German Chocolate Cake. This rich moist cake is easier to make that is seems but you need to know a few basic things. Making the cake is easy enough. I don’t know why people pay so much for a boxed mix when measuring some flour, sugar, salt, baking soda is just as easy.
Box mixes still want you to add the liquids, which in this case are egg, butter, vanilla, melted chocolate. (A super easy technique for this recipe is to put the chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. You let it sit for a couple minutes and then whisk… none of this double boiler stuff that can be so stressful.) The key flavor ingredient is buttermilk. It’s what gives the cake it’s unique taste.
- It’s all about the chocolate. The better your chocolate the better your cake. Isn’t this always true about chocolate. After doing much research and looking to trusted sources I finally settled on Valrhona to be my go to for quality chocolate. For this cake I stick with 66% chocolate. Though some may call it semi-sweet, a good practice to get in, if you work with chocolate often, is being able to identify the percentage from the cacao plant in your chocolate. This will give you much more control over your finished product. It may not seem like a big thing but I personally found I prefer 40% over 36% for my chocolate chip cookies.
- Coconut-Pecan Frosting. So rich, and decadent, it has to be hard to make. It’s nothing more than bringing a few simple ingredients to a boil for just a couple minutes and then stirring in you coconut and pecans. In a pot you add egg yolks, a can of evaporated milk, some sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk it together. Even before you put this pot on the stove you then add your cubed butter. Then you just put over moderate heat and stir until it comes to a boil. Then stir for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the coconut and pecans. (I like to toast coconut in my toaster oven. It comes to temperature a lot quicker and I can do this while the cake is in the oven. Also since my husband isn’t a fan of coconut I also toss it and the pecans in a food processor and pulse to a fine crumb. This doesn’t hurt the end result and he enjoys it more!)
- Chocolate frosting is all about patience. OK, and chocolate too but that should go without saying. So chocolate frosting is tricky. Not because of skill but because no one tells you that the BEST chocolate frosting is gonna take A LOT of patience. It’s straight forward. Chocolate goes in a bowl. You add a little bit of light corn syrup. Then you bring some heavy cream just to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for a couple minutes and whisk. That’s it. OK. Now, you have to wait, and wait, oh, and wait some more. See what has to happen is the frosting needs to cool so the chocolate can re-solidify. You don’t want to put it in the fridge to cool because then it will just become nearly solid. So it has to sit at room temperature. Eventually this watery mixture will stiffen and be a thick gorgeous spreadable frosting. (But, if you’re like me and you can’t wait. Treat it more like a ganache and pour it over the coconut pecan frosting on top of the cake and let it drip everywhere. It makes for a fun effect!)
- Make the cake ahead of time. I recently read an article about a mother who would stress over the perfect birthday cake for her kids and it was a nightmare for the family to live through. What most people don’t know is that cake freezes REALLY well. So maybe a week or two ahead of the birthday make the cake. Let it cool completely. Wrap it in plastic wrap and if it fits in a ziplock do that. Then pop it in the freezer. Now here’s the kicker. Frost it frozen! Cakes will tend not to get all crumby when they are frozen. So when you’re ready to put the whole thing together take the cake out of the freezer, unwrap it, and assemble immediately. You don’t need to wait for it to thaw!
- Assembly. Some people stress about assembling cakes. I am not sure why but I have some thoughts. First off if you do it with frozen cakes they aren’t so fragile. To assemble this one put the first layer on the platter. Smear the coconut icing all over it. Then pour the chocolate frosting if if hasn’t set up all the way. Carefully spread but don’t go to close to the edge or when you put the next layer on everything will come squishing out. Then on goes the next layer of cake and repeat with the icing and the chocolate. (Here’s something I am discovering works amazingly well… Always bake squares or rectangles, never circles. Serving will be way easier and you won’t have to know geometry to make sure everyone gets cake. Don’t frost the sides. This will make every slice of cake be like the next. Although there are some people who want all the extra frosting most people leave a lot of it on the plate. Also think of this cake. Traditionally the chocolate would only go on the sides. Then those who got center cuts would have no chocolate. This assembly everyone gets the same amount of each component.)
- Serving can be a chore but it doesn’t have to. First. Some cakes can be served cold. If they can this helps due to it being more solid and stable. Some are better at room temperature. If you can slice up the servings when it comes out of the fridge and then let the individual slices come to room temperature before you serve them. Also for multi-layer cakes, to avoid the laters from separating stab the center of your cake with a bamboo skewer this will hold it in place as you slice. Pull it out and no one will know your secret. Lastly. A hot serrated knife. delicate cakes might not work will with it being serrated but in either case a hot knife is best. Run your tap to get super hot water and after each slice of the knife rinse the blade, wipe it with a towel and slice again. I also map out my slices. As you can see I mark out the square into a 4×4 grid. Each square becomes a serving for both my husband and I. Check out my post on my thoughts on portioning cake for more information.
So a little time and a little patience and you too can wow everyone with a German Chocolate Cake made from scratch.