Attempting a German Chocolate Cake

I had a special request for a German chocolate cake.  My first instinct was to go the easy route and make a big 9 x 13 and call it good, but then there was that nagging voice in my head saying, “Karen — there is no time like the present to take up the challenge of a layer cake!”  I was especially inspired after talking with my friend Jen who had just completed a wedding cake (her full time gig is an attorney) for her friend’s wedding.  She made a three layer carrot cake.  Assembled, it was three tiers each of a 11 in diameter cake, a 9 in diameter cake, and a 6 in diameter cake.  It was beautiful.  She skillfully mastered the beauty on her first try, adopting and tweaking her family recipe to accommodate the random assortment of cake pans and times.  For decorations, she used lovely gerber daisies!

Anyway, after seeing her amazing creation I decided it was high time to stop being intimidated by a layer cake.  German Chocolate Cake was going to be my crucible for this next step, deeper into baking.  Fortunately Jen lent me the Joy of Baking, which alleviated a little of the stress because it gives such matter of fact descriptions and explanations for why each step is important.  Jen also lent me one of her pans.  I decided I invest in my own and purchased a standard one from Fred Meyer.  I also found amongst my wares a cheesecake pan, also 9 in in diameter.  The reasoning for three separate pans was to make the batter only once and bake them once.  I was afraid of any melting of the creamed butter or other random mishaps of stale batter, hanging out.

For the recipe, I had a few too many options.  It seems that everyone has her own version of a German Chocolate Cake, from Nestle’s, to Trisha Yearwood (yep, that country singer), to the old stand by on the German’s Baking Chocolate box.  I opted for the last recipe.  A little research informed me that there is nothing uniquely “German” in the cake other than the surname of the man who crafted the chocolate:  “German.”  Any associations you’d like to make with the coconut icing to traditional German sweets is a lost cause.  Of course, does it make it any less delicious?  No.

And so, I set about with the recipe.  You can find it here:

I meticulously greased and floured the pans being very cautious on top of it all to use parchment paper.  The three pans, all of different designs though all purporting to be of the same diameter, were not the same.  One had a glass bottom and my Fred Meyer purchase seemed significantly smaller than the high quality one from Jen.  Oh well I said, shrugging my shoulders, and likely leaving a cloud of flour in my wake.  Because this three layer cake does not require icing on the sides, I could get away with three layers of different sizes.

Prepared pans

One of the first steps is to pour boiling water over the chocolate. This shocked my chocolate making sensibilities because it simply destroys the chocolate.  It’s no longer thick or even as sweet.  But, what could I do but follow the recipe?  

Then I creamed the butter

And then beat in the chocolate, buttermilk, and dry ingredients.  I then gently folded in the beaten egg whites.  I had an instant memory of Sleeping Beauty where three good witches (Flora, Fauna, & Meriweather) are trying to bake a cake without magic.  I knew better than to fold in the eggs with the shells…  Still isn’t pretty.

I then poured the batter evenly into the prepared pans, baking the two metal cake pans first which baked in the normal time but the third I baked separately (because it wouldn’t fit) with a glass bottom for a little longer.

And so, I made the frosting/filling the next day and assembled this decadent cake.

It’s not a pretty cake, especially displayed on plastic, but it was awfully delicious.


2 thoughts on “Attempting a German Chocolate Cake

  1. I never understood what coconut had to do with Germany. The fact that this is named after a guy named “German” makes a lot more sense.

    I laughed out loud at the shout-out to Flora, Fauna, and Merriwether. I am still intimidated by a layer cake though!

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