Thursday, May 16, 2013

German Chocolate Cake

As I mentioned in a previous post, Aaron's birthday was a couple weeks ago and he requested a German chocolate cake. Usually I pile up cookbooks, magazines, and clippings for him to peruse to get ideas for which cake he'd like; it's a very serious decision. This year, however, he already knew what he wanted. I was more than happy to oblige, as German chocolate cake is one of my favorites! Growing up, my mom and I loved going to my uncle Jack's bakery, The Basque Boulangerie, to order their mini German chocolate cakes to share. As you can imagine, I was very excited to get to bake it in my own home. 

Contrary to what you might think, there's nothing German at all about German chocolate cake. In a November, 2009 issue of Saveur, Nick Malgieri writes about how the cake dates back to 1957, when its creator, Mrs. George Clay of Dallas, Texas, submitted the recipe to the Dallas Morning News. When the paper ran the recipe, it caused such a sensation that other newspapers around the U.S. began printing it as well. It makes sense. When you think about it, the ingredients are suspiciously southern, aren't they? Coconut and pecans are typical ingredients found in many southern cakes. 

So where does the German part come in you ask? Mrs. Clay's original recipe included German's Sweet Chocolate, a baking chocolate conceived by Samuel German for the Walter Baker & Co. in Massachusetts in 1852. As the popularity of German chocolate cake grew, the company capitalized on the cake's recipe and began printing a recipe for German chocolate cake on every box of chocolate. The rest is history. The recipe below is a slight variation on the official recipe. 

While I was eating the cake, I remembered how much I loved it growing up. The rich chocolate cake is separated by layers of sweet, gooey coconut frosting, and littered with chopped pecans. Absolutely delicious! I intended to take the cake to work the following day to share with my co-workers and get it out of the house so we didn't eat it all... somehow that didn't happen. All I can say is Mrs. George Clay of Dallas, Texas, knew a thing or two about baking cakes. Happy Birthday Aaron!

Adapted from Nick Malgieri, Saveur, December 2009


For the frosting:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 large egg yolks
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups roughly chopped pecans
17 oz. (about 6 cups) sweetened shredded coconut

For the cake:

4 oz. German's Sweet Chocolate (or semi-sweet chocolate), chopped
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
4 large egg whites 

For the simple syrup mixture (for brushing on the cake later on):
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. brewed coffee 

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, butter, egg yolks, and evaporated milk in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture is thick, about 12 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a medium bowl. Stir in the vanilla, followed by the pecans and coconut. Allow the frosting come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment circles. Grease the parchment and set aside. Combine the chocolates in a small bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let the chocolate and water sit for 1 minute before stirring until smooth. Set aside. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In a standing or handheld mixer, cream 1 1/4 cups sugar and the butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, allowing them to be fulling incorporated before adding the next. Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla and beat until smooth. On low speed, working in thirds, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk until just combined. Set the batter aside.

In a medium size bowl, whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to whip to firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter until just combined. Evenly divide the batter between the three pans and smooth the surface. Bake until cakes are set, 25 to 30 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting onto drying racks to cool completely. 

Meanwhile, to make the simple syrup mixture, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the coffee. Set aside to cool.

Remove the frosting from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Brush the top and sides of each cake with the simple syrup mixture. Frost the top of each cake and assemble, leaving the sides bare. Wrap the sides of the cake in a sheet of wax paper (to keep from drying out) and tape to hold in place. The cake will keep at room temperature for several days.  Remove the wax paper before slicing and serving.

Serves 14 to 16

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