cake · Recipes

German Chocolate Cake

Valentine’s Day is almost here and my social media feeds are full of pink, purple and red. I love it all and I promise I’ll post some pink soon! Although there’s no pink or red, the cake I’m sharing today is full of love and great memories. My mom made German Chocolate Cake for my Grandpa (her dad) and my Dad for their February birthdays every year. I liked it but I never loved it until I got older. She always used the recipe printed inside the box. Did you know there’s nothing German about it?

German Chocolate Cake is a dark and decadent triple-decker dessert topped and layered with a buttery frosting loaded with shredded coconut and pecans. I did a little research and the sweet is a creation of Mrs. George Clay of Dallas, Texas, who submitted a recipe for “German Sweet Chocolate Cake” to the Dallas Morning News in 1957. The paper ran the recipe, and it caused such an enthusiastic response that newspapers around the country reprinted it.

German’s Sweet Chocolate, an ingredient originally made by Walter Baker & Co. of Dorchester, Massachusetts. (The product’s name was chosen after Samuel German, who developed the chocolate for the company back in 1852.) It was Mrs. Clay’s recipe that put German’s Sweet Chocolate on the map (THANK YOU!). Within a year of the recipe’s publication, Walter Baker & Co. capitalized on the cake’s popularity by printing a recipe for German Chocolate Cake on every box of its sweet chocolate.

German Chocolate Cake is rich and delicious. You could skip making the cake and just make the frosting and you’ll be all set for the rest of your life. No kidding! I’ve been known to make a batch and eat it by the spoonful. While it’s still warm. Also when it’s cool. It’s perfect for this cake, over ice cream, sandwiched between cookies, you get it.

I actually did eat way too much of it this time around. My first attempt at making the cake failed and I turned to the frosting in my time of need.

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I found a recipe online that had some minor changes that sounded good so I gave it a go. The cakes didn’t rise and I had to start over. I went back to the original recipe I’ve used for years and it worked perfectly.

This cake is light and delicately flavored with chocolate. The frosting is the real star.

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Let’s start with the cake. The only thing you unique in the ingredients list is the Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate. You’ll also need: AP flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, eggs, unsalted butter, vanilla and buttermilk.

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Melt the chocolate in boiling water and set aside. Separate the eggs and set the whites aside. Mix butter and sugar then add egg yolks one at a time, mixing well in between.

Add the vanilla, cooled chocolate mixture and dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, alternating with the buttermilk.

Mix the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold those gently into the cake batter. Once incorporated, fill prepared pans and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes.

Frosting ingredients are simple and rich! Butter, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla, eggs, pecans and coconut.

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I like to toast my pecans to give them more crunch and flavor but you can certainly skip that step. They do need to be chopped. Heat evaporated milk, egg yolks, butter, sugar and vanilla in a medium size pan over medium heat. Cook for about 12 minutes until thick.

Once thick, remove from heat and add chopped pecans and coconut and stir. Let cool. This is the point you’ll be wishing you’d doubled the recipe so you can eat a bowl of it and still have enough to frost the cake!

When the cakes are finished, remove from the oven and let them cool completely on wire racks. Place one cake on a plate or platter and smother it in frosting, add next layer, frosting and the final layer and frosting. That’s all the “decorating” that’s involved!

Gorgeous, right? You can get all fancy and add pecan halves to the top or whip up some chocolate frosting and pipe swirls. That would be beautiful! I keep mine simple because that’s how I like it. I always think about my dad when I make this cake. When he and my mom divorced, I made it for him for his birthday before he moved a little further away from where I live. Now, I make his favorite cake, send him a picture and eat a piece to celebrate how thankful I am he’s still having birthdays!

It’s a huge cake and I would definitely have no problem eating the whole thing but I’m trying to maintain my “everything in moderation” plan. I sliced this beauty up and delivered some to my neighbors. You’d be surprised how happy folks are when you knock on their door to hand them German Chocolate Cake on a cold winter day! The smiles warmed me right up and reminded me that I really love to bake people happy!

German Chocolate Cake is yummy for any occasion and especially perfect for February birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s party (it’s yummy with wine) or to simply hand out to your friends and neighbors. Sweet!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Cake

Cake
Ingredients
1 pkg. (4 oz.) BAKER’S GERMAN’S Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup water
4 eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cover bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round pans with parchment; spray sides with cooking spray.
  3. Melt chocolate in boiling water; set aside to cool.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla.
  5. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating until well blended after each addition.
  6. Beat egg whites in small bowl with mixer on high speed until soft peaks form.
  7. Add egg whites to cake batter; fold in gently until well blended.
  8. Pour into prepared pans.
  9. Bake 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Immediately run small spatula around cakes in pans. Cool cakes in pans 5 min. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely.

Frosting
Ingredients
4 egg yolks
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans (toasted if you like)
1 pkg. (7 oz.) sweetened shredded coconut (2-2/3 cups)

Instructions

    1. Beat egg yolks, milk and vanilla in large saucepan with whisk until blended.
    2. Add sugar and butter; cook on medium heat 12 min. or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
    3. Add pecans and coconut; stir well. Cool to desired spreading consistency.

Recipe adopted and modified from various sources, including the Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate box version.

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Handwritten Treasures

Happy 2020! It sounds so cool, doesn’t it? I remember being a kid and imagining all the amazing inventions that would exist by the year 2020. Technology has certainly come a long way and I’m grateful for the advances that make our lives easier!

As a foodie, technology has definitely enhanced my life in the kitchen. It’s incredibly simple to find, read and print recipes online in a matter of seconds. Appliances such as my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixers make mixing up anything a breeze and my recent addiction to Instant Pot has inspired me to make new recipes like homemade ramen in a flash.

Mixers

A few months ago, I was looking for something and found the binder that holds my collection of handwritten recipes from family and friends. I flipped through them and couldn’t remember the last time someone actually wrote a recipe for me or the last time I wrote a recipe. In this digital age, handwritten anything feels special.

Some of the recipe cards are from people who’ve passed and I spent the next hour looking at these cards in a very different way than I had before. The love and time that went into making food for family, parties, funerals and holidays came through in the cards that had a few stains and creases. As I looked through them, something deep within me stirred. I pictured my grandma, mom, aunts taking time to sit down, find a decent pen or pencil and share a piece of themselves on a 4×6 index card or scrap piece of paper; writing their best cursive and simply drawing a line through mistakes made along the way. Kind of a nice thought, isn’t it? Simply draw a line through our mistakes and keep writing our stories. I like that.

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Small sample of some of my handwritten cards.

These cards are tokens of love, just like the many meals we’ve shared. Food is our most fundamental way of communicating. Good times and bad. Laughter and silence. Memories and new beginnings.

I pictured my loved ones in their kitchens just as I’d seen them for years preparing dishes using real ingredients and no fancy gadgets. Cookbooks weren’t piled up and the ones that did exist were usually held together with string or tape, the pages were stuck together and notes were written in margins about the latest Bible verse to read or a little tidbit about combining sweet milk and vinegar to make buttermilk.

I visualized them wiping their hands on aprons and finding joy in the simple act of cooking. They weren’t distracted by taking an Instagram worthy photo or making their finished plates look like something from a Five-Star restaurant.  They simply wanted to deliver a plate full of love. Some of my fondest memories are set in kitchens.

Mammaw Brooks
Mammaw Brooks in her Kentucky kitchen.

Once I snapped out of my stroll down memory lane, I realized my daughters don’t have a keepsake of handwritten recipes. What kind of mother am I?! I mean, it’s probably not a big void in their lives but it’s something I value and want them to have. Especially, since they both love to make and eat food! Also, I miss cursive and teaching kids how to write all pretty and…well, I’ll get back on task now.

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Hannah and Carrie several years ago with matching buns!

I went right to my computer for ideas for a recipe box that I could give Hannah and Carrie as Christmas gifts. Etsy to the rescue! I found a sweet little box and adorable dividers and cards at a shop named Gertie’s Attic. I ordered 2 sets right away! The shop owner is great to work with and even sent me extra cards.

I mailed the recipe cards, along with a note explaining to the recipients what my plan was. I received handwritten recipes back within a couple days! Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends really came through and it was quite a treat to read their selected recipes. Of course, I also included a few from Casey and me.

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Hannah and Carrie were really surprised and had a great time flipping through the recipes! In this year of 2020 (still can’t believe it!), I’m reminded of the importance of technological progress. I’m also thankful for simple, meaningful gifts that are intended to remind my girls they’re connected to something greater and loved beyond measure.

I hope 2020 is full of wonderful times and delicious food!

From the heart,
Shannon

Do you have special handwritten recipes? Feel free to share them with me!

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