My First German Chocolate Cake For My Sister Tina

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am the family birthday cake baker.  Kurt in April, Tina and Ken in June and my mom in September.  Lately, the natives have become restless with their standby favorites; this year Tina asked for a German chocolate cake.  Since I had never made one, I thought it would be fun to test out a recipe.

While online I reviewed several recipes; some were interpretations of this classic cake with chocolate frosting along the sides, and only the top of the cake covered with the traditional coconut/pecan frosting.  Others had the frosting only between the layers and top with nothing on the sides– these cakes looked naked and sad to me.

Finally, I ran across this one on Food.com and decided the cake recipe looked about right– creaming method, egg yolks and buttermilk.  I thought melting the chocolate in water was a bit weird, but I can be flexible.  The frosting recipe was exactly what I expected from previous experiments with caramel frosting: butter, sugar, egg yolks and evaporated milk boiled together until it became a thick, gooey mess.  Plus an entire bag of flaked coconut and chopped pecans!  It definitely had the potential to be a hit.

I made a few substitutions because I’m lazy.  I used sour cream instead of buttermilk in the cake because I was at Target with Ken and they don’t sell buttermilk, but offer many different sizes and brands of sour cream.  I also had a can of non-fat evaporated milk in my cupboard and decided it would do instead of full-test.  Lastly, and this wasn’t laziness– I used semi-sweet chocolate because I had no idea what “sweet dark chocolate” meant.

There were no issues with the final result per the birthday girl.  It’s a very moist cake, due to the sour cream.  Kurt, who has always avoided German chocolate cake because of his aversion to coconut’s texture, actually enjoyed our shared slice; however, we both wanted it to have a more intense, dark chocolate taste.  On the other hand, Tina and Ken (whose taste buds are interchangeable) proclaimed it had the perfect milk chocolate flavor– the “way German chocolate cake should have.”

Tina’s German Chocolate Birthday Cake (adapted from Food.com)

for the cake:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 c water
  • 2 sticks (1 c) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 c sugar
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

for the frosting:

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 12-0z can non-fat evaporated milk
  • 1 7-oz bag flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 c chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour 3 9-in pans.  Set aside.

The original recipe says to use parchment paper, but I didn't

The original recipe says to use parchment paper, but I didn’t

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and 1/2 c water in a glass bowl over a just simmering pan of water.

As you can see, I'm too lazy to chop the chocolate.  I let the heat do all the work while I stir!

As you can see, I’m too lazy to chop the chocolate. I let the heat do all the work while I stir!

Stir until chocolate has melted and blended into the water.  Take off heat to cool to room temperature, about 15 min.

Place the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy.

I love the creaming method; it's practically foolproof

I love the creaming method; it’s practically foolproof

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Some of the yolks broke, so I just guesstimated

Some of the yolks broke, so I just guesstimated

Add the vanilla and beat again briefly to blend.  Add the chocolate mixture and beat to distribute evenly.

Even with the water, the resulting mixture is pretty thick

Even with the water, the resulting mixture is pretty thick

Starting and ending with flour, alternately add the flour and sour cream to the chocolate mixture, e.g., flour, sour cream, flour, sour cream, flour.  Beat after each addition.

About 1/3 of the flour

About 1/3 of the flour

1/2 the sour cream

1/2 the sour cream

All in!  The batter is still pretty thick

All in! The batter is still pretty thick

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

You can actually test if the whites are ready by tilting the bowl; they shouldn't slide around at all.

You can actually test if the whites are ready by tilting the bowl; they shouldn’t slide around at all.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites to the batter in three separate batches.

Fold the batter over the whites, turn bowl, fold over again.  Continue til whites are mixed in; it's ok if you see just a few streaks of white. DO NOT STIR!

Fold the batter over the whites, turn bowl, fold over again. Continue til whites are mixed in; it’s ok if you see just a few streaks of white. DO NOT STIR!

Divide the batter as evenly as possible into the prepared cake pans.  Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake layer comes out clean.

The layers will also start to shrink away from the sides of the pan

The layers will also start to shrink away from the sides of the pan

Remove pans from oven and run a knife around the edges.  Let cool 15 minutes in the pan and then pop onto wire racks to cool completely.

They smell great!

They smell great!

While cake layers cool, make the frosting by adding the sugar, milk, egg yolks, vanilla, salt and butter into a tall saucepan.  Place the pan over medium heat and cook for 12 minutes, whisking ingredients to combine as butter melts.  The mixture will start to simmer and then boil; just keep stirring.  After 12 minutes, the mixture should be thick and golden.

I tossed everything into the pan and whisked as the butter melted

I tossed everything into the pan and whisked as the butter melted

Remove from heat.  Stir in the coconut and pecans, then stir (almost beat) vigorously for 5 minutes.  Set pan aside to cool and set.

Since it's very hot, the frosting will seem thin.  Beat it a bit with a wooden spoon then let it cool.  It will thicken!

Since it’s very hot, the frosting will seem thin. Beat it a bit with a wooden spoon then let it cool. It will thicken!

When frosting has reached room temperature, assemble the cake, using about 1/2 c between layers.

Even with the nuts and coconut, this frosting was easy to spread with an offset spatula

Even with the nuts and coconut, this frosting was easy to spread with an offset spatula

A special birthday cake for a very special sister!

A new addition to my cake repertoire!

A new addition to my cake repertoire!

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Filed under Baked Goods, Family, Fancy Cakes, Food

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