German Chocolate Cake

It's that time of year again! We're now well into June and temperatures are climbing, so this will probably be my last post for a rich, chocolate-y, baked-in-the-oven dessert for a while, leaving room for popsicles and gelato and other Summer-y, heat-free, desserts. Stay tuned.

Today's recipe is for German Chocolate Cake, which I mentioned a while back in my post about macaroons. In my years 14 or so years of baking it is still is ingrained in my memory as one of the best cakes I've ever made. And how can it not be? Here we have two layers of moist chocolate fudge cake, a delectable sticky sweet coconut-pecan-caramel filling, topped of with a silky smooth truffle-like chocolate frosting. If there were a Cake Olympics, this one would be the favorite for the gold medal, or worthy of an Oscar at the Cake Academy Awards. You get what I mean -- this cake is good, and posted just in time for Father's Day, if you want to impress your dad with an over-the-top, spectacular dessert. 

Now, I know what you're thinking -- this cake sure looks good and is probably delicious but it seems like quite a bit of work, so while the photos look great, I will probably never make this cake. Wait just a minute!! Though this cake is a bit more time consuming then a one-bowl-cake or an everyday cake, none of the steps involved for the filling, cake, or frosting are particularly difficult. The cake does not even require any beating of the butter or sugar; the filling ingredients just need to be combined after baking the condensed milk for a bit (time during which you can go and do other things) -- and the frosting ingredients need only be melted together and then left in the fridge until spreadable. You may have to start a bit in advance to make cake, yes but a little extra effort is worthwhile here. Trust me. 

Side note: This cake, despite what the name implies, is not German (my German office mate has assured me you would never find this cake anywhere in Germany). A little research revealed that this cake can be traced back to 1852, when an American named Samuel German developed a type of baking chocolate for Baker's Chocolate Company. The chocolate he developed was called Baker's German's Sweet Chocolate, and was later on used in the first recipe for German Chocolate Cake (which appeared in the recipe section of a magazine called the Dallas Star, in 1957). The recipe was a huge hit, and so here we are 59 years later, still talking about German Chocolate Cake. Indeed, with its filling, frosting, and layers, it is a decidedly American cake.

A note on the frosting: I find that the quantities given in the original recipe make far too much frosting for the cake. I usually make it as is and use the leftover frosting for cupcakes or other recipes, but you could probably cut it down by 1/4 or 1/3 and have more than enough. The cake layers tend to bake fairly quickly so keep an eye on them. Enjoy!


GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients for cake: 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 3/4 cup hot water 

Ingredients for filling: 
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
4 ounces coarsely chopped pecans (1 cup)
14-ounces can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla 

Ingredients for frosting: 
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter 
10 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate 
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
Special equipment: 2 (9-inch) round cake pans

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F and butter the cake pans. You can also line bottoms of pans with rounds of parchment paper. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk together whole milk, butter, whole egg, yolk, and vanilla extract in another large bowl until just combined. Beat the egg mixture into the flour mixture with an electric mixer on low speed, then beat on high speed 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and beat in water until just combined. Divide batter among cake pans and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes total (check the cakes regularly, as every oven varies a bit).

Cool layers in pans on racks 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove parchment or wax paper and cool layers completely. 

For the filling: Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Spread coconut in a large shallow baking pan and pecans in another. Bake pecans in upper third of oven and coconut in lower third, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 18 minutes. Remove pans from oven.

Increase oven temperature to 425°F. Pour condensed milk into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate and cover tightly with foil. Bake milk in a water bath in middle of oven 45 minutes. Refill baking pan with water to reach halfway up pie plate and bake milk until thick and light brown, about 45 minutes more. Remove pie plate from water bath. Stir in coconut, pecans, and vanilla and keep warm, covered with foil.  

For the glaze: Melt butter in a 3-quart saucepan. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate and corn syrup, whisking until chocolate is melted. Transfer 1 cup glaze to a bowl, reserving remaining glaze at room temperature in pan. Chill glaze in bowl, stirring occasionally, until thickened and spreadable, about 1 hour. 

Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate. Drop half of coconut filling by spoonfuls evenly over layer and gently spread with a wet spatula. Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread chilled glaze evenly over top and side of cake. Chill cake until set, about 1 hour. Transfer cake to a plate. Decorate the border of the cake with extra coconut and pecans, if you'd like. Serves about 12 depending on how big you cut the slices.


Adapted from www.epicurious.com.



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