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German Chocolate Cake

February 18, 2011

A phone call late one evening to ask for an extra cake pan led to an email with a picture of a gorgeous German Chocolate Cake the next morning. Our downstairs neighbor and also friend and co-worker, Lizzie, as you will read, was baking this cake for Valentine’s Day. When I saw the picture she snapped of it the next day at work, I was hoping there would be leftovers. Fortunately, there was! And I was able to get her to write up a special guest post for the blog. The cake is delicious and if I had someone special to bake it for, I definitely would. Here’s what Lizzie had to say.

For Valentine’s Day this year, my husband and I decided to eat at home instead of going out. We’ve found it a bit overrated (and overpriced). However, I still love holidays, especially ones that involve decorations and most importantly, special food that is specific to the season.

While thinking about the menu for our dinner, I told my husband that I’d like to bake something for him and he requested a German Chocolate Cake. Thankfully, we both enjoy anything with chocolate or coconut and this particular cake has both! I thought, oh, no problem, this will be easy and fun! I went straight to my shelves (that’s right– shelves, plural) of cookbooks but to great disappointment, I didn’t find a single appealing take on what I thought would be a very common recipe. This took me to my second favorite place to look for recipes, the Internet! Right away, Joy of Baking‘s website came up with a lovely, thorough recipe for this traditional Valentine’s Day dessert.

If you want something especially delicious with a bit more depth, this is a cake you should definitely consider. Not only is it tasty, it is a show stopping beauty. What better way to welcome guests for an evening meal than a tempting three layer cake with gooey, caramel coconut pecan icing trickling down the sides, waiting to be enjoyed after dinner!

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake

German Chocolate Cake, from Joy of Baking


For the cake:
4 ounces (120 grams) semi sweet chocolate, chopped

2 1/4 cups (270 grams) cake flour
3/4 cup (60 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240 ml) hot coffee or boiling water
1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk
1 1/4 cups (280 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups (450 grams) granulated white sugar
5 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Coconut Pecan Frosting:
1 1/4 cups (125 grams) pecans
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
1 cup (240 ml) evaporated milk (can also use light or heavy cream)
3 large (60 grams) egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, and line with parchment paper, three – 8 x 2 inch deep (20 x 5 cm) round baking pans. Dust with flour. In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the coffee and buttermilk.

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about 3-5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.

4. Add the coffee/buttermilk mixture and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the melted chocolate.

5. Divide the batter evenly among the three prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Butter or lightly spray a wire rack with a non stick vegetable spray before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

6. Coconut Pecan Frosting: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Place the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and fragrant. Remove from oven, let cool, and then coarsely chop.

7. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, milk, egg yolks, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and when the mixture begins to boil and thicken, remove from heat. Stir in the chopped pecans, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool until spreadable.

8. To Assemble: Place one layer of cake, on your serving plate, and cover with one third of the frosting. Place the second layer of cake, onto the first cake layer and frost with another one-third of the frosting. Then add the third cake layer and frost the top of the cake with the remaining frosting (the sides of the cake are left bare). The finished cake can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days or it can be refrigerated. Serves 14-16 people.


I’ll save you the history of the cake or even the reasons as to why it’s a great idea– the website says it best. However, I must say that this particular cake became quite an endeavor from the very beginning. I’ve found that oftentimes, your first attempt at a recipe can take much longer, especially when it requires exact measurements for everything. And there are multiple things to remember. For example, make sure you melt the chocolate before doing anything else, so that it has time to cool before adding to the mixture.

I also forgot to add 1/4 of the 2 1/4 cups of butter, but it didn’t seem to affect the end product too noticeably. In addition to roasting the pecans next time, I think I’ll throw the coconut in the oven for a few minutes. The smoky flavor of both the pecans and coconut would be lovely. Lastly, this recipe calls for brewed coffee and uses semi-sweet chocolate as opposed to German chocolate, both changes to the traditional GC cake recipe. I think their additions make the cake even better.

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