This German Chocolate Cake recipe is a classic - a moist, rich chocolate cake base with an irresistibly nutty topping that tastes of creamy, soft caramel studded with deliciously toasted coconut and pecans. Make it as a single layer cake for an everyday treat or turn it into a glorious 3 layer confection for a really special celebration.
We all need a little cake in our lives. Sticking to salads and stardust, however tasty they may be, still gets stale sometimes. And cake is just the thing.
It's just the thing to celebrate something . . . anything . . . everything!
Celebrate the beginning of summer, celebrate the garden growing, or celebrate the end of the school year! I've had a very busy school year - starting out and spending most of it in a most lovely grade one class, then finishing off the year in grade six - different from my normal routine as a substitute teacher, but immensely rewarding.
The joy that comes from connecting with students, truly connecting, and seeing them blossom, grow, and shine, is a very precious gift. I will treasure all the memories made this year: the intense times, the overwhelming times, the hilarious times, and the many, many outstandingly wonderful times. It was the smiles of the students - the shy, tentative little smiles and the big, beaming goofy smiles - that brought me those memories to cherish.
So maybe it's time for a cake.
I've been working on this German Chocolate Cake recipe for a few weeks, tweaking it till it is juuuuuuuust right. There are a lot of German Chocolate Cake recipes to wade through online, so it took a few attempts to get this cake how we like it (and gluten free, too). It's a moist rich chocolate cake spread with gooey layers of a caramelly custard stuffed with toasted coconut and pecans. This recipe works well with my gluten free flour mix, but will work fine with regular all purpose flour, too.
At first I had the cake too darkly chocolatey, but found that German Chocolate Cake is really better with a softer chocolate flavour that harmonizes with the luscious coconut-pecan filling. I found that a single recipe, baked in a springform pan, is just the right size for eight delightful servings after a dinner party, or for two of us to consume for breakfast, snacks, and fridge-raids in one blissful cake-laden day. (No apologies.)
The recipe I've given is for the single-layer cake - perfect for an everyday treat or a celebration for a few. That's the one just right for us.
To get the impressive three-layer cake, all you do is double the recipe (instructions below) and bake it in three pans. I made that one to take to a barbecue gathering this weekend, and it served a crowd (and elicited several requests for the recipe). I brought my gluten-free version and it was gobbled happily by gluten-eaters who didn't seem to care that it was 'special'.
You'd think German Chocolate Cake is a traditional German cake, what with its obvious name and being as the Germans are the creators of so many beautiful cakes and tortes, but you'd be wrong. German Chocolate Cake is a purely North American invention, having been created by a Texas housewife in 1957, using the dark baking chocolate developed by Samuel German (hence the name) in 1852 for the Baker's Chocolate Company.
My husband has been a very happy boy with this cake in the house. You see, he grew up on these kinds of cakes. In his home, desserts and baking were available every day. His mom always had pies, cakes, and/or cinnamon buns sitting on the counter. It was a never-ending delicious dessert buffet, the stuff of sweet dreams. I think I'll have to make this one more often so he gets that big chocolate-cake-smile on his face.
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German Chocolate Cake
For the cake:
- ½ cup (120mls) boiling water
- ⅓ cup (60gms) chocolate chips
- 1 cup (140gms) gluten free flour mix (or regular all-purpose flour for non gluten-free)
- 2 tablespoons (20gms) cornstarch
- ¼ cup (25gms) unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (200gms) granulated sugar
- ½ cup (120mls) oil
- ½ cup (120mls) buttermilk* (see notes below)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the Coconut Pecan Topping:
- 2 large egg yolks
- ½ cup (120mls) light cream, milk, or canned evaporated milk use canned coconut milk for dairy-free
- ½ cup (100gms) sugar
- ¼ cup (57gms) butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup (85gms) toasted, flaked coconut, unsweetened
- ¾ cup (75gms) toasted pecans, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a 9 inch (24cm) springform pan and line the bottom of it with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit. While the oven is preheating, you can toast the coconut and nuts for the topping (see notes above).
- Stir together the boiling water and chocolate chips. (I like to pour the boiling water into a one-cup glass measuring cup and add the chocolate chips.) Stir with a fork until the chocolate chips are melted. Allow to cool to lukewarm.
- In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. (The cocoa powder can have lumps, so it's best to put all the dry ingredients through a sieve - no need to use a flour sifter.) Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside.
- In the mixing bowl of an electric beater, combine the eggs and sugar and beat them until they are light coloured and fluffy. Gradually add the oil, then the buttermilk and vanilla, then the lukewarm chocolate water, scraping the glass to get all the bits of chocolate out.
- Add the flour mixture, one heaped tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat the batter for a further minute until it is smooth. It will be quite a thin batter, but thickens a bit as the flour gets absorbed.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top springs back when touched. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan.
- While the cake is baking, make the topping: In a small saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks and cream or milk until they are well beaten. Add the sugar and butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until bubbles start to form. Continue cooking for 1 more minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut, and pecans. (See how to toast coconut and nuts in the notes above the recipe.)
- Allow to cool completely, then spread over the cooled cake.
- If this cake is not eaten on the first day (unlikely), it is best to store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.
- Makes one 9-inch (24cm) single layer cake.
TO MAKE A 3-LAYER GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE:
- Double the cake recipe above and double the topping recipe, too.
- Divide the batter among three round layer cake pans, greased and lined as above.
- If using 9-inch (23cm) cake pans, bake them for 25 - 30 minutes and if using 8-inch (20cm pans), bake them for 30 to 35 minutes. (I used 9-inch/23cm pans in my photos.)
- Let the cakes cool, then divide the cooled topping into roughly thirds. This will be enough to spread between the layers and on top of the cake, leaving the sides bare so you can see the layers.
- If desired, you can also fill the three layers with the coconut-pecan topping, then frost just the sides of the cake with regular chocolate icing, leaving the coconut/nut layer on top.
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