Friday, November 12, 2010

Deceptive and Delicious German Chocolate Cake

I'm really not much of a cake person. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of great cake in my day and I make cakes often enough, but if I'm going to choose a dessert, cake is usually not my first pick. Maybe it has something to do with growing up on rectangle-shaped, sprinkle-encrusted cakes that came from boxes. I'm not sure, but I do know there are two types of people when it comes to cakes: cake people...and icing people. I belong in the latter group as I've always been one of those always-ask-for-a-corner-piece-because-it-has-more-frosting sort of people. But before I get too far off track, what I was getting at was that (in my opinion) you can't have a good cake, without a darn good icing to complement it! Thus, when a circumstance arises in which cake is the must-have dessert, I'm going to choose my cake AND icing recipe very carefully.
In this case I have picked a cake that I have had only once before (sadly): German Chocolate Cake. I fell in love with this cake a year ago after tasting the creamy, flavorful frosting which perfectly balanced the dense, chocolate cake beneath. However, at the time, I was too busy savoring the incredible tastes to actually figure out WHAT it was that made it so different from other dry and dull chocolate cakes. It was time to find out...
I chose the German Chocolate Cake recipe from my favorite baking source, After reading through the recipe once I quickly realized there was much more to this cake than meets the eye, which explains the intricate flavor combinations.
For starters, the cake itself has Dutch cocoa powder and milk chocolate going for it as well as coffee and buttermilk for the liquid agents (coffee and chocolate? now I know why I love it so much!). The coffee adds depth to the chocolate and the buttermilk makes for a wonderfully moist crumb. So far so good, but it gets better. The famous frosting is a combination of evaporated milk and sugar, cooked and thickened with egg yolks and then combined with coconut and toasted pecans for a flavor and texture combo that is out of this world! I absolutely love it!
*Short story time!* I had worked hard on making sure this cake was perfect, right? And then it finally comes time to serve it and it looks all impressive and great with its rich brown colors and three layers and all. Things were going smooth so far and I had everyone under the impression that I was all that as I suavely told them what was in it and how I came to create such a masterpiece. Then my friend innocently asks: "what is German chocolate anyways?" followed by a pause for thought. Now I had everyone wondering the same thing and all I could give them was this blank stare. How had I just made a German Chocolate Cake and not know what German chocolate was?! Woops. Well as soon as we started eating, I'm pretty sure we all could have cared less if there what German chocolate was (thank goodness), but I do plan to redeem myself now. Once again I turn to my trusted Deluxe Food Lover's Companion for the truth behind this mystery and here's what we find out: German chocolate is actually NOT from Germany, but rather it is named after its creator, Sam German who developed the chocolate for Baker's company in the mid-1800s. This chocolate is simply a sweet chocolate similar to milk chocolate and is best known for its place in German Chocolate Cake, which was first published in a Dallas newspaper in 1957.
So there we have it, the a story behind German chocolate and German Chocolate Cake that will surely impress any guests and save you from looking ...well like me.
This cake goes great with a nice vanilla ice cream or a cup of milk to balance the richness. Although it is difficult to cut due to being three layers and rather crumbly, do your best to slice it thinly as a little of this goes a long way. Hope you enjoy!
NOTE: My only troubles with this cake I had with the milk chocolate and the pecans.
The milk chocolate was more my own fault really. I melted the chocolate perfectly in my microwave and then was interrupted to watch Jeopardy! so when I came back I had to reheat it. This should have been no problem, but I must not have melted it well enough because when I "folded" it into the batter, it became stiff and clumpy. This meant the cakes were harder to invert because of all the chocolate pieces stuck to the bottom, but it just tasted like it had chocolate chips in it so that was OK.
As for the pecans, just watch them carefully while toasting. I had to do several batches to get them to come out right. Some of the problem was timing and some was quantity, it just depends. I would suggest sticking with the minimum toasting time and then adjusting from there. Whatever you do, DO NOT eliminate the toasting step, it does such wonders for the flavor of the nuts and the cake as a whole.

German Chocolate Cake

- 4oz semi-sweet or Baker's German chocolate, chopped
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup hot coffee (or water, coffee heavily suggested though)
- 1 cup buttermilk (or milk with a little acid added)
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups granulated white sugar (I only had brown and that worked just fine)
- 5 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1) Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring after each minute until almost melted. Stir until completely smooth and set aside to cool.
2) Preheat oven to 350 F and place rack in the center of the oven. Grease 3 8" round cake pans with Wilton Cake Release or butter and dust with flour.
3) In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl combine the coffee and the buttermilk.
4) In a big mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and then add the sugar gradually and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (2-3 min).
5) Scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each and then add the vanilla and beat to combine.
6) Add a little of the liquid mixture to moisten and beat until uniform. Add a little of the dry mixture and beat to combine until uniform. Continue this process with the rest of the liquid and dry mixtures.
7) Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans and back for about 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
8) Allow to cool completely on a wire rack. When cool, line 3 large plates or medium cutting boards with wax paper and invert the cakes onto them one at a time.
9) When ready to assemble the cake, Place the thickest, sturdiest cake on your serving plate and center it as best as you can. Cover the top (not the sides) of it with 1/3 of the frosting (about a cup). Continue with the other two layers and the rest of the frosting. Garnish with extra pecans or coconut.
10) The finished cake can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days or it can be refrigerated.

Coconut Pecan Frosting

- 1 1/4 cups raw pecans
- 1 cup granulated white sugar (again, I used brown and it was awesome)
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 350 F and place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, watching carefully, until lightly browned and just becoming fragrant (if you can smell them outside the oven they will probably be over-done). Let cool, then chop into small pieces (about 1/6 the size of a pecan if you cut it in half lengthwise and then into thirds)
2) In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, egg yolks, butter, and salt. Whisk to mix in the sugar and beat up the egg yolks.
3) Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly for a few minutes until thickened (the mixture should boil for a little while) then add the coconut, pecans, and vanilla extract.
4) Let cool until spreadable and then assemble the cake (and try not to eat too much of the frosting while you are waiting!)
 First base
 Two layers of cake and icing
 Total construction: triple layer (yumm)
Finished product :)

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