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German “Sweet” Chocolate Cake

Om Nom! German "Sweet" Chocolate Cake

Okay, it was Christmas, and my dad showed up at my door for our first big holiday without mom – what was the point in making the journey to his house where the trappings and decorations of the holidays aren’t?  I had the tree, the fireplace, the food, the gifts–he had nothing.  When he arrived, he plopped this cake down.  “Your grandmother sent a cake.”  Oh, lovely.  Only problem is, I’m not the grandchild that eats German Chocolate Cake–that’s the redhead almost 40-year old who’s the USPS guy.  I’m the Italian Cream Cake offspring.  It’s been a rough year for her so I was all too happy to ignore the gaffe and pass out slabs of cake to everyone who came over on Christmas eve.  I wonder if the red-head got my cake instead?

In her recipe book that I infamously “borrowed” and copied – her recipe is written with the addition of “Sweet” in the title – I’m not sure why.  It’s also dated 11/22/2000 and Recipe #51.  Why 51?  Area 51?  Maybe the aliens got my cake for Christmas?

Germans don’t have anything to do with this cake – I skyped my friend in Amorbach to ask, and got some strange words and funny looks.  He thought for sure I was asking about Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte.  Turns out the cake and the chocolate is named after American Sam German, who developed the sweet dark baking chocolate variety for the Baker’s company.  It was originally called “German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake” and over time the possessive was dropped, giving false impressions about its origin.  I looked up the Bakers’ recipe and lo, my grandmother’s must have come from the back of the box, because it’s only slightly adapted.  Enjoy.

German “Sweet” Chocolate Cake
by Jason Osborne – adapted from the Bakers’ box

4 oz Bakers’ German Chocolate squares (1 pkg)
0.5 cup boiling water
2 cups sugar
2.5 cups cake flour
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
4 egg yolks
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 egg whites

If this were a culinary school textbook, there would be an ingredient list and the phrase “creaming method” afterward. You know the drill…

Chop the chocolate into tiny bits with your knife and place in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the chocolate and tie until completely melted. Cool to room temperature. Meawhile, proper pan prep is essential. Grease the bottom of three 9″ cake rounds with butter or spray, add circles of wax paper, and grease only the wax paper – do not grease the sides – we need a surface for our cake to cling to as it climbs the pan. If you’ll note the ingredient list, there is no baking powder in this recipe, only egg whites.

Using the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, until combined well before adding the next yolk. Add chocolate and vanilla and beat until thoroughly integrated. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt and add alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.

If you’re like me, and only have one bowl that goes with your mixer, transfer the batter to a big glass bowl and thoroughly wash the mixer’s work bowl and dry it. Pull out the whisk attachment. Sigh, wipe brow, enjoy refreshing beverage. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then fold into the batter. By fold, I mean take 1/3 of the whites and stir vigorously into the batter, to lighten it. Then, gently fold the remaining 2/3 whites in properly.

Divide the batter into the three prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

To assemble the cake, use a leveler or a good knife and a good eye to flatten each layer and spread frosting in between the layers and on the outside with an offset spatula. Then, spread additional toasted chopped pecans on the outside, followed by sweetened, flaked coconut.

Coconut-Pecan Filling/Frosting
1.25 cups evaporated milk
1.25 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp flour
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp lemon juice

Beat egg yolks, milk, lemon juice, and vanilla in large saucepan with wire whisk until well blended. Add sugar, butter, and flour; cook on medium heat about ten minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add one cup each of coconut and pecans; mix well. Cool to room temperature and of desired spreading consistency.

The remaining cup of coconut and pecans is for spreading on the outside of the cake.