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German Chocolate Cake

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Serves 16

  • by Alice Medrich from Fine Cooking
    Issue 114

German Chocolate Cake isn’t actually German. It’s named for Samuel German, the creator of a chocolate bar for Baker’s Chocolate Company that became the original cake recipe’s star ingredient back in 1957. German’s chocolate contains only 46% cacao, which makes for a subtly flavored cake. This ultimate recipe for German Chocolate Cake uses a moderate amount of semisweet or bittersweet chocolate—up to 70%—for deeper flavor. You can use any semisweet or bittersweet chocolate you like, as long as it contains 70% cacao or less. Any more than that could adversely affect the cake’s texture.
 

For the cakes
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pans
  • 4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (up to 70% cacao), coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
For the coconut-pecan filling
  • 7 oz. (about 2 cups) sweetened, shredded dried coconut
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp. table salt
  • 6 oz. (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1-1/2 cups pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
Make the cakes

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Grease the sides of three 9x2-inch round cake pans with butter and line the bottoms with parchment circles.

Put the chocolate in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Let stand for several seconds and then whisk until the chocolate is dissolved. Set aside until cool to the touch before mixing the batter.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper. Whisk the eggs in a small measuring cup.

Beat the butter for a few seconds in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-low speed. Add the sugar in a steady stream and then beat on medium speed, scraping the bowl as necessary, until the mixture is lightened in color and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Still on medium speed, add the eggs a little at a time, taking a full 1-1/2 minutes to add them all. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla and beat just until blended. With the mixer turned off, add a quarter of the flour mixture. Mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Add a third of the buttermilk and mix until blended. Repeat, each time adding another quarter of the flour, then a third of the buttermilk, until the last of the flour is added. Scrape the bowl as necessary and mix each addition only until it is incorporated.

Divide the batter among the pans and spread it evenly. Bake, rotating the pans and swapping their positions, until the cakes just start to pull away from the sides of the pans and spring back when very gently pressed with a finger, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans on a rack for 10 minutes.

Run a knife or small spatula around the edges to separate the cakes from the pans. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and peel off the parchment. Cool completely.

Make the filling

Spread the coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 350°F, stirring every 2 minutes, until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Scrape the toasted coconut onto a sheet of waxed paper and let cool completely.

Whisk the egg yolks with the evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a heavy-duty, nonreactive 4-quart saucepan. Add the butter. Set over medium heat and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom and corners of the pot. When the mixture starts to boil, adjust the heat so that it boils actively but not furiously, and cook, stirring constantly, until golden and thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the coconut and pecans. Let cool completely.

Assemble the Cake

Put one cake layer on a cake plate. Spread a third of the filling over the top of the cake, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Top with a second cake layer. Spread with half of the remaining filling. Put the third cake layer on top and cover it with the remaining filling. Leave the sides of the cake exposed. Serve at room temperature.

Make Ahead Tips

The cake will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Let it come back to cool room temperature before serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 590; Fat (g): 31; Fat Calories (kcal): 280; Saturated Fat (g): 16; Protein (g): 8; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 10; Carbohydrates (g): 72; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): 360; Cholesterol (mg): 170; Fiber (g): 3;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I made this for my dad's birthday cake, as he loves German chocolate cake. It did not disappoint. The cake itself is moist and tender. (I have used the cake recipe by itself since in a chocolate mousse layer cake). I loved the texture of the frosting with the crunch of the pecans and chewiness of the coconut. (I am a sucker for coconut and pecans though). I did use some dark chocolate buttercream to frost the sides of the cake for a prettier presentation, maybe that offset the sweetness, but I thought it was perfect anyway. Kept well in the fridge for several days too.

On June 3, 1957, a recipe for "German's Chocolate Cake" was the "Recipe of the Day" in the Dallas Morning Star. It was accredited to by Mrs. George Clay. Either way my mother made them almost every month and they are great. I just don't like coconut but everything else is just so good.

I love this cake! It is a tender, moist cake that I can easily eat without the frosting. Yet the frosting is absolutely divine!

I don't usually like German's Chocolate Cake, however, I made this for a friend's birthday. I opted for the bittersweet chocolate. Yum, good choice--I think it would have been too sweet using the semi sweet chocolate. Next time, I'd like to back off on the sugar in the topping as well. Too rich for my normal diet, but great for a special occasion. Thank you Alice.

Oh my! What a perfect german chocolate cake recipe. Mind you, it will take a little bit to time to make it, but it's totally worth it.

This is by far the best German Chocolate Cake I've ever made, or tasted. The only catch is that it is a labor intensive, dedicated labor of love. It took hours! I made it for our son's birthday, and his face on the first bite was of pure joy. That sound of deep deliciousness, that uuhhhmmmm, was worth the hours of work. Everyone at the party exclaimed on-and-on about how great this cake is. I think the variations of a higher chocolate content, but not too much, is really brilliant. Coupled with toasting the coconut flakes and pecans (whatever you do, don't skip the toasting) makes a huge difference. I will make this recipe again and again, if the high calories and fat don't do me in too soon! Thanks so much to the author, and Fine Cooking, to which we've been subscribers for many years. The best and favorite magazine we receive. Every recipe and suggestion in it is excellent like this one.

I was looking for a new birthday cake to make, and came upon this recipe in the first magazine I opened, so decided to try it. It takes a while to make but the flavours were rich and delicious. Everyone at the birthday party enjoyed this cake!

This cake was way too sweet for me. The chocolate didn't come through despite the higher percentage used. The frosting just made the whole thing linger like corn syrup in my mouth. Even my husband who loves sweet,sugary items barely got through one piece. Sorry,never again.

I just made this yesterday and reviewed it for my blog. Definitely worth the time and effort! It was the best German Chocolate cake I ever had by a mile. http://mmapron.com/2011/11/07/fine-cooking-german-chocolate-cake/

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