Monday, November 4, 2013

German Chocolate Birthday Cake

Jan, the Mid-Westerner, here, with another birthday cake. At our house, we have birthdays in three months of the year: May, July and November. And today is my husband's birthday!
The bison at Custer State Park were enjoying the sunshine on Saturday.

We celebrated last night, since everyone was going to be at home.

I'm serious. You try getting six adults together when four of them either work two jobs or work plus go to school full time. We're rarely all in the house at the same time.

But Sunday night, after church, we're usually all here.

A Pronghorn buck - the ladies were on the other side of the hill.

Now, my husband's favorite cake is German Chocolate. He loves the blend of chocolate and coconut...and I've found the perfect recipe. I've made every year for the last five or six years.

The original recipe is from the 1980 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. My copy was a bridal shower gift from a co-worker, and every time I read the inscription I think of her.

"Many happy years of cooking and eating for both of you! Clara 5/9/82"

Do you inscribe books you give as gifts?

Anyway, I've tweeked this recipe, like I do most of the ones that have been around for a few years, and here's the current version:

German Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup Ghiradelli 60% Cocoa Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup water

1 2/3 cup cake flour (Swan's Down, Wondra or Soft as Silk)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup buttermilk or sour milk

Coconut Frosting - recipe follows

Making a cake from scratch is a worthwhile skill to learn. It isn't hard, but it does take time and care.

The results, however, are worth every minute you spend :)

If you've ever watched a cooking show on television, you know how the cooks always have their ingredients pre-measured before they start cooking. Don't they make it look easy?

Well, we're going to do the same thing - it's prep time!

Let's take this step-by-step:

1) Bring the butter to room temperature in the mixing bowl.

2) Melt the chocolate with 1/3 cup water - I use the microwave. Thirty seconds is usually enough. Stir until it's nice and smooth.
3) Measure the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium size bowl. Stir to combine.
4) If you don't have buttermilk, make sour milk by combining 1 teaspoon lemon juice with your 2/3 cup milk. Let sit for five minutes.

5) Prepare your cake pans. I grease them with coconut oil, then lay a piece of parchment paper on the bottom.
6) Separate your 3 eggs. Put the yolks in a small dish, and reserve the whites.

7)Preheat your oven to 350°.

Now that the preliminaries are done, it's time to start making the cake.
Cream the butter for 30 seconds, and then gradually add the sugar and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition.
Beat in the melted chocolate.
Add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately, about 1/3 of each at a time, beating well after each addition.

Now comes the part that makes a lot more dishes to wash.... You need to beat the egg whites.

In case you don't know this, egg whites and fat of any kind don't mix, so you need to use clean beaters and a clean bowl to beat them.

Transfer you cake batter to a large bowl, and wash your mixer's bowl and beaters.
(The reason my mixer looks so strange is because it's a Bosch. Don't laugh. I can make six loaves of bread at a time with this puppy! He's a workhorse. Makes great smoothies, too, with his blender attachment.)
Now that your mixer is clean, beat those egg whites until stiff peaks form. 
Fold the egg whites into your cake batter, and then pour the batter into the pans.
Bake in a 350° oven for 30-35 minutes.
If you want a refresher on the method for making a cake from scratch, there's another version - a different birthday and a different cake - here.

After the cake is baked, and while it's cooling, it's time to make the frosting. This is what makes this a German Chocolate Cake!
Coconut-Pecan Frosting
or, if you don't have Pecans - just Coconut Frosting
1 egg
2/3 cup evaporated milk (a 5 1/3-ounce can)
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
dash salt
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, beat the egg slightly. Add the milk, sugar, butter and salt. Over medium-low heat, stir until the butter is melted. Cook and stir for twelve minutes more, or until the frosting is thickened and bubbly. Stir in the coconut and pecans. Cool thoroughly.
This is enough frosting for the tops of two 9-inch layers, or one 9"x13" pan.

We've all seen commercial German Chocolate Cakes with rich, brown frosting. Well, mine always turns out this lovely yellow color. Maybe I could add food coloring, or cook it differently so the sugar browns somewhat...but it tastes so good, I hate to mess with it.

Frost the top of one cake layer, put the second layer on and use the rest of the frosting on it. Don't frost the sides of the cake - German Chocolate Cakes don't have frosting on the side.

But, you know, this cake is so rich, you won't miss that extra frosting at all.

And it's so tasty, I wasn't able to get a picture without parts missing!

Another favorite thing for my husband on his birthday is going up into the Hills. Saturday was the perfect day. We drove up on the Iron Mountain Road and then down to the prairies in Custer State Park. 

Every corner we turn, we just say, "I love living here!"

Mt. Rushmore from an angle you don't often see.

Harney Peak, with the Black Elk Wilderness in the foreground.


  1. I didn't know not to put frosting on the sides. Wow. Thanks for my new brain cells this morning.

    So beautiful where you are, even with the snow storms.

    I live by my 1980 cookbook. So new then, so stained now.

    I do have books that are inscribed but not as many as the many that seem to be inscribed in old book stores. Have you noticed it seemed to be tradition up until the 1950s or so?

    Happy Birthday to your husband. My wish for him is a few less emergency snow storms this winter.

    Peace, Julie

    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes, Julie!

      I've noticed that about old books, too. I guess in the past people weren't as concerned about the gift being exchanged :)

      And yes, it is so beautiful here. My husband has today off...and we're tempted to go up into the Hills again....

    2. Love your recipes, Jan. I don't often make them these days but enjoy reading about them. Pictures are awesome. Love that part of the country, thanks for posting! Happy birthday to Floyd:)

    3. Hey, everyone! It's my dear husband's aunt!

      Thanks for stopping by - glad you enjoy the recipes :)

    4. Welcome, Jane! We're glad you stopped by!

  2. #1

    I have never before seen a Bosch mixer. Ever. I was completely confused about what you were showing us. Then I Googled. Very interesting! And great reviews! I'd be tempted to get one of those instead of a Kitchenaid but the KA come in COLORS. I'm petty, I know it.


    I hate German chocolate cake. It's the coconut. But I know someone who loves this cake and I think they need one soon! Thank you! We're going to make them very happy...

    1. I love my Bosch. I traded up from a Kitchenaid. :)

      But my Kitchenaid was the "classic" and not powerful enough for what I wanted to do with it.

      And I love all the attachments you can get for a Kitchenaid - -

      But I'm not trading in my Bosch. I love it.

      And you could try this cake without the coconut. It wouldn't be German chocolate cake anymore, but that cooked frosting is yummy, even plain.

  3. Here's one vote for team coconut. The more the merrier for me. I love German chocolate cake!!! LOVE IT. Thank you. But do admit to a double take at this mixer. Too cool.

    1. I like coconut - but my husband LOVES it. Hence the German chocolate cake for every birthday :)

      And my mixer is pretty cool. One thing I love about it is that the motor is so powerful - and mounted in the base instead of having an arm. The motor is also belt-driven, which helps when you're making a big batch of bread.

      It makes pretty good cakes, too!

  4. Wait a minute, wait a minute...a pronghorn buck is not a corgi...just sayin'!!! :-(

    Love the scenery -- it's breathtaking. I've always wanted to go west and see mountains.

    I've never had German Chocolate Cake but you've convinced me to give this a try for the next festive occasion I'm invited to. (It would be disasterous to make this kind of cake when you live alone!!!!!)

    One question about the melting of the chocolate chips in water. I read in a chocolate cookbook to never let water mix with melting chocolate or it would ruin the taste and texture? It was talking about baker's chocolate though -- and melting it in a double boiler. Maybe the unsweetened chocolate reacts differently? And we don't have Ghiradelli chocolate chips up here -- I know, I live in a wasteland! Will just plain ol' chipits do? Or we have Cococamino fairly traded (and organic) chocolate chips -- they're 56% cocoa but pricey. If you say the recipe requires it, I'll make the pocketbook sacrifice!

    1. Sorry about the lack of a Corgi picture. I just didn't get one taken this week. The poor guy was sick all weekend - didn't feel bad, just had to go outside WAY too often. Neither of us got much sleep.

      (He's all better now, btw)

      The chocolate:

      You wouldn't want to melt the chocolate in water for most uses because it isn't as smooth as you'd want for candy or frosting. But for mixing in the cake batter, it's fine.

      I use the Ghiradelli 60% because it's handy - usually easy to find, and I keep it on hand in my pantry. But the original recipe called for Baker's German Sweet Chocolate.

      You can use any semi-sweet chocolate. Use 4 ounces of a bar of semi-sweet baking chocolate, or any semi-sweet chocolate chip (like Nestle's).

  5. no doggies :-(

    1. Sorry, Susanna. :(

      I'll have to post extras next week :)

  6. Ohmmmmmmm nommmmmm nom nom nom.

    Can you just picture me trying to eat my computer because....I may have. Though if you ever tried to prove it, I'd deny it thoroughly.

    I love German Chocolate Cake. I love cake. But I especially love German Chocolate Cake, I think because we never have it? I was actually wondering why I don't ever have it for MY birthday cake. Then I remembered....Mom's homemade marble cake with chocolate frosting. Rich and divine and just my favorite. But ummmm this is making me hungry lol so now I will try my hardest to NOT go eat all the Halloween candy instead LOL

    Actually, I'm going to keep in mind my awesome dinner: Skinny Tuna Melts with homemade tomato soup - yup :D

    1. Skinny Tuna Melts with homemade tomato soup?

      You wouldn't be part of the Trim Healthy Mama world, would you? I love their recipes....

      But cake is a once-in-awhile-teeny-tiny-slice treat when there's a birthday in the family :)

    2. Nope, never heard of it, to be honest. Not a mama here :( I'm a Weight Watcher though....have lost over 60lbs since February.

      And I agree :) Problem is when you've got a big family with lots of birthdays! LOL :P

  7. First, gorgeous, stunning photos!! Second, happy birthday to hubby!!

    And third, I'm not craving chocolate and coconut! You make this look so easy, Jan. I'm ready to give it a try soon!

    1. LOL! that was supposed to say I'm NOW craving chocolate. :)

    2. So am I, Missy...and there's a piece of cake waiting for me on the kitchen counter.

      But I WILL be strong! I had my piece yesterday. Hubby can have my second one.

      (If he gets there before I do!)