love your description and pictures, made me smile. This looks amazing, I think I'm going to give the recipe to my other half and tell him I want this for my birthday cake! :)

  14. Amy Tong (http://utry.it)August 9, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Your german chocolate cake sounds decadent and looks gorgeous. You've got me craving for a big slice now. Thanks for sharing your wonderful tips too.

  15. This cake looks like it is totally worth the wait :)

  16. I've definitely had those pulling my hair out moments while baking...but at least this cake looks worth it!!

  17. I've always loved German Chocolate Cake! Yours looks delicious! And I couldn't agree more about making it ahead of time! I've found my cakes become so much more moist the following day! Great tips and hilarious Rachel Ray photo! I've made that face many a time! :)

  18. Thanks, Caroline! The making-ahead-of-time trick was a total accident, but it turned out to really make the cake that much better. It's the secret to the Rachel Ray face ;)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...