German Chocolate Cake
I have long associated German Chocolate Cake with Father’s Day, although I’m not entirely sure why. I think I remember my mom making it for my dad once or twice growing up (although never on Father’s Day, ironically) and the correlation must have stuck somewhere along the way. Although I don’t have a distinct memory to tie the two together, German Chocolate Cake just seems like a “man’s man” cake, doesn’t it? So many chocolate layers with a sugary pecan-coconut filling in between and then iced in more chocolate… it’s certainly not a cake for the faint of heart! With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday, I’m sure this cake could make many men in your life happy!
Up until recently, I thought that this cake actually originated in Germany, hence the name. Turns out, it’s as American as the Big Mac. Who knew?! Way back in 1852, Sam German developed a brand of dark chocolate for Baker’s Chocolate Company and the resulting product, Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate, was named in honor of him. Then, in the late 1950’s, the original recipe for “German’s Chocolate Cake”, which used the baking chocolate, was submitted by a homemaker to a local newspaper. It became insanely popular, so much so, that the company that owned Baker’s Chocolate noticed and distributed the recipe to other newspapers across the country. Reportedly, sales of the chocolate increased 73% , and the cake became famous. Here’s hoping that homemaker from Dallas who came up with the recipe got a little piece of the action!
This recipe was actually my second go at German Chocolate Cake recently, and I’m pretty confident it will be my last. I first turned to my usual trusted source for classic recipes when I set about making the cake, but ended up being surprisingly disappointed. The cake layers were wispy thin and the chocolate flavor was severely lacking. I started my search over and when I came across this recipe I thought it looked extremely promising. It was described as a “big, tall” cake with four layers brushed with a rum syrup, lots of filling and iced with a fantastic chocolate ganache. This cake delivered and then some.
You can’t taste the rum in the syrup, but it accents the chocolate flavor and keeps the cake nice and moist. The filling is studded with toasted pecans and toasted coconut; the toasting takes mere minutes but adds so much in terms of flavor and texture. Finally, the icing isn’t overpowering, but a perfect complement and finishing touch to the cake – you don’t want to skip it!
Are you making anything special for Father’s Day on Sunday?
German Chocolate Cake
For the Cake:
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 6 tablespoons water
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1¼ cup + ¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
- 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Filling:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
- 1 1/3 cups unsweetened coconut, toasted
For the Rum Syrup:
- 2/3 cup water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons dark rum
For the Chocolate Icing:
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup heavy cream
- Make the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- Melt the semisweet and unsweetened chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water in a small bowl. Use either a double-boiler or microwave on 50% for 30 seconds to 1 minutes. Stir until smooth, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1¼ cup of the sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and beat in the melted chocolate until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, mixing until combined, and then add the remainder of the flour mixture.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the ¼ cup of sugar and beat until they form stiff, glossy peaks.
- Using a rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.
- Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake layers completely (leave them in the pans). While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup and icing.
- Make the Filling: Stir together the heavy cream, sugar and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the butter, salt, pecans and coconut in a large bowl and set aside. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170 degrees F.). Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature.
- Make the Rum Syrup: In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum. Set aside until ready to use.
- Make the Chocolate Icing: Place the chopped chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
- Once the filling and icing are both cooled to room temperature, refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Assemble the Cake: Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally using a sharp serrated knife, so you have four cake layers. Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush the top of the cake layer with the rum syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top. Repeat, brushing the top of each cake layer with the rum syrup, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top. Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.